by Steven Doyle
The Charcoaler Drive-In hamburger restaurant, which is one of El Paso’s iconic brands of fifty-five years is due to close January 31, 2017.
The owner, Bob Cox, Jr. has been running the family business which he purchased from his father thirty years ago and had been wanting to close the drive-in for the past year. When his mother Wilma Cox passed away at 93 he decided this was as good as time as any to shutter the business that has been serving El Paso for fifty-five years.
His father, Robert Cox Sr., started the restaurant in 1961 when the family moved from Oklahoma City to El Paso.
Bobby Cox with longtime employee Henry
On a recent visit to El Paso craveTX met a few avid followers of the restaurant who were visibly upset, including Ted Marshal of El Paso who said, “this is where my family has been dining for generations, this is a great loss to our culture and to the many citizens of El Paso.”
“There’ nothing like the Charcoaler, and I wish someone was able to purchase the restaurant,” Marshal added.
Not much has changed for the family restaurant in the many years the Charcoaler has been in business, except for the location in 1976 when they moved from 4024 N Mesa to 5837 N. Mesa after a problem with the old lease became unbearable. The current location has been in operation for twenty years.
As far as the food is concerned many people who have scattered from El Paso across the country are sending their regrets via Facebook, with many flying in for one last burger. The burgers are made the old fashioned way on a flame grill for a distinctive flavor profile that also made with the family’s homemade barbecue sauce, pickles and onions.
“There’s not much to it. It’s very simple to run,” Cox said Tuesday as four of his 13 employees prepared burgers, fries, and a daily batch of barbecue sauce inside its 2,800 square-foot building with huge glass windows, which allow customers to watch burgers being prepared as they wait inside their vehicles.
When the restaurant opened they were the first in El Paso to implement a drive-thru system. They would feed six-hundred cars per day at that time.
Cox said he would sell the business intact if he found the right operator who would continue in the same fashion as the family had run the business for fifty-five years, otherwise he would sell the 1.2-acre tract of land to developers.
Until closing later this month lines will continue to be long as guests seek out the burger of their youth. You will still be able to purchase t-shirts and sauce online.