Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mao's Drive-in... In Charlotte?

South 21 Drive In
3101 E. Independence Boulevard
Charlotte, North Carolina, 28205

Food: Drive in Burgers, Dogs, Fried Fish, Shakes

Well there is no doubt that coming off an amazing experience like the one I, SuitOchoCinco, had at The Penguin the night before this, I had my hopes set pretty high. I just knew that the 1955 Drive In “South 21” was going to be great and probably better that my experience at the “Bird.”

Being that they are closed on Sundays and Mondays I had to postpone my visit to this “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” highlighted eatery until the second leg of my trip, but rest assured I hauled proverbial tail to get there after my last meeting of the day. Driving up I had a childlike excitement brewing in my stomach and the sight of the place upon driving in was awesome… Looked like it was frozen in time. As I pulled up to the pre historic squawk box and reviewed the menu … there it was… “The Super Boy” with cheese… after all, the caption declared “it was a meal in itself”… out-freaking standing… bring it on…

I pressed the order button the box and I was excitedly greeted by…. Wait… no… I was definitely not excitedly greeted by anyone. In fact the first words thru the box were… “Yeah?”… taken aback I paused and hesitantly ordered my Superboy with cheese followed by asking “What else are you famous for?” to which the man responded… “nuttin…fish I guess” … again I took pause and then said “well I’ll look at the menu and decide on something else” to which the overly exuberant employee on the other end responded “better hurry we closin”… ahhh…. We closin…. “Ok, thanks jackslap… Ill take the burger then.”

I took a look around and the place was well kempt… preserved if you will… but the one thing that finally dawned on me was that it had no heart, absolutely no passion, no branding and no love. While the owners had done an amazing job preserving the structure they had done a piss poor job of maintaining atmosphere. It was like… for lack of a better description… ever drive down I-95 past the “South of the Border” billboards plastered everywhere? The day you finally stop and walk in you are completely disgusted because it’s a multitude of crap in a soul less gambit of buildings. That was South 21…

Well the burger arrived with ice cold fries approximately 5 minutes later (no surprise.. they wanted to go home) and it was pretty good. I was handed 4 packets of “Hunts” ketchup for my fries and that was it … all I could handle… HUNTS? Really? Why not post a picture of Chairman Mao on the front door or maybe fly the flag of red China? HUNTS!? In a 60 plus year old eatery you serve Hunts ketchup? Lemme guess you like curling too? Or maybe blueberry pie over apple? That was it… I finished my burger and choked my cold fries down and left… Disappointed to say the least… Later I actually drove for over an hour around and around the city attempting to wrap my head around what just happened.

A 50’s style… Happy Daysesque drive in… that was as personable as a starving alligator in the winter months that served ice cold french fries and packets of Hunts ketchup. … the Fonz would have never approved… nor would he have jumped his motorcycle in their parking lot.

It was a drive in… so beer wasn’t sold there but definitely necessary… and to be honest the burger was good… everything else was just poor… just plain poor…
Oh yeah… and they didn’t even have bell hops… they had an angry 50 something black man that wanted to go home…

Thbpppppt... I jumped in my sleek black free upgrade Chevy "I love militant Unions" Impala and fled for the my hotel...

RATING: I wouldn’t wear the shirt if they paid me. (Go to Sonic… yeah… I said it)

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