Ammons Drive-In and Dairy Bar, Waynesville NC

We agreed that it had been a disagreeably long time since we visited Asheville, and so began scheduling a trip. Earlier this month, we drove back to western North Carolina to spend a day in this beautiful country and the city that we really, really love. This time, we took a much different path getting there.

Every previous trip to and from Asheville has been up I-85, and then either via Greenville or via Clayton. That was when I drove a Camry, however, and I wasn’t keen to have my li’l four-cylinder Mazda climb the massive hill between Franklin and Sylva on US-23. We also were curious whether we could come back without the psychological exhaustion of recognizing I-985 as “Atlanta! Home!” and still having another hour to go. So we took I-575 north instead, through Ellijay and Murphy, and then US-74 across, through the Nantahala Gorge and joining US-23 at Sylva. This is a really beautiful drive. We made an additional leg-stretching stop in the Gorge at the Ferebee Picnic Area for the baby to run around and see the river. This might not be a really good time-saver of a drive in the summer – this road is assuredly packed with kayakers and campers – but in early November, it’s a fine trip.

At 11.30, we arrived in the town of Waynesville for a little surprise. When I saw the name of this place, Ammons Drive-In and Dairy Bar, I envisioned either an old walk-up window like the ones we love in northern Alabama, like Kreme Delite in Athens or Tasty Dip in Heflin, or an old 1950s canopied place. What we got instead was a 1980s-built, quite generic building. They do offer curb service, but this is not quite what I had in mind.

The initial plan had been to just get snacks here, but the girlchild skipped on breakfast and Marie was hungrier than she thought she’d be, so we looked over the menu in more detail. It’s a full-service restaurant that specializes in meat-and-three meals, but they also do basic fast food options and soft-serve treats like I sort of expected.

The hamburgers here are basic fast food patties. The girlchild and I had ours with pimento cheese, Marie had hers with a garden, and the baby ate almost an entire plain patty with ketchup. We were quite impressed that he ate so much! The girlchild and I had shakes – she had Butterfinger and I had cherry – and we all agreed that this was an okay stop. This really is a place that should be judged on the quality of its dinner menu, which we didn’t sample. The service was excellent, but what we ordered was no different than what any chain fast food might have provided. Travelers looking for a meat-and-three meal of beef livers or fried chicken or blue plate specials might want to stop in here. Oddballs like us who enjoy old buildings and neon and wacky signs, don’t be fooled by the name “dairy bar,” and plan accordingly.

That said, I’m certain that, at some point ages ago, I found reference to something that fits our definition a little better that’s located west and possibly north of Asheville, but I can’t find it anymore*. It’s certainly not Ammons; does anybody know of any old walk-up windows that serve hot dogs and ice cream in western North Carolina? Let us know!

*The place we were looking for was Dolly’s in Brevard. We know for another time! (7/25/15)

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