Cruise in for Cruise Night

Attention muscle heads, old car buffs and anyone who likes to eat ice cream while they look at shiny pretty stuff:

If you have not been to Cruise Night at the Lakeview Drive Inn you are missing out. Seriously.

I don’t know how it got started, but every Wednesday night all summer long the parking lot at Lakeview is filled with cool old cars and a sea of people gawking at them. There are hot rods and street rods and flashy paint jobs and some motorcycles to boot, and driving into that parking lot on Cruise Night is like getting teleported straight back to 1955.

But see, it’s not just the cars that do it. The Lakeview Drive Inn on Sarnia Street next to Lake Park is iconic – a landmark – an institution in Winona. It is Winona’s oldest restaurant, opened in 1938 by Emil Berzinski. Emil had this secret recipe for root beer, and nobody knew how he made it but everybody loved it. Back in those days a hot dog was a nickle and a root beer float was a dime, and Emil prided himself on the Lakeview’s homemade freshness. More than 70 years later, Emil’s root beer stand is still going strong, owned by the Glowcsewski family and treated with the same kind of pride Emil poured in 70-something years ago.

A root beer float isn’t a dime anymore, but a car hop will still bring it right out to your window, sometimes even on roller skates. I have to say, I admire those girls a great deal, because if I tried to do that when I was 17 I’d be laying on the ground a lot with root beer all over me. Okay, you’re right – if I tried to do it today it would be even more disastrous. I tip the girls with skates on extra because they’re really good at it, and because I know the only tip people would give me would be that I should take off the roller skates.

Anyway – in a world where chain food has gobbled up mom and pop places and fresh has been overtaken by mass production, the Lakeview Drive Inn has it going on, secret root beer and all. No neon signs, no obnoxious animal spokespeople, no jingles that stick in your head and make you feel like you might go insane (and you know which ones I’m talking about) — just warm, folksy charm and really flippen awesome root beer. And burgers. I love their burgers. And their onion rings.

Sitting at the Lakeview Drive Inn feels like the way this country used to be 50 years ago – or at least what I imagine it felt like (because I’m not 50, thank you very much, but I *have* seen Happy Days). Maybe that’s why Cruise Night became such an incredible hit and all those people started pulling up in their cool rides – Lakeview reminds everyone of the old days and the old ways, the only thing missing was the cars.

Learn more about it for yourself at

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