Ace Drive-In remains a roadside gem

The Ace Drive-In along the Lincoln Highway in Joliet, Illinois, is a welcome site in warm weather—classic food at a place little changed from a half century ago. It is one of the many brief profiles in my next book, Lincoln Highway Companion, but here with a great story about the place are impressions by John Weiss, who visits regularly with his wife Lenore:

We promote historic highways because they are a link to the past, a time not so long ago where mom, pop and apple pie culture was in abundance. Radios would sing out, “See the USA in your Chevrolet, America is asking you to call!”

Nothing makes your mind drift back to those glory years than one word: CARHOP. How cool it was to pull into the drive-in, flash your lights, and a pretty young girl would come to your car. Watching her come back balancing a full tray of frosted root beer, burgers, and fries was remarkable. “Please raise your window” she would say, then proceed to hook that mysterious tray onto your car door window.

Compare that with pulling up and talking to a machine. Then drive to a window to pay and pick up your order. Then you hear the mundane line, “Have a nice day.” That is not cool!

Not many original drive-ins with real car hops still exist. But there is one in Joliet, Illinois. If you are looking for nostalgia and a slice of Americana, then you have to visit the ACE DRIVE-IN. The Ace has been here since 1949. This fantastic icon is located on historic Lincoln Highway (Route 30) in Joliet. For you Route 66ers, Ace is only a short distance west of Ottawa Street, Route 66.

Homemade frosty root beer by the glass or by the gallon is available. All those great food treats that you would expect along with their famous car hops makes this a blast from the past. Family minivans and regular cars make up the majority of the customers, but all heads turn when the inevitable classic car pulls in with a Fonzie wannabe at the wheel. Even picnic tables under the trees are available with car hop service.

In spring, summer, and fall, this is the place to find good food, good prices, and those remarkable vanishing symbols of nostalgia, carhops.

That’s John researching this story in his 1966 Mustang!

Ace Drive-In
1207 Plainfield Rd/Lincoln Hwy/US 30
Joliet, Illinois
(815) 726-7741

Photos © by John and Lenore Weiss.

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2 Responses to “Ace Drive-In remains a roadside gem”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Thanks for the tip on the Ace! We’ve added it to our list of “must eat” places.


  2. Bob Sifferd Says:

    I remember the Richelieu Root Beer sign there even better than the Ace sign itself. It had a server with a pill box style hat like the Phillip Morris page of the times and had outstretched legs, carrying a tray of root beer over the shoulder with on hand. Wish I could find that logo/sign on the web but just don’t find it. Very memorable !


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