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East Idaho Eats: An iconic menu with historic roots at Pickle’s Place

East Idaho Eats

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ARCO – It’s been nearly 70 years since Arco became the first city in the world to be lit by atomic power.

It’s an iconic piece of history for the town’s 895 residents and a marquee above the Arco Visitor Center states its claim to fame.

Pickle’s Place, a popular restaurant off U.S. Highway 20 at 440 South Front Street on the east side of town, proudly capitalizes on the town’s historic distinction. A sign out front indicates it’s the “Home of the Atomic burger.”

As one of the diner’s 50 menu items, the Atomic burger is a customer favorite. It’s served with fresh-baked black Angus beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and topped off with grilled onions, mushrooms and the owner’s signature seasoning. Fried pickles and beer-battered cheese curds are popular appetizers as well. sampled some of the menu, which you can watch in the video player above.

John Danz has been the restaurant’s owner for the last 29 years, but its history as a diner dates back much farther. For nearly three-quarters of a century, Danz says the ambiance, food and service have made it a place patrons want to be and it’s attracted customers worldwide.

“People going to Craters of the Moon, traveling through on their way to Yellowstone or headed up to Salmon going fishing. We’re just kind of a crossroads place so there’s a lot of traffic coming through here in the summer,” Danz. “We see people from all over the country and all over the world.”

Glen and Margene Phillips opened it under the name Pickle’s Place in 1983. Pickle was Margene’s childhood nickname, Danz says.

Prior to that, it was called Nellie’s. It began operation in the 1950s and was serving customers when the city was lit with atomic power on July 17, 1955.

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Danz got his start working at Pickle’s Place in 1984 when he was 14. He later purchased the business in 1993 and decided to keep the name.

Becoming a restaurateur wasn’t what Danz originally set out to do. He attended Idaho State University for several years in hopes of becoming a physical therapist. He quickly realized there was a lot of competition for the program and when he heard the Phillips were going to sell the restaurant, he decided running it would be his life’s work.

“I started working here when I was (a kid). I knew how everything worked. I started as a dishwasher and I just moved up from there and did everything,” says Danz. “(The Phillips) became like a second set of parents to me.”

Danz’ passion for Pickle’s Place is something he’s passed on to his family. His son, Zane, has worked alongside him since he was 5 and today, Zane manages the restaurant.

“Working with my dad and being my own boss is (what I love most),” Zane says.

john and zane
John, left, and Zane Danz pose for a photo inside the restaurant at 440 South Front Street in Arco. | Rett Nelson,

The duo is focused on building up their spice business. They make and sell seasoning, which is available at Sportsman’s Warehouse and Amazon. They’re looking forward to combining ingredients to create additional products that customers enjoy and they’re hoping to expand their reach around the globe.

And they’re happy to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner to customers seven days a week.

Pickle’s Place is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the winter with a 10 p.m. closing time in the summer.

pickles place
Pickle’s Place in Arco | Rett Nelson,