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March 12, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Dick’s Drive-In named “Most Life-Changing Burger in America”

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Dick Spady at his namesake drive-in. File photo by Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times

When Esquire magazine started a contest to find the nation’s “Most Life-Changing Burger,” editors expected readers to coronate one of the larger chains, a Shake Shack or In-and-Out or Five Guys. “The others were just outnumbered,” they wrote.

But the editors didn’t count on the passion fans had for our own Dick’s Drive-In, which grabbed the title in a landslide despite its mere six outlets, winning 56 percent of the vote.

“They serve a simple, cheap burger (a Deluxe double is an astoundingly low $2.70) that people just like,” the resulting article said. It went on: “The secrets, according to a spokesperson for Dick’s, aren’t very secret: The beef patties are “fresh, never frozen, and delivered locally every day,” and they use a sauce made of mayonnaise and spiced pickle relish.”

Commenters added that their love for Dick’s is about more than the food. They also praised its community spirit and employee benefits, which include higher-than-average pay, fully paid health insurance for employees who work more than 24 hours per week (three-quarters of the staff, according to the company’s web page), paid community service hours, and college scholarships.

“Our fans rock!” wrote Carrie Shaw, the company’s director of marketing and social media, when we asked on Twitter about their reaction.

The poll didn’t grab huge numbers — Dick’s took the title with less than 4,000 votes — and while we love ourselves a Deluxe and fries and shake, we suspect smart social media had something to do with the victory too.

“It’s all over my facebook and Twitter!!!! Getting people to vote and repost!!! GO DICK’S!!!!!” wrote one of the 192,000+ fans on the company’s Facebook page. (Five Guys, a national chain, has three times the number of Facebook fans, but an impersonal page where they didn’t mention the contest.)

Fans nominated Dick’s for the award, and then “took over” after the company posted the news on Facebook and Twitter, Shaw said in an email. With their large numbers, “it didn’t take long for the buzz to grow,” and Esquire was “really surprised by all the passionate comments and blowout response by Dick’s fans.”

Some sweet tributes to the place are posted here, and I like how Dick’s called the honor “the “Best Fans” award” on its Facebook page. But beware, as one fan put it on Twitter, “This might make the lines a little longer.”

So: Did the poll get it right? Is it the nation’s most life-changing burger?

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