Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Varsity (The World's Largest Drive-In), Atlanta, GA

I'm sorry I've been a bit MIA lately, but I promise I have a good excuse. You see, while everyone else was unpacking their Easter baskets, Matt and I were making our way to Atlanta, to the world's largest drive-in fast food restaurant, The Varsity.

While others were gorging themselves on chocolate bunnies and sharing marshmallow Peeps with family, Matt and I were noshing on juicy burgers, crispy onion rings, and The Varsity's signature chili dogs. Okay, so our real business in Georgia involved visiting family, too, but our trip to The Varsity was a nice perk!

The Varsity looms large in Atlanta lore, and also in the fast food world (it even has its own extensive Wikipedia article - which is naturally the pinnacle of culinary achievement), but I have to admit that Matt and I approached the place with a somewhat critical eye. When it comes to fatty, greasy, fast food goodness, Matt's allegiance belongs securely to The Beacon Drive-In, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. So as the dutiful wife, I promised to be scrupulous and stringent in my evaluation of The Varsity - which makes it even more impressive that the place gets my thumbs-up seal of approval.

Like The Beacon, The Varsity has a storied past. Although it has moved and expanded several times since - there are now several satellite locations in the Atlanta area - the original Varsity was established back in 1928. At that time, it was called 'The Yellow Jacket,' but booming business and expanding clientele earned the place its current location and its current, more inclusive name (for more info, you can check out the snazzy interactive timeline on their website).


The Varsity is famous for its chili dogs and Frosted Orange drinks, but like The Beacon, it also has its own deeply-ingrained and much-loved culture. While signs at The Beacon urge you to' 'Call it,' The Varsity's ordering catchphrase is 'What'll ya have?" There's also an unofficial menu - in which a 'Walk a Dog' is a hot dog to-go, a 'Bag of Rags' gets you potato chips, and a 'Squirt One' is the famous Varsity Orange soft drink.


The Varsity boasts a lot of fast food choices - mostly variations of burgers and dogs - but Matt and I kept it classic, with a pair of chili dogs and a cheeseburger, respectively. Of course, we just couldn't resist adding an order of onion rings on the side (that's 'sideways' in Varsity lingo).

We'd arrived some time after lunchtime, but the place was still packed - hardly surprising for a Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend. Nevertheless, the service was swift and before we knew it, we had our food in hand. Matt found us a table in the elevated dining room overlooking the drive-in and the parking deck, or 'Lunching Pad' (an amusing nod to John Glenn's space flight). This proved to be the perfect spot, giving us an entertaining view of all the non-stop hustle and bustle below.

Of course, we weren't really there for the view or to be entertained - we'd come for the food, and we weren't disappointed. The onion rings were pretty amazing: thick with juicy strips of onion, and breading that was suitably greasy but not too overpowering (I like my fast food to feel indulgent, not endangering!). With a bit of ketchup, they were pretty close to fried perfection. Matt seemed more than pleased with his chili dogs and my burger really hit the spot. It wasn't huge or fancy, just a good, solid burger - and that's not something I get to say very often.

So how does The Varsity stack up against Matt's cherished Beacon? Well, for being so outwardly similar, they're actually quite different. Where The Beacon serves up heaping plates of fresh-from-the-fryer fare, The Varsity's offerings are a bit simpler - dressed down burgers and dogs with simple sides. The food is a little less greasy (which is usually good) but also a lot less filling (which is usually bad). If Matt and I weren't headed for dinner at his sister's we'd have had to order seconds. Thankfully, their menu is pretty inexpensive so if you're really hungry, a second burger won't break the bank.

With dinner in mind, Matt and I decided to forgo dessert, but The Varsity also caters to the sweet tooth, offering their famous 'fried pies,' brownies and ice cream, as well as frosted beverages. Their Frosted Orange looked especially thirst-quenchingly delicious - I guess we'll just have to order one next time!

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The Varsity on Urbanspoon

This post has been shared at:
The Southern Institute: Creative Me Monday - Flour Me With Love: Mix it Up MondayMrs. Happy Homemaker: Makin' You Crave MondayKeeping it Simple: Motivate Me MondayHome Stories A to Z: Tutorials & Tips Tuesday - Sugar Bee Crafts: Take-a-Look Tuesday - Chef-in-Training: Tuesday Talent ShowToday's Creative Blog: Get Your Craft On - My Girlish Whims: Your Whims Wednesday - Lil' Luna Link - Sugar and Dots: What I whipped Up Wednesday - Clean & Scentsible: The Creative Spark - Oopsey Daisy: Wednesday's Wowzers - The NY Melrose Family: Whimsy WednesdaysDomesblissity: Thriving on Thursday


  1. How fun. I gotta visit this place when I visit Atlanta! The food sounds wonderful and I'm dying to try that Orange soft drink! :)

  2. I am about a half hour from Atlanta and have not been to The Varsity yet. It is definitely on my list though.

    Did you know that the word car hop originated from The Varsity? In the beginning days they would direct you into the drive in by literally hopping on to the running board of your car.

    1. Your learn something new every day! Thanks for that little tidbit, Cate, it's details like that that I love!

  3. Wow! I used to live in Atlanta growing up, and I don't think we ever visited The Varsity. What a fun place to visit! Thanks for sharing at oopsey daisy!

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  6. why no more pics of potatoe chips on piemento cheeseburger plates like i had growing up downtown atl ga ...