Sunday, December 8, 2013
From staff reports
BRUNSWICK - It's hard to find a better-preserved piece of food Americana than Fat Boy Drive-In.
Alison Fahey delivers an order at Fat Boy Drive-In, where car service is still provided as it has been since the 1950s. A cautionary note: Be on the lookout for hungry seagulls. See the one peeking over Fahey’s shoulder? It swooped in and snagged a bag of fries moments after this shot was taken.
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
FAT BOY DRIVE-IN
WHERE: 111 Bath Road (Route 24), Brunswick. 729-9431
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
CHEAPEST GRUB: Hamburger, $1.65.
WAIT: Five minutes or so when I went on a weekday at lunch. Could be longer when it's crowded.
PARKING: Yes, that's all part of the experience.
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes, if you stay in the car and let the servers come to you. There's a step into the dining room.
Based on a five-star scale
Or a cheaper one.
Opened in the mid 1950s across Route 24 from the Brunswick Naval Air Station, Fat Boy still looks like something right out of the film "American Graffiti."
The building is ringed by a green and white striped awning. It looks a lot like an amusement park carousel.
Cars are parked diagonally around the building, and servers can be seen carrying trays of food out to cars and hanging them on to half-open windows.
The food is classic drive-in fare, priced really low. A regular hamburger is just $1.65, while the third of a pound "Whoper Burger" (to avoid possible confusion with Burger King probably) is just $3.40. A hot dog (grilled and on a toasted bun, the way it should be) is $1.70. A lobster roll is $6.50.
The signs look old-fashioned too. Nothing glitzy, just a straightforward "FAT BOY" in black letters. There are also a variety of helpful signs pointing out important tidbits.
One of those says "Lights on for service." Which is good to know, since most folks under 40 have probably never been to an eatery with car service before.
Then there were signs that say things like "Be sure to try our onion rings and BLTs with Canadian bacon."
I often get overwhelmed by restaurant decisions, so I took the advice and tried both. Plus a "thick" frappe, which I also saw on a sign.
The BLT ($2.60) had a thick slice or two of Canadian bacon, which is sort of like a more flavorful ham, plus lettuce and tomato on a hamburger bun that was buttered and grilled. It was good, but didn't knock my socks off.
Next time I'd probably try a haddock sandwich ($6), which is a staple of midcoast area diners and eateries, or maybe the hot barbecued beef sandwich ($4.05) because it sounds different.
The onion rings ($2.95) and frappe ($3.25) DID knock my socks off.
The onion rings were just barely golden, with a flaky batter. The onions were even a little crisp inside the batter, which gave the whole ring a nice texture. They were among the best I've had. Same for the frappe, which was orange cream, not the most common flavor for frappes.
When the server brought my food on a wire tray, she hung it on my half-open window. I knew to lower my window because I saw other patrons doing it. Because I was very hungry -- and I'm sort of lazy when it comes to eating -- I brought all my food inside the car so it would be easier to reach.
Good thing I did, too, because I saw a seagull swoop down and pick up a sack of french fries from a rack on a nearby car. The gulls perch on the awning, so it's a quick trip down to the cars. So my advice is bring your food in, for ease of eating and for safekeeping.
The Fat Boy menu includes drive-in standards like hot dogs, grilled cheese, egg sandwiches, tuna rolls and fried clams. But there are more unusual items as well, like a pulled pork sandwich ($4.05), a rib eye steak sandwich ($5.65), a Maine crab cake sandwich ($4.20), and battered green bean "fries" ($3.50).
Fat Boy does have a cool, old interior dining room which is just as authentic Americana as the rest of the place. But for the true "American Graffiti" experience, you really want to sit in your car, with the radio blasting and the windows open.
Just watch out for the seagulls.
The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $7.