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Sycamore Drive-In: A Taste Of Nostalgia

Published: August 18, 2017

For 67 years, the Sycamore Drive-In Restaurant has been drawing crowds from Bethel, Newtown, and surrounding towns. The 75-seat dining spot that has maintained an aura of “yesteryear,” from its menu and décor to the summertime Cruise Nights featuring vintage automobiles and curbside service.

Founded by Joe Keller in 1948, the restaurant is named for the tall sycamore tree that still stands outside of the building. Since 1997, the restaurant has been owned and operated by Patrick Austin, his parents Christine and Eugene Austin, and sister Kathy Austin.

Customers find seating on the original chrome and vinyl upholstered stools at the counter, in wooden high-backed booths, or at 1950s-style Formica-topped tables that seem part of a Norman Rockwell painting. The walls boast submarine, motorcycle, and military photos, framed photos, posters of bygone movie stars, and glowing reviews of the Sycamore from its earliest days. Collectible figurines of mid-20th Century characters and movie stars peer down from high shelves above the front windows and in the back dining area, and antique gas pumps are part of the décor. Original exterior menu signs from 1948 decorate the ceiling line around the two dining rooms. A black and white checked floor completes the vintage look.

The Sycamore is well-known for its homemade root beer, brewed on premises every week. Also a tradition is the use of top sirloin beef, ground in-house, for the more than a dozen burger variations. Even negative degree weather does not deter regulars from a Sycamore malted milk shake. Made with real ice cream, milk, and Carnation malted milk powder, choose from vanilla, chocolate, mocha, strawberry, or coffee malts or milkshakes, or one of the special summer specialties. The year-round car hop service is a thrill for many visitors. Pull up along the front of the building; flash the lights, and a car hop will be at your service. Food is delivered to the car, with the tray attached to the car window. When the meal is finished, another flash of the lights brings the server back to remove your tray. The only time car hop service is not available is on Saturday Cruise Nights.

“The Sycamore is one of the last original drive-ins in Connecticut. It is,” Mr Austin said, “a living classic.”

A Sample Of The Menu

Breakfast: Every day, until 11 am. Traditional bacon and eggs are joined on the menu by eight omelet options, pancakes, waffles, French toast, and breakfast wraps. The vegetarian wrap consists of scrambled eggs, mushrooms, peppers, onions, spinach, and Swiss cheese, served with home fries. Enjoy the “bottomless cup” of coffee served at the Sycamore.

Burgers and Hot Dogs: The Dagwood, a patty of ground steak topped with American cheese, mustard, ketchup, pickle, onion, tomato, lettuce, and mayo on a toasted buttered bun, and its “companion,” the Blondie, topped with pepper jack cheese, bacon, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayonnaise, are big sellers. The Sycamore Frank is a favorite hot dog, served with mustard, relish, onion, sauerkraut, and bacon.

Sandwiches and Wraps: A dozen-plus options, including pepper and egg, the roast beef club sandwich, and honey Dijon chicken wrap — grilled chicken with cheddar cheese, bacon, spinach, and honey mustard. Add curly fries or housemade coleslaw to any order.

Salads: A variety of salad platters and salads include grilled chicken, cranberry, and walnut salad.

Price range: Breakfast prices start at $3.95, burgers at $3.95, sandwiches at $3.99; salad plates are priced at $7.99 and $8.50. Blue Plate Specials are $7.95. Other Sycamore specials are priced from $2.25 to $10.95.

Cruise Nights: Every Saturday from 6 to 9 pm, first Saturday in May through Labor Day; vintage car owners display 60 to 90 cars. Socialize with other car owners, or come to admire. The Sycamore’s “mascot” a 1956 F100 Ford truck, is always found parked beneath the Car Hop sign.

Specials: For $8.95, guests can enjoy the mahi mahi wrap made of breaded mahi mahi with lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and Chipotle mayo. It is served with homemade potato chips. Also, available for the same price is the BBQ super melt, which is a grilled cheese sandwich with chicken tenders, bacon, cheddar cheese, BBQ sauce, and a dollop of mayo on toasted sour dough bread. It is served with onion rings.

The Sycamore Drive-In, 282 Greenwood Avenue, Bethel, is open Monday through Thursday, 6:30 am to 8:30 pm; Friday and Saturday, 6:30 am to 9 pm; and Sunday, 7 am to 7:30 pm, everyday except major holidays. Hours vary during the summer; call 203-748-2716 for hours. The Sycamore Drive-In is CASH ONLY. No credit cards are accepted. For more information, visit sycamoredrivein.com or its Facebook page.

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