Fork in the Road

Fat Boy Drive-in, Brunswick, Maine

Tiana Burton delivers an order to her customers in the  parking lot of Fat Boy Drive-In, like car hops have done there for decades.
photos by david lyon for the boston globe
Tiana Burton delivers an order to her customers in the parking lot of Fat Boy Drive-In, like car hops have done there for decades.

One in a series on iconic
New England eateries.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — If you haven’t been to a real drive-in restaurant in a while, here’s the drill. Once you have parked your car and decided what you want to eat, turn on your headlights and a cheery young server (a.k.a. car hop) will come and take your order. That’s the routine at Fat Boy Drive-In, the eatery that has been a fixture in Brunswick since 1955. There are five booths inside where diners can watch the cooks at work behind the counter, but most folks prefer to eat in their cars — heeding warnings to watch out for seagulls who swoop down and try to grab a few french fries when the food is delivered.

It won’t take you long to read the menu posted on the side of the building and decide on your order. Like all good Maine establishments, Fat Boy offers lobster and crabmeat rolls along with crab cake and fried haddock sandwiches. But they are best known for their Whoperburger with lettuce, tomato, and their own special sauce, and for their BLT made with Canadian bacon. Most sandwiches can be upgraded to a basket served with french fries. But don’t let the fries — good as they are — distract you from ordering a side of onion rings, another specialty. And you should wash it all down with a frappe, classic vanilla or chocolate or the more creative orange cream or blueberry. (In case you didn’t grow up in New England, a frappe is a milkshake with ice cream blended in.)

David Lyon for the Boston Globe
Car hop Tiana Burton delivered an order to a car in the parking lot of Fat Boy Drive-In in Brunswick, Maine.

All the food is cooked to order, and there can be a bit of a wait when the parking lot is full. So find an oldies station on your car radio (WCME-AM 900 is a good bet) and enjoy a bit of nostalgia. When your food is ready, roll your window most of the way down so your server can hook the tray over the glass and take your payment.


“Turn your lights back on if you need anything,” Tiana Burton said when she delivered our order. “I’ll be right back out for you.”

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It was still early in the season when we stopped by and many folks were making their first Fat Boy run of the year.

“We’re snowbirds and this is one of the first things we do when we come back from Florida,” Frances Pinette Jr. told us.

Margaret and Edward McManus had brought their daughter Annie, friend Lily Munro, and mini schnauzer, Boo, for a treat. “Today is our children’s last day of school,” said Margaret. “It’s a tradition to make an annual after-school Fat Boy run.” Annie, in fact, is the third generation of her family to be a Fat Boy regular. “It’s an institution,” said her mother. “My parents used to come here.”

Burton was handling the crowd with aplomb. “It’s my family business. This is like a second home to me,” she said, explaining that owners Jeanne and Kenny Burton are her grandparents. She knows that people need their Fat Boy fix. “People still come in the rain,” she said, “but we did close once when it was really hot.”

FAT BOY DRIVE-IN 111 Bath Road, 207-729-9431. Open through Oct. 13, Sun-Thu 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri-Sat 11-8:30. Sandwiches $1.55-$6.75, baskets and dinners $3.50-$12.95, cash only.

Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at harris.lyon@verizon