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Drive-in Restaurants

The development of the drive-in was another important milestone in the evolution of the fast-food restaurant and the design of roadside food stands.  Curb service dining, where customers pulled up in their car and food was brought out by a waiter, led to the development of a distinctive drive-in-restaurant building type.  The building type consisted of a rectangular or circular building around which customers parked their cars.  A large, illuminated pylon or sign was centrally located on the peaked roof.  One of the most noticeable architectural improvements to the postwar drive-in was the awning addition that provided shelter for cars and car hops.

Roadside Highlight: Penguin Drive-in, Manitowoc


The Penguin Drive-in
as is it appeared
c.1999. Courtesy of
the Wisconsin Historical
Society, Jim Draeger.
The Penguin Drive-in Restaurant, located at 3900 Calumet Avenue in Manitowoc, is a successful drive-in restaurant that evolved from a small food stand.  In 1936 Harold and Leila Weyer opened their first roadside custard stand on old USH 141.  The couple showed free drive-in movies behind the small roadside stand to attract customers.  In 1946 the Weyers replaced the food stand with an enclosed drive-in.  The name "Penguin" was chosen to trade on the popularity of the handmade frozen custard served at the drive-in.  The original drive-in building burned in 1961 and was replaced that same year.  Indoor seating was added in 1973, which has allowed the restaurant to stay open year-round.  As the business grew in popularity and size over the years, it has evolved into a family restaurant from a simple drive-in stand.

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