BRUNSWICK — Even though the first official day of spring was cloudy and cold, the Fat Boy parking lot on Bath Road was still full of cars with their windows halfway down, black wire trays hanging on the glass.
Like ice thawing on the Androscoggin River, or pulling rubber boots out of the closet, a visit to Fat Boy, which opened in 1955, has been a spring ritual for decades.
“I’ve been coming since I was 10, 11 years old,” said Tim May, who visited Fat Boy on Monday with his dog, Jed. May said he tried to order take-out from Fat Boy on Friday night, but the drive-in was so busy that the owners took the phone off the hook.
Everyone at Fat Boy seems to have their favorites, and May has distinct orders for lunch and dinner. At lunch, he opts for the BLT, double cheeseburger and onion rings. At dinner he goes for chicken nuggets. He’ll get a coffee frappe any time.
It’s this kind of loyalty that keeps the drive-in in business, owner Ken Burton said.
“Everybody loves Fat Boy’s,” he said. “If they’ve been here once they’ll be back.”
While Burton experiments with adding new items to the menu – last year he added pulled pork – he admits that most of the time people don’t even read the menu when they order.
“They just order what they always order, never realizing I’ve added something,” he said.
Freeport resident Leanne Chenard’s favorite is a chocolate frappe, a BLT, cheeseburger and onion rings. Her husband, Ron, enjoys the same thing, minus the frappe.
Leanne, who grew up in Topsham, said she used to come to Fat Boy when she was in high school. She said the owners “haven’t done a thing to change the building.” She even pointed out a fake owl sitting on the roof to scare off sea gulls, something that’s been there for years.
Talking to Fat Boy’s customers, one gets the sense that the lack of change is what brings them back year after year. The same menu, advertising “Whopers,” frappes, and of course the famous BLT made with Canadian bacon, still hangs beneath the green-and-white-striped awning. Waitresses scurry between the kitchen and the cars, where customers turn their headlights on for service.
The one thing that has changed is the clientele. With the departure of the Brunswick Naval Air Station staff, there is a notable absence of sailors and their families at the drive-in.
Burton said business was “a little slower than normal” last fall, but that last summer was steady.
“Over the whole year you might get 5 percent overall less than the year before,” he said, but there has been no sudden decline.
As difficult as it is to imagine, there are still area residents who are making first-time visits to Fat Boy.
Caitlyn Gibson, of Bowdoin, is one of those. She ordered a lobster roll with her friend, Shelby Morin, from Harpswell. By the time a reporter caught up with the women, all that remained of their lunch was ketchup-stained napkins.
“We’ll be back,” they both said.
Whenever they do, it’s almost guaranteed that nothing will have changed.
The decor at Fat Boy drive-in in Brunswick hasn’t changed in generations.
Leanne Chenard has been coming to Fat Boy since she was in high school. She and her husband, Ron, said they like that things haven’t changed much.
Ranae Tardiff delivers lunch to Tim May and dog Jed at Brunswick’s Fat Boy drive-in.