Friday, May 15, 2015

Zesto Drive-In, Newberry, SC

Newberry Zesto Drive-In, the basics: 

2720 College St
Newberry, SC 29108

Open Monday through Saturday 11:00 am until 8:00 pm

Multiple burgers & dogs to choose from.  Sandwiches including pork chop, country fried steak, fish, grilled cheese, & BBQ pork.  Baskets include fries & slaw.  Fried chicken, chicken livers, & hamburger steak available.  Ice cream treats- milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, & banana splits. 

Burger, sandwich, and hotdog prices range from $1.65 to $4.95; baskets $3.60 to $7.15; 3-piece white chicken dinner $7.75.  Ten pieces of chicken, no sides $10.45. 

Zesto Cheeseburger with chili, and fried okra, onion 
rings, and fries

The Zesto chain was founded by LAM Phelan in 1945.  The Zest-O-Mat frozen custard machine was crucial to the evolution of this national chain.  Fast forward, and there are still a fair few Zesto’s scattered around the country.  All are now independently owned and operated.  Interestingly the website for SC Zestos does not list the Newberry Zesto.  It lists two in Columbia and the Chapin Zesto.  My mom and sister tried the Chapin Zesto and were not impressed at all. 
Zesto was likely the first ‘fast food joint’ in my hometown of Newberry, SC.  I couldn’t find a good history of the Newberry location of Zesto, but Road Arch website said it emerged in ‘the 1950s’.  My family used to go to Zesto’s a couple times a month on Sundays when I was a child.  We were a working class family, and our Zesto trips were about as close as we came to eating out on a regular basis.  We usually had milkshakes, sundaes, or banana splits, but occasionally had burgers.  We chose ice cream treats or burgers, but couldn’t have both.  My favorite selections were banana milkshake, banana split, and strawberry sundae.  I also enjoyed the occasional burger. 

Newberry Zesto's 3-piece dark fried chicken snack 

Back then there was no McDonald’s, no Burger King, no Wendy’s.  We enjoyed our trips to Zesto for many years before Hardee’s, the first fast food chain restaurant came to Newberry.  The other chains were several years behind Hardee’s.  I think it had to do with population numbers.  In 1960, there were about 8200 residents in the city of Newberry, and about 29,400 in Newberry County.  In 1980, we were just under 10,000 city and just over 31,000 county.  Today Newberry still sits at just about 10,300 city, but has climbed to 37,800 county residents.  Now we have at least a dozen fast food burger and chicken places.  Newberry even has several “fine dining” restaurants! 

Newberry Zesto's Cheeseburger, which comes with chili

During the 60s, our Zesto had a small air conditioned entry, where you placed your order at the window.  You could see the food prep and cook area.  The lady who usually took the orders sat at a stool, and was scary stern looking.  She was the great aunt of my neighbors, but never seemed amused by anything.  There was a round cement table with cement benches outside, but we always retreated with our food to the car.  Not much has changed, but the cement table has been replaced by a few metal mesh tables.  We always get carry out though. 


Somewhere over the years, during the time I was away from SC I think, the Zesto closed for a few years.  They are now back and going strong.  I’d say they are now most popular for their burgers and fried chicken.  My mom and sister have burgers fairly regularly.  They’re very affordable.  When I’m home visiting, we try to work in a few burgers.  What I love about Zesto burgers is the chili.  And it’s not an extra.  All burgers come with chili unless you request otherwise. 

 Fried Onion Rings

My sister also likes their fried chicken.  We like their fries and onion rings.  They recently started offering fried okra, which is also good.  They offer a pretty good selection of sandwiches, which is probably nice, as well as affordable for local workers. 

 Fried Okra

I tried a chocolate shake a couple months ago, but was completely unimpressed.  I like my chocolate shakes beige.  This one was really dark, rich chocolaty looking, but strangely I did not pick up a strong chocolate taste from it.  I’ll stick to Rush’s and Arby’s for my chocolate shakes, and stick to Zesto chili cheeseburgers.  I would be curious to try a banana split though! 

Newberry Zesto Hours, Sides, and Kid's Menu

 Newberry Zesto's Burgers, Hotdogs, Sandwiches, Plates, 
Fried Chicken, and Ice Cream treats

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