The scene at Jenna’s Drive-In can look like a slice of Americana: boys savoring soft-serve cones with their bikes at the rack, an older couple doing the same in the front seat of their parked car, and other customers putting in orders for burgers and fries.
The South Weymouth food stand is laid-back and a bit retro, but the playful menu takes some modern turns with the likes of Korean beef burritos and Ja-Makin-Me Crazy wings. There’s also an array of ice cream flavors, and such desserts as sundaes, frappes, and floats.
Jenna’s has no indoor seating, but there are nine tables with benches, and beach-bound customers pick up food to go.
“I like the whole take-out and old-fashioned vibe,” said owner and chef Jenna Perette. “I’d like to do roller skates, but there’s too much liability involved.”
There are plenty of choices in the standard menu, but Perette’s creativity comes through in the specials, which include smoked gouda mac and cheese, and shrimp and corn chowder.
Fried chicken is available Thursdays through Sundays, and the other specials make regular appearances.
The mahi-mahi tacos ($10), another special, are a must-try. They’re full of meaty, juicy chunks of grilled fish seasoned with a dry rub and topped with Napa cabbage slaw, cilantro, mango, and a Key lime-sriracha crema.
Big chunks of fresh fish — no thin fillets here — also make up the fried haddock and chips ($10).
The Korean beef burritos ($10), also a special, sounded promising: flour tortillas filled with beef marinated in soy sauce and fish sauce with garlic, ginger, and scallions, and topped with Napa cabbage slaw, daikon, cilantro, and a soy-lime dressing. But the flavors were incongruous with the creamy sauce on top.
When I asked Perette about it a few weeks later, she was puzzled and said the Korean burritos don’t come with a creamy sauce. Apparently there was a misstep in the kitchen on her day off, something she apologized for. Still, the beef itself had been spot-on — smoky, sweet, and a touch spicy.
The turkey with stuffing and cranberry sandwich ($8), from the regular menu, is a mouth-watering taste of Thanksgiving, with thick slices of warm turkey breast, moist stuffing, mayonnaise, and cranberry sauce.
All sandwiches are accompanied by a choice of cole slaw, a bag of chips, pasta salad, or potato salad.
The hot dog ($5) was a standard hot dog, but all of Jenna’s burgers and dogs are made with all-natural Angus meat.
The bacon cheeseburger club ($7) was anything but standard, a double-deckered affair on sandwich bread interspersed with a burger patty, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, and tomato. It was juicy and flavorful, and though the menu mentions burgers are cooked through, mine was made a perfect medium-rare upon request.
The tater tots ($5), six to an order, are huge and filled with bacon and melty cheese, with chipotle ketchup for dipping. Jenna’s father, Jon Perette, developed the recipe using potato skin appetizers as inspiration.
He’s also the creative mind behind the Ja-Makin-Me Crazy chicken wings ($7), which are glazed in a sweet sauce with a little heat at the end.
The menu calls it a “stolen recipe from Key West,” one that he re-created from his travels.
He and Jenna’s mother, Joanie Wilson, own or have owned restaurants including Orta, JW’s Burger Bar, and Varsity Club, and Jenna spent time working in some of them before striking out with the drive-in, which opened in April.
“A lot are me and my dad’s favorite recipes,” she said. “It’s comfort food, it’s nothing crazy.”
Their Reuben sandwich ($8) is classic comfort food, with buttery, griddled rye holding plenty of corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing.
There’s an emphasis on fresh and homemade. The corned beef is cured in-house, and Jenna said they roast their own turkey and roast beef, smoke the pastrami, and bread the chicken fingers.
“The seafood we only have if we can get it fresh,” she said. Sometimes that means her father went fishing and pulled in the catch himself. Of the menu as a whole, she said, “I wouldn’t say it’s healthier, but it’s fresher for sure.”
The ice cream options are pure indulgence, and the brownie sundae ($6) was a decadent concoction of vanilla ice cream with a brownie, hot fudge, whipped cream, walnuts, and a cherry on top.
Don’t wait too long to try Jenna’s. Like most ice cream stands, it’s a seasonal operation that will close sometime in October and reopen in April.
That’s a long off-season. What will Perette do until spring?
“Recharge my batteries, travel,” she said. “Look for more recipes.”Shirley Goh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GohShirl.