Back in my carefree, single, post-college days, I visited my friend Tina in Atlanta. She took me to the Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in restaurant. While I relished the extremes of salty and sweet, what made a lasting impression was the frenetic pace and secret language of the counter staff, and the charmingly retro décor.
Twenty years later, and still in Atlanta, Tina blogs at Veggievangelist about the wholesome, home-cooked meals she prepares for her family. But she still takes them to the Varsity on occasion.
In this, her second guest post for GBOGH, she assures us that not much has changed at the Varsity. Phew.
Did I mention I’m hungry?
Where we went, and who was coerced into going:
When my friend Michelle suggested that we take our gaggle of boys to The Varsity in Downtown Atlanta before heading over to the World of Coke, I didn’t hesitate. If there are wide gaps in my religious education, it isn’t hard to figure out why. Our church is across the street from what is the “World’s Largest Drive-In Restaurant.” We would go get onion rings instead of getting our butts into our Sunday School classroom.
There is not anything better to me than the siren song of the counter staff (at 23 registers all in a very long row) yelling out, “What’ll ya have, what’ll ya have?” We went the day after a particularly humiliating SEC Championship game (for Georgia), and the place was not nearly as busy as, say, the three hours leading up to a Georgia Tech football game.
WHY did you go there, exactly?
Aside from the fact that we don’t go there often anymore because of dietary considerations, Michelle and I both grew up in Atlanta and have fond memories of dining at The Varsity. It was time to let our kids in on that.
Okay, what was so cool about it?
The Varsity is one of those places where you either love it or hate it. When it’s crowded, you sit where you can. The building is really sort of odd. They have it broken into all these separate rooms for viewing different channels on the television. You don’t dare change the channel. If you’re in the room with the football on and it’s not your game, you take your tray elsewhere.
And it’s on different levels. Oh, and before I totally zone it, a huge chunk of the parking lot along one side of the building is reserved for car service. It was cold the day of our visit, and I do not care for in-car dining because of the in-car vacuuming that takes place afterwards, so we went inside.
Nipsey Russell, the comedian, started out as a car-hop at The Varsity (if you don’t know who he is, where were you in the 1970’s?)
Another cool thing about The Varsity is that it has its own secret language. They’ve now got a board that has “Combos” listed. The menu is very straightforward. You can order a naked dog walking (plain hot dog to go). Or a Bag of Rags (a bag of potato chips).
How to order other items on the Varsity menu:
M.K. Dog — a naked dog with mustard and ketchup
Heavy Dog — a hot dog with extra chili
Walk a Dog (or Steak) — a hot dog (or hamburger) to go
Glorified Steak — a hamburger with mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato
Ring One — order of onion rings
F.O. — a frosted orange shake
Michelle and I had chili dog combos with onion rings and of course, before our trip to World of Coke, a Coke Zero. Heartburn be damned.
How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):
I give it an eight. It’s where to go if you’re from Atlanta and feeling nostalgic (and wearing your best stretch pants).
A little background info about the place:
Frank Gordy started The Varsity in 1928. Over the years, the Gordy family has opened other locations (one in Athens, the rest mostly in suburban Atlanta). This is the best location.
Hey YOU! Go BIG:
The Varsity, 61 North Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30308