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If you thought you had to head west to eat a cheeseburger served to you by wait staff outfitted in roller skates or have a window tray placed on your car by a carhop—think again. From a themed circus drive-in in Jersey to a Connecticut drive-in that hosts summer cruise nights, these authentic drive-in restaurants aren't your typical Sonic chain. While en route to your summer escapes, pull up to one of these spots—they definitely beat a trip through a McDonald's drive-thru.

The Sycamore Drive-In (Ali/Foursquare)

Sycamore Drive-In
You can pass up eating inside of your car for a red vinyl seat at this old school Connecticut drive-in restaurant. With 1950s music playing in the background, you'll feel as if you stepped in a time machine as you sip root beer floats and fill up on curly fries.

The Dagwood Burger (Danna J/Yelp)

The restaurant has been open since 1948, and still offers curb service and summer cruise nights. The wait staff may not wear roller skates, but I promise if you order their famous Dagwood burger and a milk shake, you'll understand why the drive to the Sycamore Drive-In is worth the trip.

Stewart's Drive-In
Stewart's is a regional chain with locations in malls and they're known for their tasty root beer. But they also have a drive-in outpost located in Burlington, New Jersey (a half hour from Philadelphia), and it's the real deal.

Stewart's Drive-In (Peter B/Foursquare)

Fill up on root beer, hot dogs and grilled cheese served on hamburger buns. The drive-in is open seasonally from April through October.

Circus Drive-In
Dine in your car or under the tent at this circus themed drive-in located at the Jersey Shore. The Circus Drive-in has been in operation since the 1950s and is the perfect spot for a post-beach meal of burgers, onion rings, and ice cream.

(Jazz F/Yelp)

Head there on July 14th for a Cruise Night or see the Strictly 60s Band perform on July 2nd.

Fence Drive-In
It's not all about the burgers and shakes at this Pennsylvania drive-in, where they serve up fresh seafood. Get in on the action and order the Fence fish sandwich right from your car.

The Fence Drive-In (Facebook)

If you want more scenic dining, take a seat at a picnic table on the water and check out the view of the Susquehanna River.

Guido's Drive-In and Car Hop Restaurant
The wait staff at Guido's Drive-In and Car Hop Restaurant do sport the much-adored roller skates. If you want to take a peek at Guido's without stepping into your car, watch this commercial for the Connecticut Car Hop restaurant.

Onion rings at Guido's (Facebook)

The menu has the standard drive-in fare; dine on fried dough, hot dogs and other fast-food faves that require antacid. Afterward, play a game of pinball in their 50s themed restaurant.

Jumpin Jack's Drive-In
Jumpin Jack's is a bit further than the other restaurants on this list—it's near Albany. If you're heading to the Adirondacks or Montreal, it's worth a stop.

(Corey C/Foursquare)

Not only does this 1950s era restaurant deliver all the comfort food staples to your car including pistachio flavored milk shakes, they also host water ski and fireworks shows.

Alison Lowenstein, Gothamist Getaways editor, is the author of NYC guidebooks and the Brooklyn expert at She has covered travel for National Geographic Traveler, Newsday, NY Daily News,, etc. When she isn't planning trips, she enjoys jogging around the streets of NYC. Despite her athletic pursuits, her favorite food is the donut. You can find her on Twitter at @cityweekendsnyc