The Best Old School Drive-Ins Around the Country
We found drive-in restaurants that look straight out of American Graffiti! Cruise to one of these '50s and '60s spots for tasty burgers and shakes.
Courtesy KING TUT DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
King Tut Drive-In
Beckley, West Virginia
King Tut has been open since the early 1940s—but this drive-in has nothing to do with the Egyptian pharaoh. The name is a twist on the original owner’s last name, Tutwiler. Since the ’50s, the restaurant has been run by the McKay family. The McKay’s have used the same economical, Depression-era recipes for decades.
You’ll get carhop service here, plus classic eats like burgers and some throwbacks like a chicken liver dinner or a ham loaf sandwich.
Courtesy ARDY & ED'S/FACEBOOK
Ardy & Ed’s
Ardy and Ed Timm took over this popular drive-in from Ed’s parents in 1960. It operated for several years as an A&W stand and then became an independent restaurant. The drive-in is a true blast from the past with carhops on roller skates taking orders and whisking food to car windows. Have soda fountain treats here, including Ardy & Ed’s famous root beer by the mug. Can’t make the trip? Find a vintage soda fountain near you.
Courtesy DICK'S DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
Dick Spady, the founder of Dick’s Drive-In, is a local legend in Seattle. He opened this restaurant in 1954 even though few believed it would ever be successful. Well, the drive-in was so popular that he opened several more! Dick resisted pressure to franchise nationally and chose to keep the restaurants in his beloved Seattle.
Not much has changed in 65 years (you can get their famous burger and fries for less than $5) and that’s why people have been going there for generations. Recreate the experience at home with our favorite fast food copycat recipes.
Courtesy SYCAMORE DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
Blink your headlights for carhop service at the Sycamore Drive-In. This classic drive-in has it all: frosty root beer made from their own secret recipe, breakfast specials, chili dogs and towering burgers. Customers especially love the burgers at Sycamore, made from ground steak and cooked “French style,” which gives them thin, crispy edges. Find more recipes inspired by the swinging ’60s.
Courtesy DARI-ETTE DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
St. Paul, Minnesota
You might be surprised to find Italian food at a classic drive-in, but we love the idea of ordering a burger with a side of spaghetti. Angela Fida and her family have run the Dari-Ette Drive-In since 1951, melding Italian flavors with classic American drive-in favorites. Try the Italiano Sandwich: sausage on Italian bread with mozzarella and homemade spaghetti sauce. Just order at the speakers and carhops will be right out with your food.
Courtesy VAL'S DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
This is a no-frills restaurant that’s a hidden gem near the Bates College campus. Val’s Drive-In has been a local favorite since 1959, beloved for their cheap and delicious food. Have the carhop bring you treats like a classic Maine red hot dogs, lobster rolls, clam cakes, poutine or the “Heart Attack:” a burger with double the cheese and bacon. Check out more of the best small-town restaurants across America.
Courtesy BEACON DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
Spartanburg, South Carolina
“Caaaall it!” This was the famous greeting of employee J.C. Stroble to Beacon Drive-In customers. He’d then holler orders back to the cooks. Politicians especially loved coming in to meet and chat with the legendary Stroble, who passed away in 2013 after working at the Beacon for an incredible 58 years. This carhop spot is still a popular destination for folks who crave the sweet tea and “a-plenty” burgers served buried under fries and onion rings.
You know you’re from the South if you’ve been to the Beacon… and if you’ve tried these recipes!
Courtesy THE DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
Taylor Falls, Minnesota
This drive-in restaurant has the ’50s vibe down. Their carhops even wear poodle skirts! They’ve been open since 1956 and are known for their homemade root beer and hand-packed burgers cooked to order. Try a Patty Melt, Pizza Burger or Mushroom and Swiss Burger, either in your car or on the outdoor patio. Don’t miss more of these ‘50s-era recipes worth trying today.
Courtesy JUMPIN' JACK'S DRIVE-IN/INSTAGRAM
Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In
Scotia, New York
Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In did so well it quickly expanded after opening in 1956. It has persevered through many tumultuous events, including Hurricane Irene in 2011. Jumpin’ Jacks is famous for its cheap eats and classic fare, like burgers, dogs and fried dough.
Since the drive-in is located right on the banks of the Mohawk River, it seemed only natural to the owners to add waterskiing shows back in the ’60s! You can still catch these shows all summer long, too.
Courtesy WESTSIDE DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
Ralph Caskey opened the Westside Drive-In in 1957. It’s still going strong—and now it’s the area’s only drive-in with a chef. The restaurant was purchased by Chef Lou Aaron in the ’90s, when he decided to leave fine dining and return to the town where he grew up. The menu is a mix of drive-in classics like hot dogs and burgers, plus mouthwatering items like Pepsi Cola Pork Ribs and Caramel Bread Pudding.
You must try the Famous Idaho Ice Cream Potato here, too. Is it really made with a potato? We won’t spoil the surprise! How many of these other outrageous state desserts have you tried?
Courtesy EVELYN'S DRIVE-IN/INSTAGRAM
Tiverton, Rhode Island
This oceanside drive-in was opened in 1969 by Evelyn DuPont and quickly became a Tiverton favorite. 18 years later, Domenic Bitto stopped there for lunch, heard it was for sale and decided to buy Evelyn’s on a whim! Domenic and his wife Jane have been at the helm for over 30 years now.
There is seafood here, of course, like lobster rolls, chowders and even a crabby patty. They have Rhode Island favorites too: a chow mein sandwich, littleneck clams and chouriço. Be sure to work this stop into your East Coast foodie road trip.
Nancy Mock for Taste of Home
There are still a handful of A&W drive-ins left in the country, and this one is the only drive-in restaurant left in Vermont. This famous brand began in 1919 when Roy Allen and Frank Wright opened stands to sell root beer. They franchised the stands, owners began adding other menu items like burgers, fries and shakes—and the drive-in craze boomed. This A&W opened in the early ’60s and is a favorite stop for tourists and Vermont families. Carhops still bring you frosty-cold glass mugs of root beer. See where A&W ranks in our root beer taste test.
Courtesy CLASSIC 50'S DRIVE-INN/FACEBOOK
Classic ’50s Drive-Inn
Just about anyone in Norman will tell you that Classic ’50s Drive-Inn is a place they’ve been going since they were kids. Juel and Elaine Sweatte married soon after moving to Norman (Juel to play football at the University of Oklahoma; Elaine to be a nurse) and opened this drive-in in 1957. It has stayed in the family, run today by their granddaughter. The food here is made fresh-to-order, and some of the local favorites are Pickle-O’s (fried pickles), house-made onion rings, potato boats and slushes. We can’t get enough of the ’50s, especially these desserts!
Courtesy PARKETTE DRIVE-IN/INSTAGRAM
Built in 1951 on a dirt road in what some would call the middle of nowhere, founder Joe Smiley knew how to get folks to come to the Parkette Drive-In: good food at good prices. He created the Poor Boy, a double-decker hamburger that’s still the most popular item on the menu. Be sure to check out our most popular burger recipes next.
The Parkette was in danger of disappearing forever after an abrupt closure, but current owners Jeff and Randy Kaplan refurbished the restaurant in 2008. They preserved original features of the drive-in, including the iconic Parkette sign with a neon carhop on top.
Courtesy SUPERDAWG DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
Superdawg Drive-In was created in 1948 by Maurie and Flaurie Berman and is still run by their family. You can’t miss this drive-in—mostly because there are two 12-foot hot dogs on the roof!
Drive up, place your order at the call box and carhops will bring you the secret-recipe Superdawgs in retro-decorated cartons. Be sure to try their onion chips, malts and the Whoopskidawg: a Polish sausage in a roll with grilled onions and pickles. What is a Chicago Dog, anyway?
Courtesy WAYNE'S DRIVE-INN/FACEBOOK
WWII veteran Wayne Abshere and his wife decided to return home to Lawton to open Wayne’s Drive-Inn. Though it originally began as a sit-down place, in the early ’60s Wayne changed it over to a drive-in. It quickly became a popular spot for Coke dates, showing off cars and Friday night drag races. It’s still family-run today, so stop by for Sissy Burgers, steak fingers and chili cheese fries. Find a retro burger to make at home.
Courtesy RED RABBIT DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
Red Rabbit Drive-In
“Make the Red Rabbit a Habit.” That’s the slogan of this 1964 drive-in, started by Sam and Maggie Snyder. Today, it’s run by their grandchildren. The food is all cooked to order, like their famous Bunny Burger made with smoky bacon, cheese and special sauce. Nobody knows what’s in the “Bunny Dust” that comes on the fries, but we hear you should always ask for extra dust. Psst! Here are the biggest secrets fast food workers won’t tell you.
Courtesy SNOW WHITE DRIVE-IN/FACEBOOK
Snow White Drive-In
The Snow White Drive-In is an icon for Lebanon residents. It opened in 1957, so generations of family members have eaten there. In fact, many of the staff have worked there long enough to see kids grow up and bring their own children to eat!
The drive-in offers carhop and dining room service, and all of their homestyle dishes are made fresh. They’re known for their burgers and barbecue, and people seem particularly excited when the chicken and dressing special is on the menu. Cooking up a plate of burgers at home? Here are our best tips for how to make burgers taste better.
Pennsauken, New Jersey
Founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, there were once Weber’s Drive-In restaurants all over the country, selling Weber’s popular, secret formula root beer. Like the old A&Ws, owners could make each stand their own, adding menu items to suit the tastes of their customers. This Weber’s Drive-In in Pennsauken opened in 1951. Reviews say the carhop service is excellent as is that famous root beer! The go-to eats here include the cheesesteak, pork roll and for dessert, a Black Cow. That’s another way to say “root beer float.” Have extra root beer at home? It’s the secret ingredient in these mouthwatering recipes.
Courtesy JERRY'S CURB SERVICE/FACEBOOK
Jerry’s Curb Service
This stop is gleaming with chrome, color and long carports. You’ll be transported to the 1950s the moment you pull in. Jerry’s Curb Service was founded in 1947 by Jerry and Donna Reed, and their son eventually took over the business. Though you’ll see some modern updates, like carhops using mobile devices to take your order, you still get the drive-in experience and great food that made Jerry’s so successful. The most popular item on the menu might be the Dorsey: a double cheeseburger with spicy sauce. For the drive home, here are road trip games that everyone will love.
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