Old School Charm @ Sycamore Drive-In Diner

Amy Kundrat

Many things have changed over the past fifty years, but don't bother mentioning that to the Sycamore. The diner/carhop in Bethel, CT has been serving the same burgers, root beer floats and fries since 1948. While our dining habits have ebbed and flowed from those early carhop days – from TV dinners, chinese take-out and sushi rolls to today's preoccupation with farm-to-table dining – the Sycamore has been steadfast in their devotion to the diner.

At the heart of the Sycamore menu lay a perfect trifecta; thin "french-style" burgers, crispy french fries and home-made root beer (secret family recipe, naturally).

The majority of the menu is given over to burger worship, as it should be. These wafer thin slivers of ground beef are cooked on a flat top within inches of their life and slapped between a rather simple bun. Size doesn't matter at the Sycamore, so adjust your expectations for their self-described french style burgers.

When ordered as a "single," the burgers are simple and unadorned. Come back and progress up their burger food chain and things begin to get interesting. Cheeseburger, tomato burger, onion burger and the double burger may cause you to take pause. I'm here to encourage you to cut to the chase and simply order the Dagwood, "the final answer to the burger." Once you go Dagwood...well, you know the rest. The ingredients are deceptively simple but they more than work; a slice of American cheese, mustard, ketchup, pickle, onion, tomato slices, lettuce and a touch of mayonnaise. The Dagwood may make you erase any remaining vestige of fast food regret. Everything in moderation, right?

The other item on the menu you won't want to miss is a mug of their delicious root beer. They use a secret family recipe to produce a silky and densely sugary beverage served so cold, you'll find slivers of ice atop the liquid and sheets sticking to the sides of your mug. And if you're feeling randy, go for the root beer float. The Dagwood and float are a match made in diner heaven. Other items on the menu aren't quite as memorable but worth noting are hotdogs, chili dogs, chicken tenders, onion rings and other standard diner fare.

In addition to the food, the diner itself has scarcely changed, filled with painted wooden booths, enamel top tables, and mementos from the golden days of car hops hanging on the walls. You can seat yourself at the counter or mosey on to your own table near the juke box. And of course you can also choose to sit in your car, flash your headlights and enjoy car hop service.

Proving that you dont necessarily need to be a slave to trends, the Sycamore is beloved for being just the way it is for well over a half century.

The Sycamore is located on Greenwood Avenue in Bethel, CT. Saturday evenings in the summer the Sycamore hosts a classic car show. Information at http://www.sycamoredrivein.com/

Sycamore Drive-In Restaurant 282 Greenwood Avenue, Bethel. 203.748.2716