Oh, happy days
Henri finds himself in Oroville, and Ron’s Drive-In
Ron’s Drive-In3004 Olive Hwy
Oroville, CA 95966
Henri had heard that Oroville was a hot spot for cruising, so the other evening I donned my new Alfani loafers, a sharp, navy-blue blazer by DKNY, and I gassed up my little Renault (sacre bleu! $36!) for what promised to be a thrilling adventure.
The first step, of course, was finding the town, having only been there once before for a lovely Italian dinner at Checkers. Fortunately, I stopped at the mall on my way out of town, and a nice man trying on trousers in the dressing room next to mine at Gottschalk’s was happy to give directions. I was soon on my way, already feeling rather heady about the evening’s possibilities.
Oroville seems pleasant enough, although bait stores appear to outnumber bookstores and theaters, and I was having trouble finding a promising-looking bar or coffee house. I pulled into a little mini-mart, hoping to discern the whereabouts of Oroville’s culture.
The nice woman at the counter looked over my shoulder and out the window to the parking lot. “You driving that?”
“Oui,” I replied, perhaps just a tad indignantly.
“Look, Frenchy, nothing personal. But this isn’t exactly Frisco.”
I didn’t know quite what she meant, but she seemed earnest and sincere. I thanked her and headed to my car, rather depressed.
And, of course, famished. Fortunately, there was a little drive-in right across the street. I drove over.
Ron’s Drive-In is a 1950s-era classic that, on a busier street in a slightly larger town, could be right out of American Graffiti or Happy Days: juke box, formica tabletops, walls decorated with old license plates and a neon-and-chrome carhop clock (its hands, appropriately, frozen), ceiling fans, and picnic tables outside. Of course, the diner serves softee ice cream cones ($1.29-$1.99).
Ron’s also serves a wide range of flavors of other ice cream (including blueberry, marshmallow and peanut butter). Milkshakes are $2.49-$4.29, with smalls on special Thursdays and Sundays for $1.89.
Burgers run from $1.69-$4.59, and sandwiches, including grilled cheese, pastrami and barbecue beef, are $1.49-$4.69.
Hoping to cheer myself up, I ordered a quarter-pound burger ($3.69), a fish-filet sandwich ($2.69), a taco ($1.49), a side of onion rings ($1.19), fries ($1.19) and a large vanilla shake, and found my way to a booth in the corner.
In short order, my meal was ready at the window. I took the two hefty white bags of food back to my table and unpacked, first pouring out the dozen or so little envelopes of catsup they’d thrown in on top.
All of it was, well, exactly what I needed to lift my spirits. Classic drive-in food, which reminded me of my childhood and carhops bringing trays of food out to the Bourride Citroen wagon (no carhops at Ron’s). The burger was huge and juicy and wonderful, the taco appropriately greasy, with iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, “taco meat” and a slice of processed cheddar cheese. Delicious. As was the shake. I felt much better.
As I left Ron’s I took one last look around, pausing for a moment at a mural on the back wall—an old, shiny 1950s car and short-skirted carhop, with handlettering above: “Cruisin'.”