The Nite Owl Drive In, aka Nite Owl Ice Cream Parlour and Sandwich Shoppe (830 E. Layton Ave.), isn’t trying so much to recapture a long-gone era as maintain the one in which it originated. The place has been in business through multiple generations of the same family since 1948. Just as Nite Owl’s signage and decor point to the bustle of an expanding city amid post-World War II bustle, its grilled, fried and chilled fare has remained classically American. Only the prices have changed.
The double jumbo hamburger fits two chunky, half-pound patties between a pillowy bun. Even when topped with the works (the mayo, ketchup, mustard and onions is a nigh ambrosial combination) makes for a relatively manageable sandwich requiring little awkwardness of grip. The thickly breaded onion rings on offer are hearty finger food. One change since the 1940s: as in most places, Nite Owl’s banana split is more of a parfait, with the apparent disappearance of the boat-styled dishes in which the treat was traditionally served. But even with the bananas sliced into discs instead of halves, the scoops of hard vanilla ice cream and toppings constitutes a colossal, satisfying take on the dairy dessert. In a world of seemingly increasing turbulence, Nite Owl provides a respite of hand-crafted, classic comfort food that delightfully defies the ravages of time.
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