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Johnsen's Blue Top Drive In — Highland IN

Johnsen's Blue Top Drive In — Highland IN
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  • Johnsen's Blue Top Drive In — Highland IN

    Post #1 - January 20th, 2007, 8:35 pm
    Post #1 - January 20th, 2007, 8:35 pm Post #1 - January 20th, 2007, 8:35 pm
    Real drive ins are a vanishing breed. In Chicago the great Superdawg is well known and loved. A while back I posted a bit on a less-known one, Frosted Mug in Alsip. There's another drive in not far from Chicago, Johnsen's Blue Top in Highland, that's never been discussed here. In fact, mentions of Blue Top on the internet are few and far between. It's a spectacular place in many ways and deserves to be better known. The current structure dates from the early 1960s though the business is considerably older.

    Driving either way on Indianapolis Boulevard it's hard to miss their monumental neon sign.

    Image

    The sign, like the rest of Blue Top, is perfectly maintained, every tube functional. We spoke with the owner who told us how she dreads wind storms.

    Image

    Blue Top is especially impressive at night. There's even a little flashing blue light on top.

    You can eat in your car, with food delivered by car hops. Although that's an attractive option, at least in warmer weather, it would be a shame to pass up their amazing dining room. I can't think of too many rooms around here that scream '60s like Blue Top, and the amazing thing is that nearly every detail is original.

    Image

    Inside, you can sit at the counter or booth (turquoise Naugahyde, of course) and eat off specially selected china (not original equipment but it fits in perfectly).

    Image

    The menu, which includes house made root beer, is heavy on ice cream creations.

    Image

    The black cow was a superior rendition (check out that rocky foam) but, man, is that root beer sweet! Despite one subpar malt experience, I'd say the shakes and malts are pretty good.

    Image

    We haven't tried much of the menu yet. Hoagies and tenderloins tempted but how can you visit Home of the Big Ben and not order one?

    Image

    The Big Ben is a good, old-fashioned double cheese burger, nothing life changing but tasty enough.

    Like many drive ins, Blue Top attracts vintage car enthusiasts.

    Image

    Strictly for food, I'm not sure Blue Top is worth a special trip but as a whole package the place is very special.

    Johnsen's Blue Top Drive In
    8801 Indianapolis Blvd (Route 41)
    Highland IN
    219-838-1233
  • Post #2 - January 20th, 2007, 11:01 pm
    Post #2 - January 20th, 2007, 11:01 pm Post #2 - January 20th, 2007, 11:01 pm
    HI,

    We had just finished a hamburger at Miner Dunn just a few blocks south. I was falling into a bit of a food coma, but I was snapped awake by the vision of the Blue Top Drive Inn. This neon beauty is like finding an oasis in a desert, it is so startling. Of course the car automatically turned into the parking lot for closer inspection.

    I share Rene G's surprise this drive inn is not touted as the jewel it is or maybe it is hidden to keep it to themselves? Whatever we did locate a historical marker on the lot, which I hope Rene G has a good picture.

    NWI is the land of delightful surprises!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #3 - January 21st, 2007, 9:32 am
    Post #3 - January 21st, 2007, 9:32 am Post #3 - January 21st, 2007, 9:32 am
    Great post, and great sleuthing. Gotta love these old places. I hope this one is safe from the encroaching mediocrity of development. I'd definitely make a detour for the Blue Top.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #4 - January 21st, 2007, 1:30 pm
    Post #4 - January 21st, 2007, 1:30 pm Post #4 - January 21st, 2007, 1:30 pm
    The mediocrity of development encroached on the area almost 60 years ago. Blue Top is on a busy stretch of Indianapolis Blvd, about two miles south of 80/94.

    It's interesting...I grew up about a mile from Blue Top, but I almost never went there because there were so many other better places for burgers and root beer. At that time Blue Top was a place to been seen, and my visits there were when vanity and ego trumped common sense (a common affliction of high-school boys).

    But since that time, virtually all the better places have closed (Park-Mor, Duffy's Castle, Dog n Suds, Tip-Top, etc) and Blue Top managed to survive. While I still go to Schoop's or The Pines for a burger, maybe once a year I'll stop at Blue Top for a float and re-live my high school days...
  • Post #5 - January 21st, 2007, 1:34 pm
    Post #5 - January 21st, 2007, 1:34 pm Post #5 - January 21st, 2007, 1:34 pm
    A few years ago I saw a billboard on the highway to Indiana Dunes promising an old-time drive-in type place not too far off the highway. I didn't catch the name-- all I knew was it wasn't Schoop's-- but made a point to watch for the billboard again.

    Of course, I've never seen it since, no matter how I look. But something, some tiny vestigial nanoparticle of memory, makes me think this was it. If not... at least it'll do.

    Thanks for the great post, great pics, and an upcoming stop for me and my family.
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  • Post #6 - January 21st, 2007, 2:13 pm
    Post #6 - January 21st, 2007, 2:13 pm Post #6 - January 21st, 2007, 2:13 pm
    There was a billboard on 80/94 for Park-Mor, which was at the corner of Cline Ave and Ridge Road. I'm pretty sure Park-Mor closed in the early '90s.
  • Post #7 - January 21st, 2007, 2:31 pm
    Post #7 - January 21st, 2007, 2:31 pm Post #7 - January 21st, 2007, 2:31 pm
    This was definitely more like 2002 or 2003, though the billboard could have long outlasted the restaurant, I suppose.
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  • Post #8 - January 21st, 2007, 3:06 pm
    Post #8 - January 21st, 2007, 3:06 pm Post #8 - January 21st, 2007, 3:06 pm
    Mike G wrote:A few years ago I saw a billboard on the highway to Indiana Dunes promising an old-time drive-in type place.

    I bet it was for "Pumps on 12" -
    Image
    an old gas station turned diner
    (though not a drive-in) just
    outside of Michigan City,
    in the small town of Pines,
    or maybe Beverly Shores,
  • Post #9 - January 21st, 2007, 4:44 pm
    Post #9 - January 21st, 2007, 4:44 pm Post #9 - January 21st, 2007, 4:44 pm
    HI,

    Looks like it may still be in business:

    Pumps on 12
    3085 W Dunes Hwy
    Michigan City, IN 46360

    (219) 874-6201

    Thanks ScubaChef!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #10 - January 21st, 2007, 8:22 pm
    Post #10 - January 21st, 2007, 8:22 pm Post #10 - January 21st, 2007, 8:22 pm
    I have never found much to recommend at Pumps but I am very happy to see these south suburbs/nw Indiana threads lately.
  • Post #11 - January 22nd, 2007, 5:26 pm
    Post #11 - January 22nd, 2007, 5:26 pm Post #11 - January 22nd, 2007, 5:26 pm
    I remember stopping at the Blue-Top a couple of times in the 70's when I lived in Hammond. The food was unremarkable although acceptable. I agree that it seemed more like the place to be seen, rather than fed.

    When I was a post-pubescent no-account growing up in Hobart, a few miles east of Highland, we had a number of interesting drive-ins to choose from. There was an A&W, a B&K, the Rocket, and Lojacks to name a few. Great places with good food and many fond memories.
    What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?
  • Post #12 - January 24th, 2007, 3:20 pm
    Post #12 - January 24th, 2007, 3:20 pm Post #12 - January 24th, 2007, 3:20 pm
    I'm glad that Blue-Top is finally getting props. Their malts are probably the best I've ever had.

    And is it just me, or does Super Dawg seem badly overpriced for not-that-awesome food?
  • Post #13 - January 24th, 2007, 4:44 pm
    Post #13 - January 24th, 2007, 4:44 pm Post #13 - January 24th, 2007, 4:44 pm
    I love Superdawg and don't think of it as being overpriced but I don't mind paying extra for the atmosphere and I also love their packaging. I've also never seen onion chips like theirs anywhere else.

    My mother lives in Lansing so I'm definitely checking out Blue-top the next time I visit her.
  • Post #14 - January 24th, 2007, 10:03 pm
    Post #14 - January 24th, 2007, 10:03 pm Post #14 - January 24th, 2007, 10:03 pm
    A few years ago I saw a billboard on the highway to Indiana Dunes promising an old-time drive-in type place not too far off the highway. I didn't catch the name-- all I knew was it wasn't Schoop's-- but made a point to watch for the billboard again.


    Maybe it was Redamak's?
    Writing about craft beer at GuysDrinkingBeer.com
    "You don't realize it, but we're at dinner right now." ~Ebert
  • Post #15 - January 24th, 2007, 10:19 pm
    Post #15 - January 24th, 2007, 10:19 pm Post #15 - January 24th, 2007, 10:19 pm
    Definitely not Redamak's, I'd have recognized that.
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  • Post #16 - January 24th, 2007, 10:50 pm
    Post #16 - January 24th, 2007, 10:50 pm Post #16 - January 24th, 2007, 10:50 pm
    Mike G wrote:A few years ago I saw a billboard on the highway to Indiana Dunes promising an old-time drive-in type place not too far off the highway. I didn't catch the name-- all I knew was it wasn't Schoop's-- but made a point to watch for the billboard again.


    There's a drive-in similar to Blue Top in Chesterton called Port Drive-In. It's not all that far from the dunes. Could this be it?

    Port Drive in
    (219) 926-3500
    419 N Calumet Rd
    Chesterton, IN
  • Post #17 - January 28th, 2007, 10:09 pm
    Post #17 - January 28th, 2007, 10:09 pm Post #17 - January 28th, 2007, 10:09 pm
    We hit Blue Top on the way back from mid-Indiana, through intermittent white-out conditions. It finally cleared, so we decided we could afford a detour off the interstate (I had a plane to catch at O'Hare).

    Blue Top is as charming as described above, perhaps more so. There's a lot of memorabilia from the old Rt30 Speedway, including some original trophies for sale.

    The burgers were a bit on the salty side for me, but tasty.

    The ice cream had its ups and downs. I highly recommend the root beer float, with house-made rootbeer with a lot of caramel and not so much wintergreen as a lot of pub brewed versions. MrsF's chocolate shake was less successful. She said it had a bit of a funny flavor that reminded her of a soda water, I thought perhaps it was just too weak on the chocolate syrup. The high-crested whipped cream above had another funny flavor. If it is real cream and not a "whipped topping" it has some serious stabilizers in it.

    All in all, a nice, cheap fast meal, with a lot of bonus kitch, bookending the drive-in experience at the start of the weekend in Peru, IN (see NW Indiana burger thread)
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #18 - March 8th, 2007, 5:02 pm
    Post #18 - March 8th, 2007, 5:02 pm Post #18 - March 8th, 2007, 5:02 pm
    I LOVE THIS PLACE . THEY HAVE , BY FAR THE BEST HOMEMAID ROOTBEER I HAVE EVER HAD . I THINK THEIR BURGERS / FOOD IS EXCELLENT AS WELL. I HAVE AN OLD MUSTANG AND IN THE SUMMER MONTHS YOU CAN FIND LOTS OF OLD CARS HERE. ITS NICE THAT YOU CAN GO BACK TO 1964 !
  • Post #19 - March 9th, 2007, 2:52 pm
    Post #19 - March 9th, 2007, 2:52 pm Post #19 - March 9th, 2007, 2:52 pm
    Speaking of drive-ins, has anybody been to Dog N Suds recently? There was one in Grayslake, which according to this Web site is still open. Wondering whether it is worth the drive once the weather warms up.
  • Post #20 - March 9th, 2007, 3:33 pm
    Post #20 - March 9th, 2007, 3:33 pm Post #20 - March 9th, 2007, 3:33 pm
    AlexG wrote:Speaking of drive-ins, has anybody been to Dog N Suds recently? There was one in Grayslake, which according to this Web site is still open. Wondering whether it is worth the drive once the weather warms up.


    An addition to the drive-in files: there's also a Dog n Suds in Charleston. It's one of those places I've always been curious about, but have never gone. They close down periodically when the students leave on vacation; always with signage sporting a "thanks for your patronage...see y'all real soon" type of fare-thee-well.
    Being gauche rocks, stun the bourgeoisie
  • Post #21 - March 10th, 2007, 6:54 pm
    Post #21 - March 10th, 2007, 6:54 pm Post #21 - March 10th, 2007, 6:54 pm
    dbrick59 wrote:I LOVE THIS PLACE . THEY HAVE , BY FAR THE BEST HOMEMAID ROOTBEER I HAVE EVER HAD . I THINK THEIR BURGERS / FOOD IS EXCELLENT AS WELL. I HAVE AN OLD MUSTANG AND IN THE SUMMER MONTHS YOU CAN FIND LOTS OF OLD CARS HERE. ITS NICE THAT YOU CAN GO BACK TO 1964 !

    Thanks for mentioning the old cars. In the summer the parking lot is filled with old classics, it is a great sight. If you love classic cars and an occasional motorcycle then stop by on a Friday night in July/August.
  • Post #22 - March 11th, 2007, 7:43 pm
    Post #22 - March 11th, 2007, 7:43 pm Post #22 - March 11th, 2007, 7:43 pm
    I posted something about Johnsen's Blue Top in this thread. After visiting it, we drove around Highland and the area for a bit, looking to see what else there was. Many Schoop's (quite a little chain, that), Miner-Dunn, some buildings that were clearly deceased drive-in places, and then something really surprising:

    Image

    A drive-in pizza place, where you pull up to a speaker, order pizza from your car, and have it delivered by carhop. Believe it or not, it's real and still in operation.

    Romano's Pizza
    3808 Ridge Rd
    Highland, IN 46322
    (219) 838-1731
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  • Post #23 - March 11th, 2007, 10:39 pm
    Post #23 - March 11th, 2007, 10:39 pm Post #23 - March 11th, 2007, 10:39 pm
    Romano's used to have really good hoagies. I haven't had one is many years even though I drive by the place very often.

    Their pizza is on the pricey side compared to Papa John's but people like it.

    Debby
  • Post #24 - April 13th, 2007, 7:41 am
    Post #24 - April 13th, 2007, 7:41 am Post #24 - April 13th, 2007, 7:41 am
    Blue Top to close, but not fade away
    Friday, April 13, 2007 2:58 AM CDT

    BY MARK KIESLING
    Times Columnist

    Shoo-bop, shoo-bop, the Blue Top is but a dream, shoo-bop, shoo-bop.

    The Highland drive-in, one of the last of the holdovers from the days when the automobile was still a relative novelty, is for sale, and Indianapolis Boulevard is never going to be the same when its doors close.
    More @ http://tinyurl.com/3bthyn

    Another article here http://tinyurl.com/2fjhkb
  • Post #25 - April 13th, 2007, 8:24 am
    Post #25 - April 13th, 2007, 8:24 am Post #25 - April 13th, 2007, 8:24 am
    That really is a shame that they are closing their doors. It's true that time and reconstruction of Indianapolis Blvd. have really cut into business for the Blue Top. I'm actually pretty embarrassed that I lived so close by for so many years without patronizing it once. Hopefully someone will buy the place and do justice by it, but I don't hold out much hope for that to happen.

    Any ambitious LTH-readers willing to take this on?
  • Post #26 - April 13th, 2007, 10:42 am
    Post #26 - April 13th, 2007, 10:42 am Post #26 - April 13th, 2007, 10:42 am
    ugh. you're JOKING. I could've eaten at Blue Top instead of El Amigo Mexicano yesterday for lunch.. :? And now it's being sold?
  • Post #27 - April 26th, 2007, 4:25 pm
    Post #27 - April 26th, 2007, 4:25 pm Post #27 - April 26th, 2007, 4:25 pm
    .....It's no longer open. The owner Arthur Lukowski passed away. Arthur, the inventor of the Oil Express concept and businesses, owned Johnsen's and Juicy Luicy's. He was a wonderful man! An immigrant and survivor of the Construction Camps in Europe; he is survived by his wife and children. So Johnsen's is for sale, if anyone wants it.
  • Post #28 - April 26th, 2007, 4:40 pm
    Post #28 - April 26th, 2007, 4:40 pm Post #28 - April 26th, 2007, 4:40 pm
    HI,

    Josephine and I were there for lunch on Saturday. I inquired about the asking price, the manager claimed he signed a non-disclosure agreement and couldn't respond.

    I will post images later.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #29 - April 26th, 2007, 4:45 pm
    Post #29 - April 26th, 2007, 4:45 pm Post #29 - April 26th, 2007, 4:45 pm
    HI,

    I just called Blue Top this moment. They are OPEN!

    Regards,
    CAthy
  • Post #30 - April 26th, 2007, 5:11 pm
    Post #30 - April 26th, 2007, 5:11 pm Post #30 - April 26th, 2007, 5:11 pm
    Cathy, while they still are open, they are for sale. Arthur was the owner. It's up to his wife, and son to sell now.

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