Diners, Drive-Ins, & my Favorite Memories of My Dad

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

I don't talk much about my dad, in part because I was only 10 when he died. In truth, I don't remember a whole lot about him. I remember a feeling about him - I was a real daddy's girl - but nearly 25 years after his death, there's not much I can tangibly remember.

The one memory that connects me best to my dad is of Swenson's Drive-In. If you're from Northeast Ohio, you know the glory that is Swenson's, a chain of restaurants that began in Akron, near my hometown, in 1934. Swenson's was my dad's favorite place, hands down.

Wait, let me back up.

My dad was a man of simple pleasures. He could not cook, not even a little bit; like, he even messed up PB&J (too much of the J, ew). He loved hearty, old-fashioned meals like meatloaf - & he loved fast food, including McDonald's. Look, bear with me. This was the '80s & the early '90s, back when that shit was gooooood - & before we knew much better about how awful it was for you. I, for one, am glad he enjoyed his cheeseburgers, if he was gonna die young of lung cancer, you know?

When I was a kid, I took dance classes. I feel like I was always at dance class, even though, in reality, is was probably, like, once a week. My dance classes were at a studio in Stow (what up, Meneer School of Dance), the next town over - & on the way home from the dance studio? A Swenson's.

My dad was in charge of picking me up from dance class, so you can see where this is going.

Yep. My dad & I stopped at Swenson's, like, a lot. Was it every week? Man, it could've been. This was the '90s. We'd park - either in his white minivan or his red truck - & we'd place our standard orders. I can't remember was because I didn't eat hamburgers; I know it was burger-based, & I thought burgers were the grossest (which is to say, I'd never eaten one). I got a grilled cheese & French fries & a mint hot fudge sundae, & then we'd hang out in the Swenson's parking lot - where they serve you in your car - & just catch up, our weekly daddy-daughter time.

After my dad died, it took me a long time to go back to Swenson's. Like, Swenson's made me cry, truly, which is embarrassing.

But when I was 25ish, I decided I wanted to try a hamburger for the first time - & I knew Swenson's had to be the place for it. My then-boyfriend & I hit up that old Swenson's in Stow, where I ordered a plain cheeseburger & introduced myself to the glory that is plain cheeseburgers.

I don't like ketchup or mustard or pickles, OK? There aren't that many options for me. But now I'm a biiiig fan of cheeseburgers - & last week, I tried Swenson's famous Galley Boy for the first time!

Earlier this month, Swenson's invited me to enjoy a burger on them for National Comfort Food Day. Sadly, my husband's grandma passed away a few days beforehand, & he couldn't join me. When I told the staff why I'd showed up alone, they encouraged me to take a meal home to Mike - comfort food for both of us. That's a kindness you don't see from a lot of businesses - & it only confirmed my lifelong belief that Swenson's is the best.

Seriously, I'm kind of tearing up as I write this. It's not about the burgers, OK? It's about the memories - but fine, it's also kind of about the burgers, because those burgers are absolutely delicious. (Rumor has it that their secret ingredient is brown sugar!)

The kind folks at Swenson's also offered to let me give away $10 worth of "gold coins" that can be used at any Swenson's location. Head over to my Instagram to enter, & I'll choose a random winner on Friday.

And hey, even if you don't win: Find the location nearest you (they're expanding!), & go eat a burger from Swenson's, the burgers that got me into burgers. Or try the Potato Teezers. Or order a chocolate malt. Or just... whatever, really, OK? It's delicious & unhealthy & it's gonna make you happy, & I hope you tip your hat to my dad while you do it.

Disclosure: Swenson's provided me with two complimentary meals on #NationalComfortFoodDay & is generously providing the gift card I'll be giving away - though I have purchased many of my own meals from them throughout the years, including the one pictured here! All opinions are my own, now & always. 

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