5605 SE Division St
Hours: 11 am – 9:30 pm
With so many new and different restaurant options it’s easy to overlook the tried and true places that have been serving us consistently good food for years. The Dairy Queen on 56th & SE Division has been a franchise owned and operated by Don and Dorothy Williams for 47 years.
Don still shows up everyday to make sure the crew is keeping the same high standards Dairy Queen originally instilled in their franchise owners when they started as an ice cream shop in Wisconsin in 1942 – plus he loves his work.
Williams managed a Safeway store in Coos Bay before the opportunity came around to buy a Dairy Queen franchise. His brother, who worked as a policeman by day ran the Dairy Queen on 60th and SE Duke at night encouraged him to try it because it was a fun job. He spent sleepless nights and troubled days trying to decide what to do when his wife made the decision to come to Portland and apply for a loan and figure out their fate. They packed their three kids into the car and drove to town. After many rejections their last stop was at a bank where a friend was working and he gave them their loan.
The location on 56th and SE Division was an ice cream parlor before they turned it into the Dairy Queen. At one time he and his brother managed six Dairy Queens in SE but now they are down to the original one.
Originally Dairy Queen just sold ice cream. “The soft serve ice cream recipe has never changed and is a well-kept secret in the industry made fresh with just the right combination of sugar, cream, air and water,” Williams said. “We do a good business selling quarts of our ice cream. It’s the perfect topping for pie and cake.”
Many of us remember the Dilly Bar, dip cones, banana splits, parfaits and sundaes they made so popular in their early years, but it has been the Blizzard that brought them to the forefront recently. These delicious drinks (now sixty-five flavors to choose from) are made individually and have to be one of the most flavorful ice cream beverages known to man.
It wasn’t until the mid 1960s that the restaurant began to serve hamburgers, hot dogs and fries. Williams said they’ve always been made with really good beef and individually prepared upon ordering using their special sauce, buns from Franz Bakery and the usual choice of toppings. “One thing we pay special attention to is the heat of the grill. We check it regularly to make sure the timing for doneness is consistent,” he said.
Consistency is one of the main ingredients required in this franchise. The company is very specific about their recipes although each place individually sources their groceries.
Today’s menu also includes chicken strips, fish burgers, chicken wraps, salads, a kids menu, Orange Julius and an extensive choices of ice cream desserts. Everything is prepared from scratch so it is fast food that takes a little longer.
While Franklin School is closed for remodeling, the lunch businesses around the school are relying on other patrons more. They are having a $5 special this month that includes chicken strips, fries, beverage and dessert to entice people who haven’t been in for awhile to give them a try.
At seventy-six, Williams is still upbeat and enthusiastic about his work. “One thing Safeway taught me was the value of customer service,” Williams said. “I enjoy the people we serve and like seeing so many of our long time customers coming back and bringing their grandkids to the Dairy Queen.”