There are a lot of restaurants that are pure Americana: dive-y burger joints, hot dog stands and even old-school steakhouses that cook your beef to perfection. But what can be more iconic than pulling up to a parking lot, getting waited on by a server through your driver’s side window, and chowing down on a burger right there in your car?
Drive-in restaurants have seen a resurgence since COVID-19 hit, offering a happy medium between going out to eat while still staying safe and comfortable in your own car. For a bite of nostalgia, we sought out drive-in restaurants from around the country that are still operating and thriving today. Just remember, some restaurants may be seasonal and operating hours and conditions may be different due to the coronavirus pandemic, so call before you cruise.
It’s easy to get a vintage feel at a drive-in, but it’s much harder to actually get a vintage price. At Ammons Drive Inn & Dairy Bar in Waynesville, North Carolina, you can still get a cheeseburger for just $2. A side of fries will cost $1.75. If you still have room after all that, you can get the cobbler, with two rotating flavors nightly.
Roller skating carhops will serve you burgers and crinkle-cut fries at Ardy & Ed's Drive In. It’s been around for what feels like forever, opening in 1948 as an A&W drive-in. Ardy & Ed’s went independent and got its current name in the ‘70s, but the draft root beer is still the same and perhaps what this spot is best known for. Be sure to order some or that childhood favorite dessert, a root beer float, as you roll up and travel back in time.
Avi’s Screamers Drive In in Wickenburg, Arizona, is best known for its Screamer Burger, which is cooked fresh and best eaten with a large order of seasoned fries. If you want to eat like a local, order yourself the Green Chili Burger, which has just the kick you’re looking for.
The South is known for its fried chicken and its barbecue, but it can be hard to decide between the two. Well, if you’re at Bar-B-Q King in Charlotte, North Carolina, you don’t have to. This joint’s signature menu item is fried chicken soaked in barbecue sauce with wonderfully crispy skin and a killer sauce. (Be sure to order more on the side for dipping.) If you’re not feeling chicken, patrons of this old-school drive-in also rave about the barbecue pulled pork, homemade hush puppies and onion rings.
Beacon Drive-In opened in 1946, and this Southern classic has been dishing out fast food to drivers (and diners in indoor booths) ever since. It’s perhaps best known for the “a-plenty” option, which means your meal will come with piles of sweet onion rings and french fries. Like any true Southern spot, this place serves its can’t miss sweet tea plenty sweet.
You go to Bill’s Drive-In in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for the hot dogs. You can fancy up your dog however you want, but if you want to eat like a true Michiganer, you get the coney dog. This cash-only establishment seems stuck in time, not just because of the carhops, but also because of the prices. You can get a hot dog for $1.75 and a mug of homemade root beer is just 80 cents.
For over 50 years, Bobo’s Drive In has been serving customers classic American food, such as burgers, coney dogs, onion rings and chili. What really makes this drive-in stand out is its signature Spanish Burger. Served with either one or two patties, this cheeseburger is topped with a tangy and ever-so-slightly spicy housemade picante sauce.
Boomer’s Drive-In has burgers that are big and juicy. You can’t go wrong with the classic Big Boom, which features half a pound of ground beef and American cheese. But this spot has funky offerings as well, such as the teriyaki burger with grilled pineapple rings, Swiss cheese and teriyaki sauce or the Cajun Inferno Burger topped with sliced jalapeños, pepper jack cheese and a kicking Cajun sauce.
You don’t always think of seafood when you think of drive-ins, but Cameron’s Lobster House in Brunswick, Maine, will bring you seafood straight to your driver’s seat. It offers a variety of fried seafood baskets, including haddock, juicy shrimp and flavored scallops. Of course, this is a lobster house, so the best things to get at this eatery are the buttery, warm lobster rolls. True to its name, Cameron’s has other shellfish specialties, including lobster stew, lobster BLT wraps and a lobster salad.
Nothing says summertime in Hortonville, Wisconsin, like a meal at Charlie’s Drive-In. For over 50 years, this slice of Americana has been serving up Midwestern classics like fried mushrooms, cheese curds, hot dogs and burgers. Playing into the vintage vibes of a drive-in restaurant, Charlie’s will hold classic car nights throughout the summer season.
Classic 50’s Drive-In has been a staple in Norman, Oklahoma, for over 60 years. This family-owned and -operated restaurant has all the drive-in staples you could ever want: old-fashioned burgers, onion rings, Tater Tots and corn dogs. Possibly the most interesting offering you’ll find here is the Sprittle, Sprite infused with Skittles, which comes in original and sour. It’s a sugary soda dream come true.
Roller-skating carhops truly make you feel like you’ve gone back in time at Dandy’s Drive-in in Bend, Oregon. Head to this hotspot not just for some classic burgers, but also for old-school classics like chocolate malts and pineapple milkshakes. The tots are crispy and the shakes are cold. What is there to complain about?
You typically think of burgers and fries at a drive-in, but at Dari-ette Drive-In, you’ll find authentic Italian eats. OK, you’ll find burgers too, but the real stars at this family-owned restaurant are the meatball sandwich, spaghetti, and other Italian specialties. Because of its snowy Saint Paul location, this drive-in isn’t open all year long, so be sure to stop by when the weather is warm.
There are few burgers more iconic in Seattle than the ones you will find at the seven locations of Dick’s Drive-In. For about $2, you’ll get a small but mighty burger with a slice of classic American cheese. Like any good drive-in, Dick’s has some creamy, dreamy milkshakes, but the menu is simple: three flavors (vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) and just one size only.
Pickle lovers will love Dilly's Drive-In Restaurant, which has two locations in Northeast Ohio (one in Akron and another in Peninsula). This drive-in's signature menu item is the Double Dilly Burger, which comes with two sauces and plenty of pickles. There's even one skewered on top of the wrapper.
Dizzy Whizz is a true family-owned establishment and has been since it opened its doors in the late 1940s. This Louisville favorite has curbside service, where you can order classic diner fare like steak hoagies, fried chicken sandwiches and tuna salad. The signature item is the Whizzburger, which comes complete with two burger patties, a special sauce, lettuce and cheese.
Fans of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” will already be familiar with the Dog House, which was featured in multiple scenes on the pair of AMC shows. And while you won’t find the fictional Jesse Pinkman there, you will find foot-long hot dogs and other classic drive-in fare like Frito pie, burgers and shakes. Be sure to top your hot dog or burger with the signature chili; it’s a little on the spicy side, but it’s well worth it.
While you’re eating and drinking your way through Traverse City, Michigan, be sure to drive up to Don’s Drive In. This drive-in truly feels like being in the ‘50s, with carhops delivering food. It serves all your diner classics, such as burgers, fries and patty melts. Kids in the backseat will be delighted by the kids meals, which come served in a cardboard vintage automobile.
Every day is National Ice Cream Day at Doumar’s Cones and Barbecue. The restaurant’s founder, Abe Doumar, claims to have created the very first ice cream cone back in 1904, and this Virginia staple still uses what it claims is the world’s first four-iron waffle machine, making this spot right up there with the best ice cream stands in America.
What drive-in? Well, The Drive In in Taylors Falls, Minnesota. While this place has an old-fashioned vibe with carhops in poodle skirts and vintage-looking menus, the food is on-trend for today. Dishes are made with local beef, locally-baked goods and local, organic milk. Even the root beer is made fresh on-site every day.
The sign at Ed Walker’s Drive-In & Restaurant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, advertises one thing: French dip sandwiches. It’s what the restaurant is famous for, and one bite of the tender, generously portioned sandwich will prove why.
If you’re eating at an East Coast drive-in, hopefully seafood is on the menu. At Evelyn’s Drive-In in Tiverton, Rhode Island, you’ll find local favorites like crab cakes, lobster rolls, Rhode Island-style calamari with hot pepper rings and garlic butter and a chow mein sandwich.
When Anton and Zahie Nijmeh opened their drive-in in 1966, they started off by selling typical drive-in dishes like cheeseburgers. And while those are still on the menu at Falafel’s Drive-In today, the namesake menu item, falafel, is what makes this San Jose, California, spot stand out. It's available as a salad and on a pita.
You go to Friso’s Carhops Diner for the food, but you stay for the kitschy carhops decked out in shiny hot pink skirts and roller skates. As you get carside service, you can order classic burgers on Parmesan sourdough bread, pastrami sandwiches and a side of the oh-so-indulgent chili cheese fries.
The Hop 50’s Drive-In/Yelp
You’ll feel transported back in time at Maryville, Teneessee, institution The Hop 50’s Drive-In. Carhops serve you ample portions of diner classics like patty melts, grilled bologna sandwiches and, of course, burgers. If you have room left after all of that, be sure to get the classic dessert, an old-fashioned banana split, complete with three kinds of ice cream, pineapple topping, hot fudge, strawberries, walnuts, whipped cream and a cherry.
Gaelyn Z. / Yelp
A true local joint, Jerry’s Curb Service doesn’t have a whole lot of frills to it. You’ll find burgers, chicken and steak sandwiches, chicken tenders, breaded mushrooms and other classics. Regardless of your order, be sure to douse your food in Jerry’s sauce, a sort of twist on mayochup with additional seasonings.
Elvis fans absolutely need to stop by Johnnie's Drive In. It's located just five minutes away from The King's birthplace, and is one of 12 significant sites in Elvis’ formative years in Tupelo, Mississippi. Even if you don't love old school rock 'n' roll, Johnnie's Drive In has doughburgers, a Mississippi twist on the burger, where the ground meat is mixed with fillers like potato flakes, breadcrumbs or flour. Of course, they have all-meat burgers, too.
Cruise on over to Dallas to visit Keller’s Drive-In. For over 50 years, this old-school establishment has been dishing out budget-friendly eats without skimping on the taste. The most popular item is the No. 5 special, a double meat burger with cheese, lettuce, tomato and special dressing on a poppy seed bun. Don’t be afraid to load that baby up with grilled onions too. They come on any sandwich free of charge.
Residents of Wood River, Illinois, flock to King Louie's Drive-In for the burgers, like the King Louie burger, which comes with all the classic trimmings. No burger is complete without a side of the famous potato planks, which are somewhere between a steak fry and a classic french fry. If you dare, you can attempt the King of the Jungle Challenge, which consists of a 2-pound burger, loaded potato planks and a 32-ounce soda of your choice. If you finish the monstrous meal in 30 minutes, you get your photo on the wall and a free T-shirt.
While Mac’s Drive-In does have indoor seating, for the most fun experience, you should eat in your vehicle and get your food delivered by a carhop. The food is fresh and local, with Nebraska beef and hand-breaded onion rings. Fans of Mac’s rave about the pizza burger, a hybrid of two of America's favorite fast food meals.
You typically expect to see burgers and fries at a drive-in, and while Mac’s Steak in the Rough in Albuquerque, New Mexico, does have those offerings, you want to stop there for the taquitas, which are best eaten dipped in guacamole. The namesake menu item, Steak in the Rough, is also a must-try. These freshly cut and breaded steak fingers are served with gravy, fries and coleslaw.
Mitch L. / Yelp
The Moonlight Drive-In’s name is no coincidence; it’s close to one of Florida's top attractions, Kennedy Space Center, and tourists flock to this old-school restaurant for a budget-friendly meal delivered by carhops after a day exploring the headquarters. As for the food, you’ll find diner classics like burgers, chicken tenders and hot dogs. Save room for dessert — there’s a chocolate peanut butter milkshake.
If you want two things from a classic drive-in, it’s a cheap burger and a high-quality root beer. Luckily, Mugs Up Drive In in Independence, Missouri, has both. Like a true Missouri spot, it specializes in loose meat sandwiches, topped with only the finest Cheez Whiz. You can get this Midwestern specialty for under $3. Wash it down with a homemade root beer.
Jacob D. / Yelp
Joe Smiley opened the Parkette on Nov. 11, 1951, and it’s been a Kentucky institution ever since. Its signature burger is the Poor Boy, which features two 4-ounce Angus beef patties, American cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard and signature Parkette sauce on a toasted double-decker bun. In addition to a selection of classic and specialty burgers, Parkette serves up some fried chicken that competes with the best fried chicken in the country.
Joshua B. / Yelp
If you're looking for a charming, old-school drive-in diner in Hawaii, there is Honolulu’s Rainbow Drive-In. Head here for the Hawaiian specialties, like Spam sandwiches and the Loco Moco, a hamburger patty served with a sweet brown gravy, rice and an egg.
Hop on over to the Red Rabbit Drive In in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, and get yourself a Bunny Burger with a beef patty, smoked bacon, cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and special sauce all on a poppy seed roll. While you’re getting food delivered straight to your car, don’t forget to get fries with bunny dust, a beloved specialty spice blend.
Rudy’s Drive-In / Yelp
Nothing says drive-in like a menu that’s full of burgers, hot dogs and root beer, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Rudy’s Drive-In. This classic spot started as an A&W in 1933, and fans of Rudy’s will tell you it still has the best root beer you’ll ever find in addition to one of the most iconic foods in America: Wisconsin cheese curds.
Kevin S. / Yelp
There’s a long-standing debate in the Akron, Ohio, area: Which burger is better, Skyway or Swensons? Both are delivered by runners to your car door and both serve up slightly sweetened burgers with some of the greasiest, most delicious onion rings and fries you’ll ever find. Fans of Skyway will tell you its Sky-Hi burger, with its creamy and tangy Sky-Hi sauce is superior to Swensons. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find better sauerkraut balls.
While Skyway has its fans, Swensons is the more prevalent drive-in chain throughout the Buckeye State. There are 10 locations in the northeast Ohio area and four in Columbus, and they serve up “hamburgs,” potato puffs, onion rings and 17 different flavors of milkshakes, including different variations like coffee, pineapple, blueberry and grape. The highlight is the Galley Boy, a double “cheeseburg” sweetened with brown sugar, topped with not one but two sauces and a salty green olive. This deeply flavorful burg is right up there with the best burgers in America.
Snow White Drive In is a true classic of Lebanon, Tennessee. It's beloved for desserts like its hot fudge cake and banana split. The restaurant serves all your diner classics, but it is the South, after all, so be sure to get some regional specialties, including barbecue baskets and fried okra.
Since 1955, South 21 Drive In has been serving classic drive-in fare to the fine folks of Charlotte, North Carolina. The signature dish is the Super Boy burger, which comes with two freshly prepared beef patties, mustard, onions, lettuce and tomato. South 21 Drive In also serves up fried chicken, if you're looking for something extra comforting.
Randy G. / Yelp
In true old-fashioned style, you pick up a telephone and place your order at Sumburger Drive-In in Chillicothe, Ohio. Its signature dish is the appropriately named Double Sumburger. This “meal-on-a-bun” burger features two fresh all-beef patties, two slices of melted cheese, lettuce and signature Sumburger sauce. It’s cooked to order and the perfect bite of nostalgia.
Sycamore Drive-In in Bethel, Connecticut, serves breakfast, special salads and fast food classics like chicken tenders, but it’s best known for the French-style steakburgers. The Dagwood Burger, which is the “final answer to the burger” includes melted American cheese, mustard, ketchup, pickle, onion, tomato slices, lettuce and mayo.
The Varsity has five drive-in locations throughout Georgia (and an additional two in the airport), but if you want to eat there, be sure to go to the main branch in Atlanta; it claims to be the largest drive-in fast food restaurant in the world. The location is a historic must-see, even if the food isn’t fancy. Whether you order a hamburger with a steamed bun, french fries or a hot dog, be sure to get your item covered in The Varsity’s “world-famous” chili.
Chris C. / Yelp
Wayne’s Drive Inn has been owned by Wayne Abshere’s family since 1950 when the restaurant started as Wayne’s Burger Bar in an alley. Wayne’s specializes in fried food, like fried pickles, cheese sticks and onion rings. The deep-fried deliciousness doesn’t end there. There’s a steak fingers dinner, fish and chips and a fried chicken plank.
You'll spot Weber’s Drive In in Pennsauken, New Jersey by its bright orange building and a metal canopy covering the automobiles that pull up for some carside service. The root beer is the go-to menu item; it’s made from an old-school recipe and is so popular that Weber’s sells it in gallons for takeaway. As for the food, well, dig in to a pork roll and cheese sandwich. It’s a regional breakfast dish you need to try.
A classic neon sign welcomes drivers and diners to Boise’s Westside Drive-In. It has steak fingers with fries, homemade lasagna and a “world-famous” prime rib on Fridays and Saturdays. Of course, no Idaho drive-in would be complete without an ice cream potato. This is not frozen mashed potatoes, luckily, but vanilla ice cream coated in cocoa powder and whipped cream expertly styled to look like a loaded baked potato. It's one of the most iconic desserts in America.
Superdawg is a Chicago institution, and it’s hard to miss with all the giant hot dogs on the roof with light-up eyes. The all-beef hot dogs have that perfect snappy skin, and you’d be crazy not to order it with all the traditional Chicago hot dog trimmings (yellow mustard, white onion, sweet pickle relish, sport peppers, tomatoes, kosher dill pickle spear and celery salt). If you haven't had it, you need to try it. A Chicago dog here is among the 101 most iconic restaurant dishes in America.
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