Go BIG or Go Home
What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

The Varsity: World’s Largest Drive-in Restaurant

Varsity

Credit: TheVarsity.com

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.

Varsity

This is where I got VERY confused.

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).

Chili dog

Heavy weights with ring ones? Or just the Combo #1?

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).

drive in restaurant

Car hops in training.

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

404-881-1706

8 comments

  1. Holly said,
    January 16, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    I grew up eating at the Varsity. The place holds special memories of eating chili dogs after the Atlanta Braves games with my dad.

  2. Mike said,
    January 17, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    Now this is one that I have visited. I didn’t do it with the intent of appreciating the “bigness” of it all, but it’s impossible to go there and not sense its size. Truly a classic. Nice post.

  3. Sonita Lewis said,
    January 17, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    I grew up eating at the Varsity. Sweet memories.

    We live near Athens, and though it is not the same, I enjoy taking my children to the one in Athens, to share a small part of my childhood with them. One day though, they’ll get to go to the real deal on North Ave!

    • Traci Suppa said,
      January 23, 2012 @ 8:44 am

      Hi, Sonita! What’s nice to know is that when you do get to bring your kids to the original location, it will be practically the same as when you were a kid!

  4. Kelley said,
    January 17, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    I went to Atlanta several years ago and regret I didn’t know about this place then. I definitely knew about The World of Coke! Mmmmm!!

  5. Carla said,
    February 15, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

    It has been a while since I ate at Varsity. Enjoyed reading your articles.

  6. Nate said,
    February 21, 2012 @ 3:00 am

    Ha, sweet nostalgia! I grew up in Atlanta, and the Varsity was ( I guess still is) a huge thing to do. Love it or hate it…I loved it. Though I don’t know if my stomach could handle that stuff now. It’s loaded with the bad stuff…that tastes so dang good. “What’ll ya have! What’ll ya have!” Thanks for posting, and sturring up the taste buds.

    Nate recentnly posted at: http://www.gearupandplay.com/2012/02/be-prepared-for-the-beehives-the-yan-shui-fire-work-festival/

  7. Bill Manning said,
    May 6, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

    I am sure my 1st hot dog at the varsity was in the Early 40’s . My dad had a car business on spring st as I got a bit older I would go up and pick orders up for the car lot. (. Times were different then) when I travel to Atlanta I always have 2 dogs all and rings. My children have heard “what ya have” several times.

    Bill manning ,Elizabeth City Nc