Some parts of Maine have a frozen-in-time feel, and between those little pockets of nostalgia and the huge number of auto tourists cruising the state’s byways every summer, it’s only natural that the drive-in restaurant has hung on in the Pine Tree State. Of course, it’s survived with a Maine spin, since you can count on finding a lobster roll and a Moxie on the menu right next to a burger and a shake. Plus, whatever you order as a main course, it’s been scientifically proven that onion rings taste better when you eat them off of a tray clipped to your car window. I feel qualified to do some ranking in this arena, seeing as my first high school job (albeit not in Maine) was at a drive-up joint where the carhops wore poodle skirts and roller skates (and not some campy replica either—the place just hadn’t changed since 1947). And so, as definitively determined by a former fifteen-year-old waffle-cone artisan, here are Maine’s five best throwback drive-up diners.
There’s truth in advertising. Brunswick’s sixty-year-old, cash-only, drive-in institution still packs them in for notably mayonnaise-y lobster rolls and fried clams, scallops, and chicken in greasy wax paper. The house specialty, though, is the Canadian bacon BLT. Frappes come simple and delicious: vanilla, chocolate, orange cream, or good ol’ Maine blueberry.
Crosby's Drive-In and Dairy Bar
More than 75 years in, Bucksport’s tiny Crosby’s turns out all the deep fried seafood classics and goes above and beyond the requisite lobster rolls with tuna rolls, scallop and clam rolls, and a standout, generously stuffed crab roll. Ice cream is made down south by Shain’s of Maine, and the milkshakes are nice and thick.
Cameron’s Lobster House
Sure, you can eat inside at Cameron’s—or on the nice covered deck—but why would you want to? The Brunswick seafood shack does a great lobster roll and lobster stew, along with plenty of dashboard-friendly, deep-fried baskets: oysters, clams, shrimp, scallops. There’s also a vegetable of the day. As if.
Lewiston’s refreshingly no-frills drive-up opened as a root beer stand in 1959 and doesn’t seem to have raised its prices since. The menu board includes delights like the heart attack burger (double cheese, double bacon), and you can ask for a “triple bypass,” which is three of everything with grilled cheese sandwiches for buns. You’ll obviously want dessert, so try a frappe (pronounced “frap”—old-school New-England–speak for a milkshake).
Fast Eddie’s Drive-In
The ice cream is churned in-house, the clam strips are crispy, and the hot dogs are in red casings (as all true Maine hot dogs should be). Along with various mid-century bric-a-brac, there’s a whole (functional) playground of old-school (read: metal) equipment—a see-saw, big slide, and horse swings. Classic car owners drop in on Wednesday nights in the summer to show off their rides.