Like it or not, summer is slowly winding down. Kids are going back to school, the weather is (maybe) turning cooler, football is starting, we begin thinking of donuts, apple cider, and all things harvesty. It also marks the time when The Corral closes for the summer. The Corral Drive-In is one of those many decades-old eateries that dot the American landscape. You can find it in western Pennsylvania where Mrs. Breakfast With Nick grew up. The restaurant is open only during the warmer months, so we automatically associate it with summertime ice cream stops or lunch after spending time out on the boat.
My father-in-law used to go here when he was younger, and not much has changed since then. He said that the biggest changes are the occasional repaint, and an enclosure covering the order windows. And that’s about it. The menu features burgers, fries, hot dogs, ice cream, all the favorite roadside eats.
The waiting area consists of old school desks.
The Corral is the definition of roadside: it’s a little shack sitting in a gravel parking lot along Route 18 in western Pennsylvania’s Shenango Valley.
Across the street are corn fields.
Everything is done by hand. Your order is taken by one of the local high school kids working there for the summer.
They figure out tax using one of the tables taped to the counter.
After you pay (cash only), you’ll get your order number. You can wait inside or outside in your car or at one of the picture tables nearby, until they call your name over the tinny, way-too-loud speakers.
The food isn’t fancy at the Corral, but chances are you weren’t looking for fancy. One of their features is the hi-boy, essentially a double-burger with lettuce, onions, ketchup.
You could also order the lo-boy, a single burger, and some fried mushrooms.
Or corn dogs and fries.
This is how you know the fries are good.
One of the draws of the Corral is the coffee stir, which is essentially a coffee milkshake. It’s rich and sweet. Perfect for a caffeine kick on a hot day.
But one of the main reasons people visit the Corral is for the soft serve. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been driving by the Corral and have been detoured by the comment, “Do you want some ice cream?” They serve chocolate, vanilla, and twist, and any experienced Corraler will warn you the portions are obscenely huge. I almost always order a small or a baby size. The photo above compares the large (on the left) to the baby cone (on the right). During the summer, I think it’s nearly impossible to finish a large without it melting away.
But that’s half the fun, isn’t it?
If you’re in the area, the Corral will still be open for while, so you still have a chance to say a good-bye (or two or three) to summer.