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Middletown's New Sonic Drive-In Revs Up For Business (Video)

On Sunday, Middletown's mayor officially welcomes the retro drive-thru, serviced by skating waiters.

Jay and Cathy Grillo of Keansburg were parked in their car at noon Sunday, feasting on grilled cheese and Tater Tots with ketchup, at Middletown's new Sonic, a new outpost of the national burger fast food chain that features delivery by 1950s-style carhops on roller skates. 

It was their second trip to the fast-food restaurant since it opened 10 days ago. 

"I like the carhops. It brings back a little face-to-face atmosphere. It's more personal," said Jay Grillo through his rolled down window. His wife was more blunt. "I'm pregnant," she said. "I had a craving." 

Sonic was officially welcomed to the neighborhood by Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting, on the day after a snowstorm left mounds of snow on its lot located in front of the Bed Bath and Beyond shopping center at Route 35 and Harmony Road. 

It won't take long for business to heat up, said franchise owner Anthony Cirillo of Freehold. The warm weather will bring customers streaming in. To prepare Sonic has hired about 120 people - mostly teens on limited schedules -- to work the fryers, scoop ice cream and serve customers. Beginning April 1, the drive-in will be open 24 hours a day.

Cirillo, with his wife Karen, have launched Sonic Drive-Ins in Tinton Falls, Howell and Edison. Future projects are a Sonic for Paige Avenue in Staten Island, and perhaps a presence on the Point Pleasant or Seaside boardwalks.

"This is going to be one of our best ones, because we have the Route 35 highway traffic," said Cirillo, on Sunday. To avoid backed-up traffic on the busy roadway, customers seeking to park and eat are directed to enter from the Harmony Road side. Drive-thru customers are supposed to enter from Route 35 side. 

The Middletown Sonic has 17 drive-in stalls, where customers in cars place their orders by pushing a red button and shouting their order into a speaker. There is an outdoor patio with six tables. Speakers broadcast pop music. 

Breakfast is served all day. The company says some of the most popular items, day or night, is a Breakfast Burrito, Toaster Sandwiches (sandwiches served on thick Texas Toast), Footlong Quarter Pound Coneys (hot dogs with chili and cheese) and the Frozen Favorites treats.

Originally called Top Hat Drive-In, Sonic began in Shawnee, Oklahoma as a hamburger and root beer stand in 1953. It has now has more than 3,500 locations in 43 states.

The drive-in’s operating hours are 7 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 

Skrut February 12, 2013 at 12:55 PM
You're already in trouble with some of these clowns since you used the word overdeveloped. Didn't you get the text. Just let building go unimpeded. We need 5 of every business in a town of approx. 64,000.
NJarhead February 12, 2013 at 01:15 PM
HA! Hey pot, it's kettle; you're black. Like I said, you if don't like Middletown, or the people in it, then go back to where you came from. It's a win-win.
Jack February 12, 2013 at 01:38 PM
They have the old Steak and Ale building just sitting there wasting away can't see why it wouldn't be worth fighting with Middletown Anti Business Vigilonte Group to have a Ruby Tuesday put there your worrying about $80K this will add new jobs to the town. You want to complain about waste of taxes payer money? What about that new ice stake rink building they are put there at the Swim Club plus you have too join up just to be able to Stakes there. Just a waste of time and money that things is Sooo big what a waste of room.
NJarhead February 12, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Jack, the ice rink was built privately as Middletown sold the Swim & Tennis club.
paul heyman February 12, 2013 at 02:53 PM
The theater in middletown is now target and is much better. The theater in hazlet is a 1 mile away - would it have been better for you if they built it in union square? Still middletown but further away. Ruby Tuesdays has a great avocado turkey burger. Problem with walmart is the urban people.

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