Weekly Review: YAKI drive-in offers unique, high-quality food

YAKI, a drive-in Texas teriyaki restaurant set at a former Sonic, offers unique cuisine not too far from campus. Photo by Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer

By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer

What used to be an old Sonic is now turned into a Texas-style teriyaki restaurant. YAKI drive-in is a colorful and delicious eatery located on 1307 S. Valley Mills Drive.

My sister and I took our lunch break off campus and ventured to YAKI. If you have driven down Valley Mills Drive, you might recognize the brightly colored walls and string lights above the picnic tables. We were curious to see what Texas-inspired teriyaki would taste like, since we are lovers of Hawaiian-style teriyaki.

Driving up, we were in awe of the detailed artwork that danced around the building. Clouds and bright, wavy lines hugged the corners of the walls and immediately gave us a good feeling about this place. The Sonic stalls still remained and customers can either choose to park there or eat in their car.

As we walked up to the window, the cashier was so kind to us and was patient when we couldn’t figure out what to order. I ended up getting a chicken box which included rice, coleslaw salad, oak-smoked chicken and YAKI soss. My sister ordered a pulled pork box which had the same items my box came with. We also ordered sides of spicy mayo, which they make in house, and the sweet chili soss.

We decided to eat on the picnic tables since it was a sunny day. Our food came out within five minutes wrapped in cardboard to-go containers on a bright red tray. We were surprised by how fast the service was and we liked the low-key presentation of the food.

Trying both of the boxes on their own without our added sauces was too salty for our liking. Once we added in the hot but creamy spicy mayo, the salt was balanced out quickly. My sister and I don’t typically like coleslaw, however this coleslaw was fresh and added a crunchy texture in this meal.

We then tried our boxes with the sweet chili soss, the only sauce that is not made by YAKI. On its own, the sauce is very sweet, like a sweet and sour sauce you would find at a Chinese restaurant. When added to our boxes with the spicy mayo it was amazing.

The once salty meat developed into a perfect blend of sweet and spicy that we just couldn’t stop eating. I even went back to the counter to get another sweet chili sauce. Overall, I would say that YAKI’s sauces make the meal and I would recommend trying their others like the chili oil, green soss and wing soss if you’re into extra spicy flavors.

As college students the price of meals is always an important factor when going out. My sister and I each ordered a box, a canned drink and two sauces. This meal averaged us about $13 each. When we first paid for this I thought it was more on the expensive side, however the quality and quantity of food make up for the price. I realized that this is what I would spend if I went to a sit-down restaurant, and just because it seems like fast food, the effort and ingredients made by YAKI were just as top tier as any other restaurant. My sister and I became so full we barely made a dent in our boxes, so we were able to take them home and make another meal out of it.

Overall my sister and I gave YAKI an 8 out of 10, the reason being that they do have a smaller menu during the week and you have to purchase extra sauces. Despite those things, I think YAKI has a wonderful atmosphere and is a great place to take your friends or family. The food is delicious and worth the price. If you can’t make it to their Valley Mills location, they also have a food truck located on 618 Columbus Ave.