Ketchup or gravy on a pasty? Pan-fried or deep-fried Whitefish? A hamburger from Clyde’s Drive-In or one from the West Pier Drive-In? These are the questions that divide people in the Upper Peninsula, and have defined generations of residents and visitors to the Eastern Upper Peninsula.
This is the kind of debate you wouldn’t dare bring up at a family dinner, unless you love to stir the pot. Separated by a little over three miles, two iconic burger drive-ins, Clyde’s and West Pier, have both been Sault Ste. Marie staples for decades, and each one has legions of burger-loving fans. Here’s our input on which burger joint to try on your next visit to Sault Ste. Marie. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Both restaurants sit along the St. Marys River, Clyde’s to the east next to the Sugar Island Ferry (1425 Riverside Dr.), while West Pier is to the west near the Soo Locks (849 W. Pier Dr.) Each offers some of the best hamburgers (made fresh daily with meat from Neville’s Superette), milkshakes and French fries around. And you can receive curbside service with carhop servers to enjoy your meal from your vehicle at both stops. So, what sets them apart?
Since 1949, Clyde’s Drive-In has been serving classic burgers including its signature 3/4-pound “Big C.” With over 70 years of being a community staple, the restaurant still offers one of the best freighter-viewing locations in the Soo and is next door to Rotary Island and the kids’ fishing pond. Clyde’s is easily distinguished by its 1950s forward looking design. With an expanded menu ranging from beef burgers (from 1/8 -pound ‘Jr. burgers’ to regular 1/4-pound burgers), to buffalo burgers and to walleye and shrimp baskets this longtime favorite’s menu is anything but dated.
With hamburgers revered for their sheer size (each patty weighing in at 1/2 pound), the West Pier Drive-In is a dream location for anyone up to a burger challenge. Situated next-door to the southbound entrance into Soo Locks and International Bridge, the West Pier is also a prime location to catch unbeatable sights. There is limited in-door seating in the West Pier, but plenty of spaces to park your vehicle for curbside service. Not feeling a one-pound double bacon cheeseburger, but still hungry? Have no fear. In addition to a plethora of deep-fried options, the West Pier’s submarine sandwiches are a local hit.
“Clyde’s! It’s been a tradition in my family since I was a kid, and I’ll be passing that on to my son,” said Melissa.
“West Pier, hands down,” countered George. “Best burger in town and always served with a smile.”
“Truth be told, both places make a great burger,” added Chris, finding a middle ground. “Where I go depends on the wind, time of day and where the freighters are.”
No matter what your favorite location is, you are guaranteed to have a great time (and great burgers) regardless! Plus, if you are craving a burger during the work day, you can call in an order to either place for pickup.
The next time you’re going for a drive to see freighters or feeling an itch for a cheeseburger, make sure you stop by Clyde’s Drive-In or the West Pier Drive-In. Be sure to tag your food photographs with #ilovethesoo on your social media so we can share in all of your Sault Ste. Marie adventures! For more on local cuisine and beyond follow us on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.