Dairy O began in 1949 as a Dairy Queen, but proprietor James Sykes wanted to do more than serve ice cream. He severed his ties with DQ, erased U-E-E-N and the tail of the Q from the sign, creating Dairy O. It has since become a locals’ favorite for burgers and hot dogs and a full array of sundaes, sodas, milk shakes, floats, and banana splits.
The signature item is a Curley Burger, named for Melvin “Curley” Harvey, who was Mr. Sykes’ first employee. It is a broad, flat lunch counter patty festooned with creamy pimento cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. No, it is not a four-star artisan hamburger, but the messy package is irresistible in a quick-eats way. A single Curley seems balanced just right, but if you’re feeling extra carnivorous, double Curleys also are available. On the side, you want good French fries.
Drive-through service is popular, but there is a fluorescent-lit dining room with molded booths for eating in. When other customers saw me taking pictures of my food, several of them volunteered their opinions on the best dish (other than the universally acclaimed Curley Burger), and three got into a contest as to which of them had been a Dairy O customer the longest.
Beyond burgers and ice cream treats, the Dairy O menu includes hot and cold sandwiches, fried shrimp, fish, and chicken, and breakfast sandwiches from 8am to 10:30am.