Carl’s Drive In is not just another burger joint. It’s a local icon. A relic of Old Hwy. 66. The dinky diner is a true taste of a bygone era, when there were few places for travelers to get fuel and food along the road.
The site began as a Lubrite Service Station in 1918, which means there’s been business conducted on this corner of Manchester Road for the last 100 years.
A Burger Landmark
Hamburgers didn’t hit the griddle until 1959, when the place got its current name and introduced curb service, a walk-up window, and their trademark counter seating (16 swivel seats), eight on opposite sides of the open kitchen.
I recently stopped by in the the late afternoon along with Robin, JC, and a family friend visiting from California. I prefer sitting on the side with the grill, where you can see the the burger balls transformed into thin, crispy edged pancakes and custom trimmed. But the place was still busy and we were lucky to get four seats together.
Put a Sizzle in the Middle and a Lace on the Edge
We ordered a round of burgers. I went with the small chocolate soda while the others washed down homemade root beers served in frosty, glass mugs.
I noticed, as before, that there’s not much idle conversation at Carl’s, either between customers, across the counter, or behind the counter. Servers are serious about delivering up an order just right and most customers are there to grab a quick bite. Over the years, not much has changed at Carl’s and that’s the way loyal fans like it. If the vintage roadside diner had a motto, it might be: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Carl’s Drive-In, 9033 Manchester Rd. in Brentwood. Open: Tue-Sat 11a-8p. Tip: Cash only; no credit cards or checks. Trivia: In 1959, a tornado inflicted severe damage to the building. That same year, it was rebuilt, sold, and became Carl’s Drive-In. The business most recently changed ownership in 2015.