Recipes for the Official “2-2-2-2” Drive-In Theater BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Transcribed via phone by Jeff Scepter, June 30, 2020

During my band Scepter’s ( band practice, my brother Joe, drummer Damon, and I often discuss how we always crave the original ground beef style BBQ beef sandwiches that were served up at the local Wichita, KS drive in movie theaters when we were kids. As the drive-in theaters started downsizing, the BBQ’s went away and we’d not had a real one since the 80’s and we thought the recipes were lost. Out of sheer luck, while posting about Joe Bob Brigg’s Last Drive-In Show and chatting in a Wichita, KS social media group about how we miss that original sandwich, I was contacted by a family member of the original maker of the sandwiches, Dan McDowell.  Dan worked at all of the major Wichita drive-in theaters over the years including Landmark, Westport, Rainbow and Pawnee Drive-in and was the master cook of these special “2-2-2-2” BBQ Beef Sandwiches.

Dan was gracious to take my phone call and give me this magical recipe. Dan explained to me “We called it the 2-2-2-2 because it was 2, 5lb pieces of frozen ground beef, 2 large server cups of BBQ sauce, 2 serving spoons of liquid smoke and 2 serving spoons of Tabasco.”   He gave me the recipe in detail below. Thank you, Mr. McDowell, for your many years of Drive-in Mutant Service and keeping the actual Drive-In recipe alive for future generations to come! The Drive-In Will Never Die!

Ingredients (Actual Drive-In Quantity… reduced recipe below)

  • 10 pounds 80/20 frozen ground beef (Sub- could use non-frozen but frozen makes for chunkier texture)
  • 8 cups French’s Cattlemen’s BBQ Kansas City Classic (Sub- Other dark KC brand would work)
  • 4oz Wrights Liquid Smoke, Hickory (Sub- Other hickory smoke)
  • 4oz Tabasco
  • Rainbo restaurant hamburger buns (Came in 12 packs. Could use other)
  • Large pot of water
  • Foil Hamburger Sandwich Bags


  1. Add the ground beef to large pot of water and heat to boiling. Throughout the entire cooking process, use an old school potato masher to keep pressing and working the meat down until it starts breaking up into very small pieces. Continue working it with the potato masher until the beef is very broken down and well browned in the water
  • Strain/Drain off all of the liquid and fatty water
  • Add BBQ sauce, Liquid Hickory Smoke, and Tabasco to the broken-down meat stirring well and warm back up to hot serving temp
  • Scoop meat mixture into buns, place in foil sandwich bags, and under a heat lamp (or cooler to keep warm

Recipes Ingredients Reduced volume and a little lighter taste that we remember… Home Scepter Drive-In Theater Party

  • 2 pounds 80/20 Frozen Ground Beef
  • 1 cup French’s Cattlemen’s BBQ Kansas City Classic (Sub- Other dark KC brand would work)
  • .5 oz Wrights Liquid Smoke, Hickory (Sub- Other hickory smoke)
  • .5 oz Tabasco
  • Rainbow restaurant hamburger buns (Came in 12 packs.  Could use other)
  • Large Pot of water
  • Foil Hamburger Sandwich Bags
Drive In Snack Bar Scepter