has a particular Culinary quirk
. The drive in restaurant, fifties style. The kind you see in those posters they sell at car shows, the one with the American Graffiti hot rod
s all parked around with some girl on skates bringing hamburgers. Okay, the car hops don't wear roller skates
. But at Swenson's
and Sky Way
, the old style drive-in
These restaurants are old. Sky Way still has the same neon sign it used when I was a zygote. I grew up in Akron, and have been consuming their food all my life. And what they specialize in is typical Americana drive in fare, burgers, fries, rings 'shrooms and shakes. Now you can get a good hamburger elsewhere. The modern style is a big hamburger, with lots of creative toppings, a style best exemplified by the Thurman Cafe. Sky Way and Swenson's are old school. No half pound patties here, or gorogonzola cheese over sauteed portobello mushrooms. Traditional thin patties, with ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions. Perhaps a special sauce with some lettuce shavings, ala the Big Mac, is found in a Swenson's Galley Boy.
But if they are old school in simplicity, they offer old-fashioned quality. A Swensons or Sky Way burger simply melts in your mouth. The patty is so sweet and tender as to defy comparison. The bun is buttered and toasted to perfection. Everything just fits right, and eating one could make you think that pinning your girl and wearing a letter jacket while driving a hemi Coronet would be just grand. Play them funky Beach Boys! Sure there were no mexican or Indian restaurants back then! Big deal, when you can pull up to Swenson's and order a couple of Galley Boys with rings.
The service is excellent. In the old days, an athletic college age boy would sprint to your car whenever you put your lights on. These guys never walk anywhere, they run in their white buttoned shirts and black slacks. Today athletic, cheerleader type girls have joined the clean cut guys carrying trays to your car. You're back in Pleasantville without a hint of Don Knotts.
The fries are good, thick and soft without extra grease, which shows they change their cooking oil often. Sky Way was famed for it's onion rings, but the owner died and took the recipe with her. They're still good though, but Swenson's has the edge. Get a Californian while you're there, a concoction of Ginger Ale and Grape Juice that is mighty tasty and pure Dick Clark. Both have chili, dogs and fried mushrooms.
Sure they cost more than McDonalds. And they don't serve a Butterfinger McFlurry. But you get to dine in your car with ambience you can't find in most cities. And eat good, Americana style chow. And you'll see some street rods too. Guys who couldn't afford them in high school are dentists now, and they can afford a cool ride.
Swenson's has two locations, as does Sky Way. All are located in West Akron, in a good part of town. Swenson's in west Akron is located on Hawkins road between W. Market St. (US 18) and Exchange. Take I-77 to the White Pond Dr./Mull Ave exit and go east on Mull Ave until you get to the circle. Go north on Hawkins and you'll see it on the left about a mile north of the circle.
Swenson's #2 is in Montrose, just east of Cleveland Massilon Rd. Take I-77 to US 18 and turn east. Turn right on Cleveland-Massilon Rd, right again at the first light and right at the stop sign. You'll see it.
Sky Way is on Rt. 18, smack dab between the two in the middle of Fairlawn (don't speed here!) You'll see the tall neon sign, and it is on the North side of 18. Pull in, turn the lights on, roll down your window and fill up. Tell 'em Joe-Bob sent you.