Simonton Lake Drive-In opens for the 2016 season Tuesday in Elkhart

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By: Tori Fater
tfater@flavor574.com

Elkhart Truth photo

Starting this week, you can take a break from the day with a frosty mug of root beer at Simonton Lake Drive-In in Elkhart. The drive-in restaurant opens for the season at 11 a.m. Tuesday, with burgers, fries and root beer on tap.

It’s opening about a week later than usual after wrapping up a huge remodeling effort. An ice storm in December ripped a hole in the roof and caused a major water leak, co-owner Jason Hoff said. So contractors have been working nights and weekends to get the restaurant ready for customers again. That includes new insulation, a new roof and new lighting to get the building up to modern requirements.

“We basically had to redo everything,” he said. “It’s been a mad rush.”

Some of the changes have created challenges (the ceiling was dropped about 10 inches, which meant the restaurant lost some shelf storage space) but other changes this year will make dinner at the drive-in more accessible for some customers.

Simonton Lake Drive-In has new ordering software and hardware that means servers can take orders over the phone at the same time someone at the restaurant is placing another order.

A new portable ordering device means a few of Hoff’s regulars who are hearing-impaired (and usually write down their menu choices) can have a faster and more accessible way to order, he said.

The restaurant will have its usual menu items — the classic frosted mugs of root beer, of course, plus milkshakes, sandwiches and more — and they’re adding a blood orange sorbet to the weekly flavors.

While business is usually pretty steady in the first couple weeks of the season, Hoff said more people head to the drive-in as summer weather approaches.

“The warmer it is the busier we are,” he said.

The drive-in is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m in the spring and fall and stays open until 10 p.m. when summer hits. You can pick up a plate at 51602 S.R. 19 in Elkhart, just south of Simonton Lake.

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