H&W Drive-In

Review by: Maggie Rosenberg & Trevor Hagstrom

H&W Drive-In Merced, CA | What to expect

Carhop drive-ins are increasingly rare. Not counting Sonic, most California places that call themselves drive-ins serve burgers but do not deliver to the car. While some are cheesy 1950s-themed places with no soul, H&W Drive-In in Merced, CA is the real deal. It has 50’s food with a 50’s feel. Teenagers haunt the parking lot, just like in old movies. Prices are closer to the 1950s than the 21st century as well. The downside is that the food is processed: Welcome back to the 1950s.

What to eat at H&W Drive-In

The French Burger

The signature item is a French burger, which is a couple of patties on a French roll with the usual toppings. The double French is a thick wad of four patties layered on the roll. Not a great idea. The burgers are rubbery, so more meat isn’t better. Theses sorts of burgers shine in thin layers with other toppings to enhance them. We adjusted our expectations and got a patty melt. This is alright. The rye is crisp and buttery, the burgers completely covered in grilled onions and melted American cheese. Listless meat doesn’t hinder the appeal of this sandwich.

All the fries

Fries are crinkles with seasoning salt. We like them with chili-cheese even if they are hindered by subpar chili. We always like trying tots, and they are average here, if a little over fried. Best spuds are curly fries, which come crisp and heavily seasoned, seemingly higher quality than much of the other food.

Root Beer

Why do we recommend H&W (other than for the novelty of car hop service)? For the house root beer. It makes everything on the menu taste better. Locals come to get jugs of the stuff. It isn’t fancy artisan root beer, just good old- fashioned soda with a sharp bite that isn’t at all medicinal.

How about a root beer milk shake? It is delicious, something like a thickened, thoroughly blended root beer float. It is also worth pulling off the highway for a hot fudge milkshake. As you sip it, you hit occasional pockets of unblended fudge.

What To Eat

Root Beer Milkshake

Hot Fudge Milkshake

Patty Melt

Curly Fries

Chili Cheese Fries

Tater Tots

Root Beer

Double French Burger


H&W Drive-In Recipes


What do you think of H&W Drive-In?

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