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East Idaho Eats: An Iconic Menu with Historic Roots at Pickle’s Place

ARCO – It has been almost 70 years since Arco became the first city in the world to be lit by atomic energy.

It’s an iconic piece of history for the town’s 895 residents and a marquee above Arco’s visitor center affirms its fame.

Pickle’s Place, a popular restaurant off US 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 says it’s the “Home of the Atomic Burger”.

As one of 50 items on the restaurant’s menu, the Atomic burger is a customer favorite. It is served with freshly cooked Black Angus beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and topped with grilled onions, mushrooms and the owner’s signature seasoning. Fried pickles and beer-battered cheese curds are also popular appetizers. sampled part of the menu, which you can watch in the video player above.

John Danz has owned the restaurant for 29 years, but its history as a restaurant goes back much further. For nearly three-quarters of a century, Danz says the ambiance, food and service have made it a place customers want to be and it attracts customers from all over the world.

“People going to the craters of the moon, traveling towards Yellowstone, or heading for salmon fishing. We’re just kind of a crossroads, so there’s a lot of traffic going through here in the summer,” Danz said. “We see people from all over the country and around the world.”

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

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

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Danz started working at Pickle’s Place in 1984, when he was 14 years old. He then bought the company in 1993 and decided to keep the name.

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

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

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

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

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

The duo are focused on growing their spice business. They make and sell seasonings, which are available at Sportsman’s Warehouse and Amazon. They are eager to combine ingredients to create additional products that customers love and they hope to expand their reach around the world.

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

Pickle’s Place is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. in winter and closes at 10 p.m. in summer.

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Pickle’s Place in Arco | Rett Nelson,