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Drive-In Restaurants That Dish Up Nostalgia

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Drive-in menu
Pull under the awning, press the button and place your order at The Drive-in in Florence.

Drive-in restaurants have largely gone the way of poodle skirts and sock hops. There are some, however, that not only survived the relentless jitterbug of time, but continue to jive and thrive.

These nostalgic eateries are treasured for their quirky neon signs and architecture, car hops, curbside service and classic American menus featuring drippy burgers, fried everything, flavored sodas and milkshakes.

Some elements of this fast-food fun can still be had in South Carolina at a handful of drive-ins. While not all offer the full experience, each one of these iconic operations offers a delicious taste and feel of days past.

Here is a sampling of historic eateries across the state that began as drive-ins, but remain retro landmarks in their communities.


Beacon Drive-in, Spartanburg

Beacon Drive-in sign
The neon beacon lights the way to Spartanburg’s most iconic eatery.

Founded: 1946

Dining options: Dine in or cruise in for old-fashioned curb service.

Most exalted eats: Chili-Cheeseburger Aplenty - Cheeseburger smothered in chili, then covered with onion rings and french fries

The Beacon began shining its light on Spartanburg's culinary landscape on Thanksgiving Day more than half a century ago. Original recipes concocted by original proprietor John White, who operated the drive-in with his sons until his retirement in 1998, continue to form the foundation of the restaurant's offerings, which are sweeping in scope.

The kitchen management claims to go through 3 tons of onions and 3 tons of potatoes, not each year or month, but every week. Another claim to fame: Beacon Drive-in is said to sell more tea than any other establishment in the country. Considering they sell their brew through national retail markets, it might well be true.

The Drive-In, Florence

Drive-In ordering boards
Pull your car into the Drive-In in Florence and place your order.

Founded: 1957

Dining options: Dine in or enjoy curbside service, carhops and all.

Most exalted eats: Crusty fried chicken and two-fisted gyros

When Greek immigrants opened this lively Florence drive-in back in the 1950s, it seemed natural to name it after the bustling highway on which it operated: US Route 301.

For decades, crowds of locals have enjoyed the tasty American-Greek menu and socialized at the hot spot known as 301 Drive-In. Now simply called "The Drive-In," the restaurant occupies a new building next door to its original location.

Happily, the owners kept the landmark vintage sign and made it a point to include a new canopy area for ordering and car hop service. For a special treat, wash your meal down with a Clarinet, a mix of cherry cola and lemonade.

Dixie Drive-In, Greenwood

Founded: 1959

Most exalted eats: Dixie Cheese Half-and-Half - A juicy cheeseburger served with a half-order of onion rings and half-order of fries

The neon vintage sign still beckons hungry folks to dine at Dixie Drive-In, a local Greenwood legend. Belly up to the counter, take a swivel seat, and place your order. Corn dogs, chili burgers, fried chicken and cherry colas are always in demand.

Sno-Cap Drive-In, North Augusta

Classic car show at Sno-Cap Drive-In
Classic car shows offer a dose of nostalgia to customers of North Augusta's Sno-Cap Drive-In.

Founded: 1965

Most exalted eats: Hot-off-the-grill burgers and root beer floats in frosty mugs

The carhops are gone, but folks don't mind hopping out of their cars to head inside and fill their bellies with old-timey goodness at Sno-Cap Drive-In. The retro sign remains as a reminder of bygone days in North Augusta as do the wing-shaped metal roof, red booths and swivel counter chairs.


Sugar-n-Spice, Spartanburg

Sugar-n-Spice vintage pic of drive-in and cars
Classic cars often find their way to Sugar-n-Spice Drive-In in Spartanburg.

Founded: 1961

Most exalted eats: Roast Beef Aplenty - A generous roast beef sammich with fries, onion rings and coleslaw

The arrow on the neon sign points the way to the Sugar-n-Spice Drive-in, which still sports its wavy car canopy. Show up at one of their classic car shows, and you'll swear you've blinked and been transported back to Spartanburg in the 1950s.


Clock Drive-In, Greenville

Founded: 1954

Most exalted eats: Hot dogs with homemade chili, crinkle cut fries and hand-breaded onion rings

Once a hotbed of teenage activity in Greenville, this former curb-service drive-in was a source of consternation to conservative-leaning citizens in the area. While Clock Drive-In still operates beneath the rotating clock, the only risky behavior here these days is how many onion rings you'll down in a single sitting.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.