Pull into the Circus Drive-In on Route 35 in Wall Township, with its immense, grinning clown outlined in bright, buzzing neon, and you might feel you’ve entered a scene from American Graffiti, George Lucas’s 1973 homage to 1960s teen life. Under the shady carport, where a dozen cars nestle like hungry puppies, the car hops—waitresses in red shirts and white pants—dart out with trays of burgers and malted milkshakes they affix to driver-side windows. The menu includes fountain classics such as chocolate egg creams ($2.19) and Black Kows (root beer floats, $2.99), plus a soft-shell crab sandwich ($7.39, delicious). Not much seems to have changed since the place first opened in 1954.
Owner David Kayal, who was a patron while a student at Wall Township High School in the 1990s, purchased the Circus last year from his father, who owned the place since 2004. “We knew it had a great reputation, so we decided to take the risk and buy it.” Kayal’s favorite selections? “I like the Pizza Burger and the Side Show”—the latter being Circus-ese for “appetizers.” (Open through October, 732-449-2650, circusdrivein.com)