Gus Pieters moved to Calgary from the Netherlands in 1954. Eight years later, he was the owner of a drive-in off the Trans Canada. Nine years after that, he could proudly say he sold some of the greatest hamburgers in the country. (We have more on that story — just keep reading.)
Pieters was known by his staff and by members of the community as friendly and vivacious and incredibly charitable. The original owner passed away in 2008, but the restaurant’s well-loved burgers, secret sauce and friendly people are still around. That’s something Stephen Hayden, the man who now owns Peters’ Drive-In with his wife Joanne Rowe, makes sure of.
Today, you could say that Peters’ Drive-In is a Calgary fast food icon. It’s become such a local icon that there are requests multiple times a week to use the restaurant as a filming location. Actually, if you watch closely, you might notice it in Young Drunk Punk. Peters’ Drive-In is a must-stop location for road trippers heading east. And for shift workers finishing up work at 9 a.m. who really need a burger before heading home. And, really, for just anyone who wants a thick shake and burger with a distinctive sauce.
We spoke with Hayden to hear some stories of Peters’ Drive-In from the decades it’s been open.
Peters’ Drive-In, 219 16 Ave. N.E., 403-277-2747, petersdrivein.com
The story of the ice cream parlour
Pieters worked as a pastry chef at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel and as an oil camp cook before he owned Peters’ Drive-In. He wanted to sell the best hamburgers and milkshakes in Calgary, and the opportunity to live out this dream presented itself in 1962. Pieters spent all the money he had saved up — it was a grand total of $12,000 — to buy the ice cream parlour on Edmonton Trail and 16 Avenue N.E. and open the drive-in. (This was across the road from the current location. Now there’s a Mr. Lube in the original location.)
Peters’ Drive-In wasn’t an immediate fast food icon. In fact, Pieters’ family served only one meal a day in the 1960s because of the cost of purchasing and running the drive-in. But by 1997, the joint was selling more than 4,000 burgers each day.