“Drive-in” has come to mean just about any cheap-eats restaurant with car-friendly parking. A genuine drive-in is a place where customers park and are waited on and eat in their cars. Meals are served on trays by car hops (originally named in the 1920s because they hopped onto the running boards of arriving customers). While drive-through restaurants are common — meals presented in paper bags for customers to take somewhere — only a handful of genuine drive-ins remain. Here is a baker’s dozen Roadfood favorites that we consider to be some of America’s best drive-Ins.
The unique "Michigan" hot dogs of New York's North Country are at their best at Clare and Carl's drive-in of Plattsburgh.
The Sycamore of Bethel, Connecticut, is a genuine drive-in with car-hops (& indoor seats) serving crisp-edged Dagwood burgers and house-brewed root beer.
Doumar’s of Norfolk, Virginia is marked by a sign with big ice cream cones on either side -- reminder that Abe Doumar, founder, invented the ice cream cone!
King of the menu at this old-fashioned Christiansburg drive-in is the Dude Burger, a royal configuration of meat, lettuce, tomato & mayonnaise on a soft bun.
Staunton, Virginia: Wright's is a mid 20th century drive-in with car hops (and indoor seats, too), serving big, fully-dressed burgers, hot dogs, BBQ, and more.
The Beacon is a bustling South Carolina drive-in with instantaneous counter service as well as car hops. Have the pork-a-plenty plate with sweet, sweet tea.
An old-fashioned Charlotte, North Carolina drive-in BBQ restaurant with from-car ordering, Bar B Q King serves fine pulled pork and fried fish sandwiches.
Hot dogs are the house specialty at Atlanta's Varsity, the world's largest drive in. The prime adornment is chili, and the right drink is Frosted Orange.
Car hops carry burgers and fries, chicken tenders, and deep-fried chipped ham to the car window. Jerry's drive-in is fast and fun. Since 1947.
Delicious root beer, dark and full of character, comes in frosty mugs alongside burgers, hot dogs, and pork tenderloin sandwiches at Indianapolis' Mug N Bun.
Of all the great hot dog joints in Chicago, Superdawg might be the greatest. It's certainly the most fun, and the dogs (& burgers & shakes) are unsurpassed.
Quick eats are dandy at Hi-D-Ho, an old-fashioned drive-in where the menu stars are green chile cheeseburgers and freshly squeezed limeade and lemonade.
A Salt Lake City tradition, Hires is a classic drive-in with menu to match: burgers of all kind, plus root beer in sizes that range from Baby to Large.