Buckle up, Ohio! We’re about to embark on a truly delicious journey through the state’s best drive-in restaurants.
But before we hit the road, let’s rewind to the golden days of mid-century car culture in the United States, where drive-ins became synonymous with good food, good company, and the joy of hitting the open road.
The concept of drive-in restaurants took off in the 1920s, aligning perfectly with the rise of automobiles and the freedom they symbolized. These establishments became not just a place to grab a meal but an experience.
From meeting friends after school or work, to romantic date nights, these iconic restaurants are forever immortalized in pop culture phenomenons like American Graffiti and Happy Days.
Although there are fewer and fewer drive-ins every year, Ohio proudly carries the torch, offering some of the best drive-in experiences in the country.
The Root Beer Stande
The Root Beer Stande in Dayton has been a staple in the community for decades. The drive-in sells all of the favorites you’d expect, including footlong hotdogs, crinkle cut fries, and even frosty mugs of house rootbeer. This spot is cash only and closes if the weather is inclement, so be sure to check their Facebook page before heading out.
Location: 1727 Woodman Dr, Dayton, OH 45420
Website: The Root Beer Stande
Jolly’s Drive in
Known for the Best Hot Dogs in Town, Jolly’s Drive-In serves burgers, hot dogs, and root beer that’s made in-house. They close each year between October and February, but you can bet that if you make it down there during the season, you’ll be treated so some delicious food, made with the same love that Jolly’s has been serving up for decades.
Location: 165 N Brookwood Ave, Hamilton, OH 45013
Website: Jolly’s Drive-in
In 1934, Wesley “Pop” Swenson had a dream. He wanted to serve folks the best hamburger possible, insisting on freshly ground beef to ensure the best quality burgers. Nearly a century later, they’re still doing it. A favorite to many Ohioans, including the King himself Lebron James, Swensons is perhaps the most well known drive-in around. You can treat yourself to burgers, shakes, and all sorts of sides. But if it’s your first visit, start with the iconic Galley Boy. award-winning, signature double cheeseburger with two special sauces. Oh, and definitely get some onion rings.
Location: Various locations around Ohio
Website: Swensons Drive-Ins
Skyway Drive-In Restaurant
If you’re from northeast Ohio, there’s a decent chance that you already know which side you fall on of the Swensons vs. Skyway debate. Skyway claims they’ve been serving the best burgers in Akron since 1952, and you’ll find an army of devoted fans and followers agree. IF you need a suggestion on what to order, a Sky-Hi combo is the way to go. That sandwich includes a double-decker 1/4 pound of fresh beef, American cheese, and Sky-Hi sauce. The combo comes with french fries and a drink, all of which you can enjoy right from the comfort of your car. Just pull in, take a look at the menu, and when you’re ready to order, pop your headlights on!
Location: 2781 West Market St, Fairlawn, OH 44333
Website: Skyway Drive-In Restaurant
With locations in both Cuyahoga Falls and Akron, Dilly’s Drive-In opened back in 1985. Known for the Double Dilly Burger, Dilly’s also serves sandwiches, coney dogs (served with homemade coney sauce), milkshakes, and more.
Location: 1921 Triplett Blvd, Akron, OH 44312 and 4280 State Rd, Peninsula, OH 44264
Website: Dilly’s Drive-In