The Emergence of Fast Food


The precursor to the “fast food restaurant” was of course the “drive in restaurant.”  Although they became really popular in the fifties, the first drive in restaurant was said to have started in Texas in the early twenties. We never really had a drive in restaurant in my hometown of  Newark, New York. (NOT New Jersey).  Not the kind where some cute gal came out on roller skates and stuck a tray of food on your car window so that you could dine in the privacy of your own car. I’ll bet that’s when seat covers were invented.

There was a Tastee Freeze that served frozen custard and later, after they dropped the franchise, added burgers and fries to the menu. It was hugely successful; to the point where they built a brand new bigger and better building. My apologies for this next part to the family that owned it, because this is somewhat speculative on my part. But the perception was, on the part of many locals that I associated with, that the new place was too big and too sterile and the food wasn’t as good. Needless to say it closed down a couple of years after opening.

In the meantime a new Tastee Freeze opened up just past the west edge of town and was crazy busy. Even being located not actually in town and only having four tables. I remember that the burgers were ten to a pound. The cheese was American, the bread was white, the fries were hot and the shakes were thick as well as cold. The food was cooked to order and folks came in droves to eat it.

I worked there in high school as a cook. The experience was invaluable to me. I learned to process the information on the tickets that came through and convert the information to fill the order. It was fast and furious but not from the consumer’s end. If they didn’t call ahead (chicken dinners took twenty five minutes) they stood there and waited. It wasn’t a problem for the restaurant though, because they had no competition. Although the menu was pretty much the same as a fast food place, there wasn’t anything fast about it. The concept of fast food was taking root elsewhere in the U.S. but in our insulated small town world it was not a reality. That was soon to change.

Next: Life on the Fast Food Highway


Bio:  Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Hellgate Rodeo, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. What better place to start his weekly “Taste It” blog than his take on the evolution of food in his lifetime?

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