I’ve been waiting 20 years for a Galley Boy.
This past weekend, I made a pilgramige to the Swensons Drive-In located in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
I come from a family full of Buckeyes. In The Ohio State style, they’re incredibaly enthusiastic about being Buckeyes. My parents grew up in the Akron-Cuyahoga Falls area, but my grandparents hail from Minneapolis. When Firestone Tire recruited my Grandpa Roger to be an engineer, he and his wife moved to Ohio where they raised three kids and ate a lot of Swensons.
No visit to my grandparents house was complete without at least one meal from Swensons. On Swensons night. we eagerly around my grandparents’ dinner table to wait for whoever was assigned to pick up our family’s take-out order. Soon ehough, the big paper bags would arrive and then the greasy wax paper flew. We passed around everyone’s Galley Boy cheeseburgers and pouches of fried zucchini sticks, mushrooms, and onion rings. This time it was my turn to drive.
Swensons Drive-In is truly a drive-in and the carhops still run.
The moment you pull into a parking spot, a carhop will sprint to your car to greet you and take your order before sprinting back inside.
*After I had received my food and paid my bill, I parked in the back of the lot where least two other carhops sprinted to over to take my order. I reassured them that I was OK, but was really impressed at their committment to provide fast service.
Although your carhop will ask if your order is “for here or to-go”, there is no dining room. “For here” simply means eating your meal from a tray the carhop attaches to your window. I saw a lot of people enjoying their meal in their cars.
The woman in the car next to me said hello. We compared stories and I learned she was also on a similar food quest. It had been years since she returned to her hometown and she, too, was back for a burger. Her face filled with emotion. I gave her a knowing smile and we both turned away before we were two strangers crying over burgers.
On this day it was my birthday and it really felt like my birthday unwrapping my meal. Swensons’ onion rings are still coated in crispy, rough crumbs and Galley Boys are still garnished with a big, green olives. I’ve never encountered a double cheeseburger decked out with this specific combination of sauces; one tastes like BBQ sauce and the other like tartar. The meat also has an ever so slightly-sweet flavor.
In 1997 my Grandpa died. A taxi cab picked us up from the airport and I remember my folks talking about Swensons with our driver. He had tried to replicate the burgers at home and theorized that Swensons adds brown sugar to their ground beef. For some reason, I never forgot this.
There’s ice cream, too.
The malts and shakes are extra thick. . . or maybe it’s the tiny, little straws. I am mystified by the straw.
My grandparents and mother have passed on from this life to whatever comes next, and Swensons lives on. Their car hops still sprint and the Galley Boys are still adorned with green olives. While I can’t enjoy a burger with them, I can still enjoy their favorite burger just the way they alway did and that still counts for something.
In fact, it counts for a lot.