5 Classic Maine Drive-In Eateries That Never Seem to Run Out of Gas

The 20th-century establishments continue to serve up griddled and fried comfort foods and heaps of nostalgia.

Crosby’s Drive-In in Bucksport, Maine
Courtesy of Crosby's Drive-in
By Joel Crabtree
From our July 2023 issue

Say it’s the summer of 1938, you have a shiny new Buick Roadmaster convertible, with its narrow nose, high chrome grill, and arching fenders, and heck, you want to show it off. You pop the top and parade up Route 1 on a blue-sky day, and as you pass through Bucksport you’re suddenly struck with a hankering for a hamburger. Lucky for you, this golden age of the automobile has ushered in a new kind of roadside restaurant where you can pull right up and eat in the car, so you cruise into the parking lot of one such place that just opened, Crosby’s Drive-In.

Fast-forward to today, and a handful of 20th-century drive-ins are going strong around Maine. Some, like Val’s (925 Sabattus St., Lewiston; 207-784-5592), Fast Eddie’s (1308 Rte. 202, Winthrop; 207-377-5550), and Fat Boy (111 Bath Rd., Brunswick; 207-406-2113), still offer carhop service. At others, including Belanger’s (84 Main St., Fairfield; 207-453-2447) and Crosby’s (30 Rte. 46, Bucksport; 207-469-3640), you order at a counter. For all, the basic premise is the same: griddled and fried comfort foods, plus a heap of nostalgia.

From left to right: Courtesy of Fat Boy; Courtesy of Crosby’s

Crosby’s is the oldest of the bunch. Across its front, neon lettering, on either side of a bygone Pepsi-Cola logo, spells out LOBSTER ROLLS, HOT DOGS, HAMBURGERS, and FRIED CLAMS. The place has only had four owners in its 85 years, and none have been inclined to shake things up. Current owner Mike Valenoti mixes in some new specials — arancini, Mexican-style street corn, pesto chicken sandwiches — but wants the restaurant to stay true to its roots. “The charm of this place is that it is a bit old-fashioned,” he says. 

Valenoti has been working at Crosby’s off and on since 1994 and has fond memories of high-school and college summers at the drive-in. He became a manager in 2012 and bought the restaurant in 2020. “It’s an institution,” he says. “We have kids working here whose grandparents worked here.”

Some picnic tables are under a pavilion on the edge of the parking lot, and families often spread out over there with their burgers, fries, and milkshakes. But for the full experience at a place like Crosby’s, the best thing to do is roll down the windows, turn the radio dial to some oldies, and risk getting a few ketchup stains on your car’s upholstery. 

April 2024, Down East Magazine

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