Good | Worth a Return
Shady Lane Drive Inn
Review by: Michael Stern
I’m almost certain that the Shady Lane Drive Inn will not soon be winning a James Beard culinary award. The hamburgers and hot dogs it serves are not extraordinary. In fact, their appeal is just how ordinary they are. In a world where even McDonald’s offers “grilled artisan chicken” and you can get your Wendy’s burger on a ciabatta bun, here you have immemorial drive-in fare, spongy buns and all, the hot dogs absolutely typical of Georgia wiener emporia, the burgers less regionally specific in their flat, cooked-through sliderlike savor.
In a cultural vacuum, Roadfood wouldn’t pay much attention to these items, but Shady Lane is no vacuum. It is a vintage fast food citadel with instant service, brash servers, low prices, and car slips facing a row of outdoor concrete tables where customers dine. Actual car hops are a thing of the past; you must exit your vehicle and place your order at a walk-up window. But there is real retro charm to the act of easing one’s car into a space and buying a bagful of aromatic eats for well under $10.
While it takes some generosity of spirit to enjoy the grey hamburgers, even when you get a double or a triple and pay extra for lettuce and tomato, the hot dogs are seductive. The menu offers both chili dogs and slaw dogs, the chili mildly hot, the slaw sweet but with a bit of pepper zing. If you go the full Dixie way and get both toppings together, they will overwhelm the blubbery, bright red wiener. No matter how you get yours dressed, you can be sure the soft bun will virtually evaporate by the time you’re midway through. For all that, it’s a magic combo: porky-fatty sausage, drugstore chili, and frothy slaw. Here you have a true signature dish of Southern dives, pool halls, drive-ins, and lunch counters.
|Meals Served||Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|