I eat at Carl’s about once a year. Today I was driving out Manchester with Robin and JC during the noon hour. A parking place had just turned over in front of the iconic hamburger joint—a rarity at that time of day. Feeling the culinary gods were beckoning us onward, we pulled in.
Packin’ ’em In
The petite burger palace was packed. Maybe folks had finished off all the Christmas leftovers. Perhaps they were wanting to squeeze in something heartwarming before taking on a drastic diet for the New Year.
After a short wait, we climbed onto one of the 16 counter stools that flanks the open kitchen. As I settled in, I looked around to see if anything had changed at Carl’s since my last visit.
The Charm of It All
As always, the same two women were smashing burgers and serving them on flimsy paper plates with a side of pickles. The bubble gum dispenser sat in the same spot on the counter. As usual, fries came in a paper boat and the extra catsup arrived before the burger and in a pleated pill cup.
A Stroke of Genius
Yes, it’s good to know that some things don’t change, which is the charm of Carl’s Drive In. Besides, where else can you find a smashed burger, IBC root beer, and Ted Drewes’ frozen custard all on the same menu? It’s a stroke of genius, I tell ya . . . a stroke of genius.
Carl’s Drive In. 9033 Manchester Rd. in Brentwood. Open: Tue-Sat 11a-8p. Note: Cash only; no credit cards or checks. Trivia: The place opened in 1951 as Breeden’s Good Food Drive-In, was sold and became Carl’s Drive-In in 1959, and changed hands again in 2015. 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.
(This post has been updated from October, 2018)