Monday, May 4, 2009

An Akron Classic: Swensons and the Galley Boy

If there's one place that anyone who is a transplant from Akron always asks about, it's Swensons. Swensons is a drive-in carhop joint that started in 1934 and has now grown to seven locations in North and West Akron, North Canton, Montrose, Stow, Seven Hills, and Jackson. While the original one on the corners of West Market Street and Hawkins has been demolished and rebuilt, any of the locations offer the same Swensons drive-in experience.

When I got out of work today at 6:30, it was 80 degrees Fahrenheit, sunny, and just gorgeous. Perfect weather for a trip to Swensons! And since there is a location on my way home, it made even more sense. When you pull in, find a parking spot and turn on your car's headlights. This indicates you need a server. On the wall is the basic menu:

Fortunately, I already knew what I wanted (since you can download a copy of their menu from the website), so I didn't have to ponder too long when my rather cute carhop ran up to my car to greet me. Pleasantries exchanged, I placed my order and as quickly as he ran up to my car, he ran back inside to turn my order in.

After about ten minutes, he returned with the classic "window hooking" tray with all my food on it:

On deck are my Galley Boy, an order of onion rings, and my cherry milkshake. The Galley Boy is one of Swensons signature items and the skewered olive on top is just a reminder that you can only get this here in northeast Ohio. Unfortunately, because of the odd angle that I was sitting in the car and trying to take pictures out the driver's side window, I decided to photograph individual items after they were brought inside the car.

First up, the cherry milkshake (and yes, I am actually balancing these things on my pants while I photograph them -- hey, you do what you gotta do):

They have three sizes, 12, 16, and 32 ounces. I went for the 16 ounce size and was pleasantly rewarded with a nice, thick, creamy milkshake that had a nice cherry flavor, but wasn't too over the top. I can't imagine ordering the 32 ounce size ... that would be a lot of milkshake! And while this milkshake was good (I'd order it again), I do think that Tommy's in Coventry sets the bar when it comes to amazing milkshakes.

Next up were the onion rings with ranch dressing as a dip:

These were fine, better than some other examples I've tried. The menu states that they are Swensons own recipe and they certainly are tasty. Nice and crunchy on the outside with a nice thick creamy onion on the inside. The ranch dressing dip was, well, ranch dressing. They didn't do anything to gussy it up. Which is kind of a shame since that could really add to the Swensons mystique.

Finally, a close-up of the Galley Boy. First, wrapped:

And then, unwrapped (after I ate the olive, of course!):

The Galley Boy is a double cheeseburger served on a grilled bun with two special sauces, tartar sauce and a sweet BBQ sauce. Now one might think, "Ack! That sounds awful!" But I can assure you this is one of those instances where the food gods have smiled upon mankind and allowed them to indulge in this really wonderful burger. Sweet, savory, grilled, cheesy, creamy, crusty. It's all there in one sandwich. Normally I like to alternate between bites of burger and whatever side I've ordered. Not this time. Before I realized what I had done, I looked down to discover that my Galley Boy was GONE. I looked over at my poor onion rings and realized I hadn't eaten a single one.

The final bill for my indulgence wasn't terribly expensive either, just a shade over $9, $12 with tip. They've got lots of other great items on their menu, but it's really hard to go wrong with the Galley Boy. As it is the start of summer, I can see myself going back many more times over the next couple of months. And having just as delicious a meal.

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