Clock Drive-In, Greenville SC

Hello, my name is Grant, and I’m addicted to Urbanspoon.

See, I had this bright idea when I set out on this road trip. After the first three stops, I would just end up where the road took me. I would not plan ahead, and I would not look at Google Maps or my Urbanspoon wish list. I would just end up in Clemson, ask how to get to Greenville, drive around, stop at whatever looked interesting, maybe mosey up to Spartanburg, possibly detour through Anderson, and come home. I’d take pictures of neat signs or bridges, I would pull into any bookstores that caught my eye, and I wouldn’t be enslaved to a schedule or a timetable. And pigs would fly.

I had trouble sleeping in the motel in Clemson. When I woke, I wondered what I might find in Greenville. I remembered that when Marie and I were driving through in February, we passed by a fantastic old drive-in called Clock on the north side of Bob Jones University. What was the name of the road? Wade Hampton? I bet I could find that. What highway am I on? US-123? I bet I can get from here to Wade Hampton easy. Let me look that up on Google Maps. But lemme check Urbanspoon first, make sure I’ve got the address right.

Maybe next time I should leave the laptop at home.

Anyway, I left around ten and made my way north. In Easley, I stopped first to take advantage of some very inexpensive gas. $2.96 was the lowest I’d seen it in what seems like nearly a year. Before the trip was out, I saw it even cheaper – $2.85 in Greer if you bought a car wash. I also stopped when I saw this amazing old restaurant called Pete’s No. 6. I would have eaten here, but they were still serving breakfast only, and I had a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice in the hotel lobby, which is all the breakfast I need.

While in Easley, I also passed by one of the other Clock restaurants in the region. In the 1950s, the first of what would apparently be a total of seven opened. The original is on US-25, White Horse Road, but the one I was bound for was apparently the third, and which opened on June 7 1953. It’s possible that all seven are still in business; they are all independently owned these days, and none of them have any social media or internet presence, and they’re all listed on Urbanspoon with moderately different names. Perhaps one day, I’ll spend sunup to sundown visiting each one of them, getting their facts and stories straight, and laying it all out in one comprehensive place. I’m confident that posterity will thank me so very much for the effort.

I spoke with this location’s owner, George Dadeckas. His guests all know him by name; there are far too many of them for him to reciprocate. I asked George if he was affiliated with or owned the other Clocks in town. He smiled a very brief smile and almost shyly shook his head no. “One’s all I can handle!” he insisted.

Once upon a time, this Clock was a proper drive-in with car hops. These days, guests need to come inside to order. There are a few seats, but many people only use them long enough to wait for their food to be prepared before taking their meals back to their cars. He had seven other parties come in during the first half-hour he was open. I’m forty and I was almost certainly the youngest. I asked a couple of the tables who came in after me, after they’d greeted George with a roar and placed their orders, whether they’d been coming here for long. “Ages,” one couple told me. “Since I was a kid,” said another man, with his wife adding, “and he’s been bringing me here with him since 1988.”

I really love seeing such loyalty over what’s really a basic fast food style burger. Up the road in Spartanburg, you see it with the Beacon. In Atlanta, you see it with the Varsity. Down in Thomasville, there’s the same community love for Henderson’s. Maybe students at Bob Jones next door trickle in after noon, or fill the place during the weekdays, setting up the next generation’s nostalgia for these places. I’ve since learned that I ordered “wrong.” I had a burger, fries and a Pepsi for $6.50 (cash only), with my sandwich “LMT” style. George asked me whether I wanted mine “LMT,” and I told him absolutely. Knowing that I’d never been there before, he quietly clarified “That means lettuce, mayo, tomato.” I said that was fine. But what you should order at this Clock on your first visit is whatever sandwich you want drowned in chili, and served LMT as a half-and-half plate. That way you get fries and onion rings split and a side cup of slaw.

Maybe some other time. I had indulged quite a lot the day before, and still had much eating to do today. But at least, from here, the computer was safely stowed in the trunk, and I hadn’t any smartphone gadgets to cheat. The road would take me where people and where signs directed me.

Clock Drive-In on Urbanspoon

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13 thoughts on “Clock Drive-In, Greenville SC

  1. you know we lived in greenville for over 2 years and never went here! such a shame too! we always passed it to go somewhere downtown! we even lived off wade hampton!

  2. We understand that this wonderful business will indeed be shuttering at the end of March following a hike in the rent. If the last twelve hours’ surge in visitors, since the announcement hit Greenville media, is any indication, the love that I saw on my visit is shared by thousands. Best wishes to George in his hopes of relocating to someplace new!

    Readers are welcome to leave comments of their happy memories of Clock here. We’d love to hear from you!

  3. Thank you for shining some light on this little gem of a diner! My parents spent many evenings dating at The Clock drive in and I love to hear their stories of the car hops and the teenagers hanging out there and “cruising.” We moved to the Midlands when I was very young but I always make it a point to stop and eat at The Clock with my husband and children when we visit. I’m sad to hear we may lose this this well loved landmark!
    Long live The Clock!

  4. I am almost 60 and I ate at the clock over 55 years ago. I was taken by my Grandfather and had my first slaw dog. I was there in Jan to see my parents and always get my fix(chili-cheese with slaw, a tea, and order of crispy onion rings). My kids grew up there. Trying to help my wife have our first child we went there for a chili cheese for lunch ,but ended up at El Matadors for dinner before heading to the hospital.

  5. My name is Jimmy. My father & I are the owners of the Clock in Greer. Officially it was the fourth built in 1958. However you would not be able to tell since we built our new building in 1993. My story is very similar to the other Clock’s. Most of us helped out starting in our early teens. The secret to the Clock’s success has been simple. Hot, fresh food at a great price, along with great service in a clean environment. I am happy to say my cousin John & his partner George worked things out with the landlord and will continue to provide their customers great food at great prices. As for us in Greer, we are currently in our third building. The first was very similar to the Clock on Wade Hampton. That building was a block from our current location from 1958-1973. The current owner at the time Mr. Steve Boulos tore it down and built a strip center & put the Clock at the end of the shopping center. That is when my father entered the picture, buying the business from Mr. Boulos. He proceeded to stay there for twenty years when he then purchased the land our current location sits on and broke ground December of ’92. I entered the picture in the spring of ’93 upon graduation from. college. However, my father states that I entered it long before then, helping my mother make onion rings, also helping to make hot dogs, washing dishes, and basically terrorizing all the faithful folks that worked with my parents. Which reminds me, we still have a few employees that are still with us from 1976. Namely Brenda & Janette. Sadly Brenda’s mom has just retired in March of 2013 due to illness. She began her career in 1980. We pray that she can recover, get well and join us once again! Meanwhile, if anyone happens to be coming through Greer, veer off Wade Hampton Blvd. onto West Poinsett and try us out. You will see that passion for this business and providing our customers with excellent food & service in a clean establishment is what we strive for along with supporting our community. If anyone would like to leave me a comment, come by or just email me at jchulkas@charter.net. Thanks and God Bless!

  6. This was one of my and my wife’s favorite places to eat in Greenville but now we’ve moved to the Gwinnett area, are there any places you know of that are like this around here? Seems like there’s a ton of them in Upstate SC but I haven’t found one in GA yet!

    • Hmmmm. Tall order! We’ve noted before that Atlanta’s carhop tradition got paved over many years ago, and that we don’t really have many survivors or adaptations like the Upstate’s Clocks, or Pete’s, or Beacon, or Sugar & Spice around here.

      I think that the nearest you might find is the Gwinnett Varsity, which is off Jimmy Carter. You might also look at the small Burger & Shake chain that is based in Hall County. Most of those are around Gainesville, but there is one in Flowery Branch. I’ve not been myself, but from how they’ve been described, they seem to have similar experience to Clock.

      In Atlanta, you could try the Zesto chain. Their burgers are similar to Clock. If you ever went to the Besto in Anderson SC, that’s a mutation from the same 1950s corporation that our Zesto evolved from. Another possibility is Olympic Flame on Marietta Street, near Huff Road.

      • Thanks! The Varsity was the first place that came to mind, I haven’t been in a long time but I told my wife we’re going to have to check it out. I plan on looking into the other ones you mentioned as well… definitely going to miss being able to drive a few miles in any direction to pick up a cheeseburger plate, half and half :)

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