Stewart’s Root Beer Drive In – Burlington NJ – Car Hop Service and Sputnik! Open since 1947!
Posted on: July 25, 2014
- address: 4524 U.S. 130 Burlington, NJ 08016
- phone: (609) 386-0106
This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for the National Trust for Historic Preservations’s PreservationNation blog. You can read the entire thing here
A roadside landmark on Route 130 Stewarts Root Beer in Burlington NJ has been open since 1947. Current owner Kirk Xenakis and his sister Thea Malapetsas have run the seasonal stand since 1991, as their parents had since purchasing it from the original owners in 1970.
The building is partially obscured by the large awning that shades patrons from the glare of the sun or the drip of the rain while they eat in their cars but once the cars pull away the freshly painted orange and black stand shines, contrasting nicely with the clean white uniforms of the carhops. Topping it off like a mid-century inspired cherry on top of the sundae is a rare “sputnik” globe twinkling high above the roof of the building, beckoning diners to notice the restaurant and pull in for a quick bite. (the video below is pretty dinky, but if you expand to full screen you can see the twinkling lights)
Though Stewart’s is a chain with over a dozen locations in the state, Xenakis believes the success of their restaurant can be attributed to consistency. They insist on high quality food – everything is always cooked fresh and made to order. The service from the young carhops is attentive and the place is spic and span, but the thing that makes this location such a destination for loyal eaters is they know what to expect when they put their lights on for service.
“We have people tell us that their favorite sandwich tastes the same as it did 20 or 30 years ago or more.” he says, “parents and grandparents come in now with their children and grandchildren and tell us they came in when they were young or dating. It’s a tradition.”