Drive-in restaurants: Summer in a time capsule

July 30, 2015 - Picnic Time

As Jon Cieslak munched on his cheeseburger and watched his dual bubbly daughters run around a mottled tiles of a Nite Owl, he satisfied how tiny had altered about a drive-in given a initial time he went when he was a kid.

When a Nite Owl non-stop in 1948, people would come by horseback and park their rides in a behind on hitching posts. Today, from a outside, a drive-in usually looks like a tiny retro shack, though inside a aged section building are walls draped in all from antique photos to selected Coca-Cola signs, reflecting a story so alive we can roughly ambience it.

“We’ve usually been around forever,” pronounced one of a owners, Chris Roepke. “We don’t know how (other) people make it demeanour like a drive-in; we usually are a drive-in.”

This step behind in time and out of a normal is given Cieslak likes to move his girls to a Nite Owl, though there are copiousness of reasons people trafficked to drive-ins this summer.

With a neon lights intense behind them during a cruise list outward Wayne’s Drive-In in Cedarburg, Trish Kohl and Lisa Yagodinski explained that they gathering 40 miles for a girls’ day and a change in atmosphere.

Cassandra Jacobson, sitting on a dais outward Schuett’s Drive-In in Watertown, pronounced as she awaited an sequence that she hoped would perform her pregnancy cravings.

Because drive-ins are apropos so rare, owners mostly find they are portion some-more than usually locals; people come from all opposite a state, and infrequently a country, for a step into these juicy time machines.

The Kiltie Drive-In in Oconomowoc roughly looks out of place along a highway, with a red and white checkers and a prolonged widen of carports, though a particular qualities of a comparison building are what move people back.

“We live in Dallas, so we don’t get a possibility to come here really often. So, usually, when we come behind to Wisconsin or a Oconomowoc area, we really come here,” Matt Keepman pronounced as he scanned a flashy menu above him.

As a years upheld and drive-ins have turn fewer and serve apart, carhop services have turn a singular commodity. The Kiltie and Big Star Drive-In in Kenosha are dual of a few that still offer use pleasantness of a bright-eyed workers who come directly to a automobile with a tray and a smile.

“People lift in, and carhops come to take their order. They wait for their order, have their radios on and put a trays in a windows. Then when they’re done, we put your lights behind on,” Dino Bass, one of a owners of Big Star, pronounced about a drive-in’s carhop system.

“I adore it. we adore it! we don’t have to get out of a car. Though we wish they were in drum skates,” Illinois proprietor Diana Manjarrez pronounced during Big Star after being served her cooking on an aluminum tray trustworthy to her window.

Classic carhop use final classical cars — anything from old-school convertibles to lovingly easy Chevys. Cruise Nights during a Kiltie, Wayne’s and Gus’s Drive-In lift roughly 300 cars any and underline a DJ personification oldies while people hula-hoop.

“People with classical cars like opening here given it’s a loose environment, and we can take a opposite approach to get behind home given there are so many roads that lead to Gus’s,” Gus Athanasopoulos pronounced about Gus’s, a East Troy drive-in he runs with his mother Jessica.

Classic cars, carhops and drive-ins are all markers of summer and a deteriorate speeding by too quickly. Below is a list of some of a time machines tighten to home that competence give we a ambience of history.



3131 Main St., East Troy

Tell me about it: Gus’s Drive-In is a complicated take of an aged favorite. With a black-and-white mottled floor, aged photos, newly embellished yellow and red walls, arcade games and thickly flashy everything, a place is finished to demeanour vintage. The carport, laced with neon lettering, is a ideal venue for owners to uncover off their classical cars and suppose what it was like to go to a drive-in when it was during a heyday.

History:Before it was Gus’s Drive-In, it was called Michael’s Drive-In; before that, it was an AW. In 2002, Gus Athanasopoulos took it over with his wife, Jessica Athanasopoulos, and chose to keep a firmness of a drive-in with their possess complicated touches. There’s an aged design unresolved nearby a opening of a aged AW that used to be there.

Menu mount out:The 4×4 Burger: a half-pound burger with grilled cheese as a bun; filled with lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, mayo, ketchup and mustard.


Classic Car Nights:Cruise Nights are during about 4 p.m. each Saturday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. They embody classical cars and a DJ spinning oldies.

Hours:11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

End of season: Close in Oct until March


830 E. Layton Ave.

Tell me about it:Time has stood still inside a Nite Owl. Every photo, decoration, pointer and essay found on a white section walls of a dining area are originals that a owners have amassed given they initial non-stop in a 1940s. The immature and red neon pointer out front, patterned building tiles and 75-year-old prepare in a kitchen — son of a strange owners — are all reminders of a abounding story of this recorded drive-in.

History:Ralph Roepke, a grocer in Piggsville, non-stop a drive-in in 1948. Today, a family drive-in is run by his son, Jon Roepke, and grandson Chris Roepke.

Menu mount out: Hamburgers and cheeseburgers, they usually use uninformed meat, so when they run out, they’re finished portion burgers for a day. So distant this summer, they have run out 85 days in a row.


Classic Car Nights: The Nite Owl hosts one automobile uncover a year for a past 35 years called a Brewtown Cruisers. It is hold a initial Saturday after Memorial Day.

Hours:11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday by Saturday

End of season: First week in November


N48-W36154 Wisconsin Ave., Oconomowoc

Tell me about it:The Kiltie stands out as we expostulate past. It’s opposite from anything in a area, with a red neon lights, prolonged widen of carport and a line of carhops watchful to move we custard. A menu isn’t handed to you; instead, we can take it in with usually a peek by your windshield. So after we order, wait for an aluminum tray and crack around to a song they’re personification to get a full drive-in experience.

History:Opened in a late 1940s by a Scottish owners — hence a name. The strange owners usually had it for a few years, though it has been upheld along to people who caring about it and know a industry. The stream owner, Drew Howie, started operative during a Kiltie when he was 14.

Menu mount out:The half-pound burger: all healthy beef served on a kaiser hurl with any toppings offering on a menu.

Carhops: The Kiltie is carhop use only; there is no window service.

Classic Car Nights: On a third Friday in May, there’s a Kiltie Cruise, when classical cars fill all of a spots of a drive-in.

Hours:10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

End of season:Stays open about a week and a half after Labor Day, though doesn’t tighten until all of a custard is gone.


1331 Covered Bridge Road, Cedarburg

Tell me about it:When we lift adult to a round building that is Wayne’s, it’s roughly as if you’ve entered a stage from “The Jetsons”; a vibe is really behind to a future. The white grill accented with red siding boasts a name in neon lights opening out of a core of a building. The inside binds such treasures as brief red bar stools along a china opposite matched with unresolved red lamps from a ceiling. The tiled floors and friendly red booths finish a look.

History:Wayne’s non-stop in a late ’90s and is in a 17th season.

Menu mount out:The Big Wayne Burger: double bacon cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato.

Carhops:Only on Thursdays for Cruise Nights, though they do wear drum skates.

Classic Car Nights: Wednesday is Corvette Night. Thursday Cruise Nights underline roller-skating carhops, classical cars, DJ Rob, raffle prizes and a kids hula-hoop contest.

Hours:11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

End of season: Nov. 15


1500 Washington Road, Kenosha

Tell me about it: A neon cheeseburger points we in a instruction of Big Star. A discerning parking pursuit underneath a shelter, and a menu is directly above. There’s no need to get out of a car; a use will come directly to we around carhop and aluminum tray.

History:Big Star was non-stop in 1954 by Roy and Marianne Boehner, a grandparents of Chuck Laferney. It started out as usually a tiny burger stand, though with time, it grew. Laferney and Dino Bass now run a drive-in, though they’ve kept around some of a comparison traditions, like a mugs of base drink and carhop service.

Menu mount out: Most famous for their double cheeseburger served with Velveeta cheese.

Carhops: Yes

Classic Car Nights: No

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

End of season:The final Sunday before Labor Day, Sept. 6


510 E. Main St., Watertown

Tell me about it: A internal hole-in-the-wall located along a frame of businesses in Watertown. The tiny section shed offers a covering of a immature shutter and cruise tables around back.

History: Schuett’s non-stop in 1955 and was family-run until 2012, when it was bought by Todd Schwiffel.

Best thing on a menu: The deep-fried, foot-long prohibited dogs is a tack item, with a choice of toppings.

Carhops: No

Classic Car Nights: No

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 7 days a week

End of season:First weekend in September, Sept. 5

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