Whether it’s candlelight and haute cuisine or clams and cold ones, a great dining experience comes from the perfect match of food, atmosphere, and companionship. So why not take your true love—your car, my friend—to a joint where she can shine in all her glory?
“Car culture is uniquely American, and these drive-ins celebrate that culture,” says Michael Stern, coauthor of Roadfood. Drive-ins are often the last surviving purveyors of regional traditions, like the buttered burgers at the Penguin Drive-In in dairy-happy Wisconsin. If the spirit of Kerouac moves you anytime soon, visit one of Stern’s car-food meccas—and if you need some new wheels before you set out, here are The 14 Sports Cars to Buy Now.
255 John B. White Sr. Boulevard, Spartanburg, SC
864-585-9387, Beacon Drive-In
The Beacon is known for its chili and insanely sweet iced tea, but the $6.50 Sliced Pork-A-Plenty (pork barbecue on a bun, a mountain of fries, and onion rings) draws the crowds.
Tip: Bring some friends for the Pig’s Dinner, a dessert with 15 scoops of ice cream.
Reminder: before you start engorging yourself on all this amazingly decadent food, be sure to check out the 10 Ways to Eat Whatever You Want Without Gaining Weight.
Bob’s Clam Hut
315 U.S. Route 1, Kittery, ME
207-439-4233, Bob’s Clam Hut
This New England landmark makes all kinds of seafood, but the clam chowder ($3.25) and lobster roll ($10.95) stand out.
Tip: Order the Lillian, a clam dinner named for the longtime cashier.
And if you are a seafood lover, check out this quick and simple recipe for Pan-Seared Halibut.
111 NE 45th Street, Seattle
206-632-5125, Dick’s Drive-In
The first of five locations in the Seattle area opened in 1954, and the prices (burgers start at $1.10, shakes $1.50) hark back to that era.
Tip: Don’t even think of customizing your burger—everything comes as is.
2030 U.S. 31 North,
Traverse City, MI
231-938-1860, Don’s Drive-In
Enjoy the Big D’s double-size patties ($5.45) and foot-long dogs ($2.25), as well as carhop service (summer only).
Tip: Order a cherry, raspberry, or strawberry shake ($3.80)-they’re made with fresh fruit.
Burger fans should also read up on How to Make the Ultimate Burger.
Hires Big H
425 South 700 East
Salt Lake City
801-364-4582, Hires Big H
When you’re at the Great Salt Lake, take a side trip to Hires Big H. Don’t miss the homemade onion rings and root beer.
Tip: Order a Famous Big H burger ($3.25)-the place has a butcher on-site, so the meat’s always fresh.
Red Rooster Drive-In
1566 Route 22, Brewster, NY
845-279-8046, Red Rooster Drive-In
Roll in for burgers, chili dogs, and shakes, and taste the past with a fine egg cream ($2).
Tip: After you chow, play a round of miniature golf at the Rooster’s own course. And speaking of golf, here are 15 Celebrity Golfers Who Are Better Than You Are.
Sycamore Drive-In Restaurant
282 Greenwood Avenue, Bethel, CT
203-748-2716, Sycamore Drive-In Restaurant
Save room for the Dagwoodburger (two patties with tons of garnishes; $4.50), and don’t skip the house-made root beer.
Tip: Flash your lights to get a carhop to stop by.
6363 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
773-763-0660, Superdawg Drive-In
You can’t miss the 10-foot-tall hot dogs atop the place, but the quarter-pound Superdawg ($4.20; above), dressed with mustard, relish, onion, pickle, and hot peppers and loaded with fries, is the big draw.
Tip: Ditch the credit cards; this place is cash-only.
346 Greenville Avenue, Staunton, VA
540-886-0435, Wright’s Dairy-Rite
Feast on the Superburger (two patties layered in a triple-decker bun with cheese, lettuce, and sauce; $2.49), barbecued-pork sandwiches, and brown beans.
Tip: Get there early-the onion rings sell out every day.
For more advice on how to satiate your taste buds while traveling, read up on The Best Foodie Vacations.