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Ever been to a drive-in restaurant that had a multi-level parking garage? If you answer yes that must mean you’ve visited The Varsity in Atlanta GA – the world’s largest drive-in restaurant. According to their website:

“Our Downtown Atlanta location is on more than two acres and can accommodate 600 cars and over 800 people inside. On days when the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets are playing a home game, over 30,000 people visit The Varsity.”

Yikes!

The Varsity Drive In Exterior(I’ve got a photo of myself in front of this very entrance, from 1998 – if I can find it I promise to post it!)

(more…)

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Hats off to George Motz’s book Hamburger America for hepping me to this hidden gem of a lunch spot – The Northgate Soda Shop in Greenville, SC. Up until we walked in the door I was curious if we had the right place, as it’s the corner anchor of a nondescript strip of storefronts tucked into residential Greenville, SC. But once we entered and saw that it was indeed a real soda shop with all the vintage trimmings we knew we had made it to the right place.

Northgate Soda Shop CounterOriginally opened in 1947, the soda shop look was preserved by long time owner Jim DeYoung who bought the place in 1965 . He owned it up until 5 years ago when current owner Catherine Christophillis took over and was smart enough to keep the decor and menu unchanged. You have your choice of sitting at the vintage counter, or at one of the tables in the 2 small dining areas. We opted for a table in the corner – my fave place to sit, so I could take in the decor.

The shelves on the walls are laden with local photos and historic ephemera, and the Northgate is said to have one of the largest collections of historic Greenville photos around.

Northgate Soda Shop InteriorDecor-schmecor I bet I hear some of you saying – what about that heavenly burger? Well yes, I knew what I was going to order before we even left Pennsylvania, as the Northgate is famous for their pimento cheese burger. I lift a perfect passage from George’s book (which is a great resource and the updated version of Hamburger America comes out soon, so buy it!) in which the pimento burger is described thusly:

“The pimento cheese for their sandwiches and burgers is a tangy mix of mayo, cheddar, and diced pimentos. “We make it right here, fresh every day,” veteran waitress Maudie told me of the over forty year-old recipe. The beef is also fresh, picked up daily from a butcher just up Main Street (this fact is also proudly announced in their menu, complete with the butcher’s name and address).”

Now I will admit I was a wee bit trepadacious (?) because my only experience with pimento cheese (a southern staple I’m told) has been out of one of those Kraft “swanky swigs” jars when I’ve made a retro-party-worthy cheese ball. RetroRoadhusband did not want to be nearly as adventurous as I and ordered a tuna sandwich.

Well let me tell you- once I saw this burger I knew I made the right decision- in fact every time I look at this photo I begin to crave a pimento cheese burger. Just look at the way that cheese melts and oozes onto the grilled bun,, that bright green lettuce and red tomato, and the tasty burger patty peeking out underneath it all.

Pimento Cheese Burger(nom nom, drool, mmmm)

The pimento cheese flavor was mild yet tangy, the burger was moist, and the juice and cheese combined to make a lovely seasoning absorbed by the grilled bun. I could not help but feel bad for RRH when he got his tuna sandwich. He loved it and all, and did not care for his bite of my burger, but why order tuna when you could have one of these burgers, at the place that is famous for them. Ah, to each his or her own.

Here’s a photo of his tuna sandwich and fries – crinkle cut- my favorite kind. And it was cute to see many of the places at the tables and counter had been claimed by regulars, with a commemorative brass plaque. Thanks for sharing your table with us Essie Arnold!

Essie Arnold's Tuna Melt

A family of six sat next to us and some of them later left riding a golf cart up the hill, much to the delight of the younger boy along for the ride. From our perch in the corner I could take close up shots of the ephemera, and also notice when a couple – probably feeling as out of place as we did when we first walked in – tentatively sat at the counter to order their food.

I was glad that we only ordered one side of the fries, as the sandwiches were delicious and filling, but the only bummer being, once again, that there was no room for dessert from their assortment of baked goods and ice cream treats.

Northgate Soda Shop Deco Ice Cream CounterAs I stood near the art deco dessert counter I inquired about a delicious looking multi-layered cake under the dome and was told by the waitress that it was a, “carmel cake, or caramel cake, however you want to pronounce it”. I did not want to pronounce it, I wanted to eat it all up! But then I was reminded, at the door, that might not be a good idea.
Weigh Your Fate on a Vintage Scale

Whatevs, scale – I still fit into my clothes, AND into the RetroRoadmobile that we hopped into and reluctantly headed to Atlanta in. I wish we had more time to explore the Greenville area and many other places in SC, but am SO glad we took the advice of George “Hamburger America” Motz and ventured into the Northgate Soda Shop!

Northgate Soda Shop
918 North Main Street
Greenville, SC 29609
(864) 235-6770

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In the early days of RetroRoadmap’s Twitter account I was looking for cool and vintage places that might be using Twitter to promote their business. There were hardly any but when I saw  the vintage root beer sign of the LaPlace Frostop’s Twitter icon I followed them immediately and we’ve exchanged friendly messages ever since.

So, following the lure of their rotating neon root beer mug we headed south and were tickled to meet Frostop owners Jim and Terry Toler in person on our recent retro road trip.

Seriously, wouldn’t you want to check out this sign for yourself? Here’s the video I shot of it as soon as we got there- yes I was “wicked psyched”!

We made the right decision in “tweeting” ahead to see what time the Frostop closes, and barreled down the highway from Mississippi to get there before their 6pm closing time. When we rolled into their parking lot we were relieved to see that there were plenty of cars in the parking lot, and as soon as we went inside the restaurant we were given a friendly greeting from owner Jim and his daughter Terry, who is using her marketing degree and social media expertise to get the word out about the restaurant. As you can see from our experience, it totally worked! So glad to see modern advances can help drive business to a vintage destination.

Terry Toler of La Place Frostop Take 2

The friendliest of folks you’d ever want to meet, they chatted with us while gathering together a large order placed by a production company filming a TV episode of Memphis Beat across the street (click here to read the Frostop’s blog entry about THEIR appearance on Memphis Beat last summer and a recent photo shoot at the restaurant for the show as well!).

As we alternately chatted and tried to decide what to eat, we learned from Jim that the Frostop had been around since 1958. Originally owned by his father-in-law, Jim bought it in 1973, and he and Terry currently run the restaurant. Though at one time there were numerous Frostop locations dotting the south and midwest, there are only a handful of them left today. And the pronunciation of their town is “la plass”. Noted!

Vintage Frostop Root Beer Barrel

As you can see from the menus posted on the windows, the Frostop has a huge selection of items to order. Since we knew we were short on time we asked the Tolers what their best sellers were, and found out that they are famous for their root beer and their Lot-O-Burgers. Yes please! Since we were just half an hour north of Louisiana, I opted to get a shrimp po-boy, and RetroRoadhusband pretended to be healthy and also ordered a green salad with their Honey Gold dressing. Can you tell we were famished from our drive?!

While RetroRoadhusband sat at our table inside, I wandered around to take some photos in the glorious warm sunlight.

This cute little boy was getting a couple of bags of potato chips from the window service out front:

Window Service at The Frostop

And as I turned the corner I saw my arch enemy lurking in the shadows:

Vintage Scale at La Place FrostopDamn you, vintage scale! Don’t you know I’m on vacation and calories don’t count (and I’m not counting calories?!)

I was pleased to hear our number called out, so I returned inside and in moments our table was laden with more food than we realized we ordered! Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs in this case, but I dug into, and dug, my sandwich immediately. RetroRoadhusband gave his his Lot-O-Cheeseburger with Lettuce, Tomato, Mustard,Mayo,Pickle,Onion the thumbs up and ate most of his salad with the dressing.

And this is a cool detail that I was surprised but pleased to see – since we were eating in the dining room we had real plates and silverware, not more trash producing disposables. Very retro and very green at the same time.

Lot-O- CheeseBurger and Shrimp Po Boy La Place Frostop

Two menu items that deserve special highlighting are the delicious and icy root beer, served in oversized frosted mugs, and the homemade onion rings.

Homemade Onion Rings and A Frosty Mug of Root Beer YUM!
I am telling you, I don’t know what it is, but these were the most tasty onion rings I have had in ages. Sweet onions, light and crispy coating, not too greasy, but greasy enough to be flavorful, I was stuffed when we left because I refused to leave any of those onion wonders on the plate. It’s probably good for my waistline that I didn’t buy a bag of their onion ring breading, but it’s good to know I can order it, if the memory of those onion rings comes back to haunt me. But alas it was time for us to get on the road again, so we left with some souvenirs and not an inch in our tummies for their ice cream treats.

La Place Root Beer Mug and Moon

Though it was well past their posted closing time of 6pm there was a steady stream of customers coming in the door, and each one was greeted with a friendly welcome, even though technically the door could have been locked. Business here in LaPlace had been affected by the storms and hurricanes over the past years, so it was good to see folks still swarming in to support this local landmark. This was definitely a highlight of our trip as well.

So if you’re even vaguely in the area – follow the rotating mug and visit the friendly folks at the LaPlace Frostop. I’m sure they’d be pleased to know that RetroRoadmap sent you! It was

LaPlace Frostop
411 East Airline Highway
LaPlace, LA 70068
985-652-6361

And talk about Social Media – way to go Terry!

LaPlace Frostop on Facebook

LaPlace Frostop blog

LaPlace Frostop on Twitter

LaPlace Frostop on Flickr

LaPlace Frostop on Urbanspoon

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We had some great hamburgers and cheeseburgers on our Retro Roadtrip and I’ll be featuring them all this week, so you folks will know where to get a tasty burger in a vintage setting when you’re on the road.

I get hungry just looking at these photos!


Pimento Cheese Burger
My Pimento Cheese Burger at the Northgate Soda Shop – Greenville, NC

Cheeseburger Yum!Old Fashioned Cheeseburger at Theo’s Drive In Grand Prairie TX

Lot-O-Burger With Cheese behind Shrimp Po Boy La Place Frostop
That’s RetroRoadhusband’s Lot-O-Burger with cheese behind my shrimp Po Boy at the Frostop in La Place, LA.

And while I didn’t take a photo of our delicious burgers at Hut’s in Austin TX, here’s a shot of their tasty hand cut fries:
IMG_2567

I’m pretty sure you’ll be hankering for a burger by the time the week is out!

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McMenamy’s Hamburger House in North Easton, MA has been on of my fave roadside hamburger destinations long before RetroRoadmap was even invented. And since we were just talking about Hilliards Candy further down Route 138, I thought I’d share it with you, so you can eat something savory before getting a sweet treat!

McMenamy's Hamburger House

According to their menu:

The McMenamy family has been providing food in North Easton for over 70 years. Frank McMenamy started his butcher shop in this location in 1954, grinding the leanest, finest beef available. From Frank’s hands to his son-in-law, Al Carter, who started here as a part time cook then taking over the restaurant. He was here for 50 years. Now Al’s son, Steven Carter, keeps the dream alive to produce the same quality hamburgers as the generations before him.

And when they say hamburger HOUSE, they’re not kidding!

McMenamy's Great All Beef Hamburgers

Here’s a peek through the window at the counter where I like to sit and the Retro Roadkids like to spin. The house itself is pretty small, with less than a dozen small tables and few more counter stools than that, but I’ve never had a problem finding somewhere to sit.

McMenamys Hamburgers Hamburger House Photos by Burt Lewis TV Digg ( Photo by Burt Lewis)

For all the years I’ve been going to McMenamy’s the one thing I’m absolutely consistent with is never remembering whether I like the steakburger or the cheeseburger better! I’ve been tolkd that their clam chowder is very good, but when in a burger house, I like to stick with the burgers.

Coca - Cola Menu

Here’s what I got the last time I was there – it’s the plate version, with fries and “salad” tomato and iceberg.

Cheesburger

Here’s the “other kind” of burger – RetroRoadsis ordered this one, sans fries and accoutrements, but proclaimed it tasty as could be.

CheeseburgerThe retro roadkids bucked the system, but I’m cool with that. RetroRoadgirl got a hot dog (frankfurter!) on a nicely grilled New England Style roll. Which means the only kind of hot dog roll in my book, always made more delicious with the fact that you can get them buttered and tosted right on the grill. Takes what’s basically a folded up piece of bread and brings it to new heights!

Frankfurter on New England Style Roll (Photo by RetroRoadgirl. Not pictured, RetroRoadboy’s grilled cheese sandwich)

We sat at the counter and were delighted to be able to chat with our waitress, who was darling with the kids, and they loved seeing the cook’s head occasionally poke out of the window below the menu. It was a special treat for the kids to get a tootsie pop after their meal, but to me, a burger at the Hamburger House was treat enough!

McMenamy’s Hamburger House
181 Washington Street
North Easton, MA 02356-1118
(508) 238-9051
Open 11-6:30, closed Sundays.

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In business since 1927, Hildebrandt’s luncheonette, soda fountain and ice cream parlor is the real Retro Roadmap deal. As soon as you drive down Hillside avenue in Williston Park, NY you can’t help but notice the light green vitrolite exterior of this corner shop, and the wonderful neon sign with the classic Hildebrandt’s logo.

IMG_3560

Oh how I wish the tree wasn’t there so I could’ve taken a better photo of my favorite word, Luncheonette!

Ice Cream Cakes Our Specialty

As we walked through the door we really got that “stepped back in time” feeling, with the tile floor, counter with swivel stools and small dining area in the back with cute deco tables. Since we had only just had breakfast, it seemed as if an ice cream or sweet treat was in order, so we sat at the marble counter right next to the great vintage coke dispenser.

Hildebrandt's Marble Counter

You can see more photos of Hildebrandt’s interior here at their website.

As we sat waiting for our treats I was happy to see the place filling up with parents and kids, grandparents and kids, just some kids, just some adults, and it felt like the place was coming to life. They are known for their Italian specialties as well as their classic lunch counter fare.

Just down the end of the counter we could see the grill where they make their famous “fries” which are really round potato slices fried golden brown. I  read in Hamburger America by George Motz (where I actually found out about this place -thanks George! )he has included their burger is one of the top 100 burgers in the nation. If only my belly wasn’t so full from breakfast!

Not that that stopped me from ordering and eating most of a dish of home made ice cream:

Hildebrandt's Ice Cream

As you can see they still use old fashioned metal ice cream dishes so the ice cream doesn’t melt so fast. They also use classic soda fountain glasses for their raspberry lime rickeys. Suzanne was kind enough to indulge my “let me take a photo of it first” Retro RoadRule to show you her refreshing drink.

Hildebrandt's Lime Rickey

When it isn’t so incredibly hot out, they also make home made chocolates, and I hear it’s THE place to come get your Easter candy.

There was a message on Hildebrandt’s menu that to me sums up the raison d’etre of Retro Roadmap, in a nutshell:

Since 1927...Because One Person Tells Another

Since 1927…Because One Person Tells Another.

It’s as easy as that, folks! Hopefully I’m telling you all about this wonderful vintage corner shop so you’ll make a stop there and we can keep the place going ’til their 100th anniversary and beyond!

Hildebrandt’s
84 Hillside Avenue
Williston Park, NY 11596-2321
(516) 741-0608

Join the Hildebrandt’s Group on Facebook!

Hildebrandt's on Urbanspoon

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This photo of All American Burger in Massapequa NY, posted on the Vintage Roadside Facebook page is what totally put Long Island on the Retro Roadmap for me and got me thinking about visiting. Thanks to photographer Don Brunjes for not only capturing a great shot of that fabulous vintage neon signage, but also granting me permission to share that photo with you all!

all-american-burger-massapequa-ny-don-brunjes-retro-roadmap

My photos didn’t nearly come out as good as that since we were visiting during the blistering hot afternoon, but in the name of research I got myself one tasty cheeseburger, some fries and a diet Coke (this is after, mind you, breakfast in a diner, a dish of ice cream and a chocolate egg cream all within 4 hours or so!).

Burgers Franks

All American Burger has been serving up burgers franks and fries since 1952, and the prices have remained affordably affordable!

All American Burger Menu

The place was packed when we got there and if I were more of a “take pictures of people I don’t know” kinda gal, I totally would’ve snapped a photo of our order taker, who looks like she’s worked here for a while, and was totally adorable with her hair just so and big sunglasses.

All American CheeseBurger

What I do like to take pictures of are designs that continue to be used by businesses and look authentically original. I snapped the above photo as we sat outside at one of the few round tables out front, dodging sparrows who were divebombing our fries (which alas weren’t crinkle cut). One thing I didn’t realize until it was time to throw away our trash, was that cool shield design was also on the bag as well. Dang, guess we’ll have to go back there again!

After the sweets we had eaten already this day our cheeseburgers totally hit the spot, and from the raves this place gets online and in person, I know we’re not the only ones to have enjoyed our meal here.

Go the All American way!

All American Burger
4286 Merrick Rd.
Massapequa, NY 11758
(516) 798-9574

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