Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sonic's are about as great as dog meat by comparison

Strong statement?  I think so.  It was intentional.  Over the last few months, there has been such a hubbub about Sonic's.  You know the Drive-In Restaurant chain that serves you right in your car.  What a novel concept.  Not.  Cleveland just opened their first one in the area to rave reviews.  I knew years ago that this chain wasn't all that it says it is.  It's novel and you all know when the novelty wears off.  You realize that you have been to this drive in so many times, you realize that what you are eating is close to dog food.  I think some people of Cleveland think this is a new concept.  Many know that those people are wrong.

These Drive-Ins are a slice of Americana.  Drive in restaurants date back to as early as 1936, but didn't really reach the height of popularity until the 1950's after the end of WWII.

I am not all that old, but what I wouldn't give to live in that time.  Drive your land yacht with the tail fins to the drive in and order a burger, fries, and a vanilla coke.  It's no secret I am a burger fanatic.  They are lovely. Probably the most simple of concepts, but yet, no two burgers ever taste the same.  The All Ohio Burger from The Greenhouse Tavern is heads and tails different from the Bar Symon Burger at Bar Symon, or even more different still than the Fat Doug at B-Spot and both the Bar Symon and Fat Doug are made by the same chef.  Burger King vs. McDonald's.  Wendy's.  You get the picture.  Simple yet diverse.

The burger dates back to around 1885 when the Menches brothers were vendors at Erie County Fair.  They ran out of sausage for their sandwiches so they decided to use beef instead.  This of course is just one of the many stories about how the hamburger was invented.  There are too many to mention, but I would like the think that the legend of the Menches Brother's is the most true account.  1.  Their Story is believable.  2.  They are from Akron, just a hop, skip, and a jump from Cleveland, Ohio.

I tell you these stories to tell you yet another story.  Akron is not just home of the brilliant inventors of the hamburger, but it is also home to the first ever Swenson's Drive-In.

Last night I experienced Swenson's for the first time, and boy, it was everything everyone said it was.  The concept is not much different than that of Sonic, except they forgo the speaker boxes in the car stall. Their menu is printed on paper and not a monstrosity of lights and color much like a McDonald's drive thru.  The car hops run to your car and use pencil and paper to take your order and don't rely on a squawk box.  They don't use a call button, but just have you turn on and off your headlights.  You know, the way it was before there was all that impersonal technology.  I know I know, a shocking statement coming from a guy like me, but that's a different blog for a different time.

Swenson's is a slice of Americana placed right into my car seat.  Wifey and I ordered a double cheesburg which was fantastic.  After I ordered Wifey one-upped me when she ordered a slice of bacon on her burger.  Why the hell didn't I think of that?

Along with a burger we order vanilla cokes.  How wonderful is it to have a real vanilla coke.  Not that crap in a can that they sell at your local grocery store.  Despite the several inches of snow on the ground, Swenson's was busy.  Plenty of cars in the lot.  The car hops were right there and attentive.  Just to illustrate this point, I must tell you this.  I pull the car in.  They saw me pull in and by the time I slid my fat assed SUV into the parking spot, the car hop was running to the car, and by the time I had the car in park, she was ready to take my order.  How unbelievable is that!  

To tell you this burger was the best burger I ever had would be a lie.  It was good, juicy, well done, but not so good I would say that it was the best burger in the world.  But it sure beats the shit out of Sonic, McDonald's, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, Burger King, Arby's, and even Whataburger.

Swenson's burgers are amazing, truly amazing.  I could live on these burgers, but I'm pretty sure I would develop a heart condition and then die, but at least I would die happy.  If you are in Cleveland, coming through Cleveland, or once thought about wanting to come to Cleveland, you need to mark this place on the "must visit" list.  Forget Sonic's.  Find a Swenson's!


Kasey said...

How ironic you mentioned Swenson's... I just heard of it for the first time within the last 2 weeks... I can't remember where - it may have been a FB thread that started about Sonic Tater tots, but someone suggested Swenson's and now that will be on my radar (the next time I'm in the area).

Here's the key question... does Swenson's have tater tots? cuz there's nothing like a good cheezy tot!

Tino said...

I can't comment on Sonic as I have never had one of their burgers.

That being said, I can definitely comment on Swenson's. I, too, came late to the Swenson's party, but once I found the Galley Boy, I have never looked back. I can see why people who move away from Akron go there as soon as they come back for a visit. If you enjoyed the double cheeseburger, try a Galley Boy next time. The two extra sauces they put on don't sound like they would work well together, but they really do.

Tino said...

I forgot to mention the answer to Kasey's question. Swenson's does have tater tots, although they are called Potato Puffs. I'd also recommend the onion rings.

Vodka Logic said...

There are no drive eateries in my area, that I am aware of, but it sounds like a fun place to eat.

I also think that a great burger can be better than a steak, there is just so much variety.

Put it on the list Adam, I will eat my way thru Cleveland!!

CMPointer said...

The only thing I like at Sonic are the drinks. Everything else sucks. Unfortunately, the only drive-up diner [and I use that word loosely]around here is Sonic. Oh well, looks like a liquid diet for me...

Family Stories

derek said...

I have been privy to Swenson's for some time due to the fact that I have been a once and current Akron resident.

Swenson's burgers are quite good but one item that stands out is their shakes!

There's a Swenson's down the block from the Parma Sonic :

Bite Buff said...

How funny, as I read the title of your post I immediately thought of Swenson's. It has the nostalgic value of the drive-in era, with food to actually back it up! Sonic was smart to jump on that concept, but the quality isn't there. Swenson's burgers, onion rings, and shakes are the real deal. To piggyback on Tino's comment- my bf swears by the Galley Boy.

Joe Harvey said...

Next time your in the Akron area, let me know. We'll try SKYWAY, my treat. ;) Here's a link to blog I did a lil while back re: Hamburger Invention in Akron. I'm also getting involved in the next Hamburger Festival, so stay tuned!

Nikki said...

Sonic burgers aren't the greatest, and sadly this was one of three options in my area, so we had to make do with it. Closing our eyes and pretending it was actually meat we were eating. These days I make my own, and only stop by for their drinks. Chocolate cherry Dr. Pepper if you please.

Anonymous said...