I had my first dolphin boat and milkshake from John’s Drive-in in Kitty Hawk today. The sun was shining when I ordered, the sound of the surf just over the dunes a wonderful reminder of how great it is to live by the sea. The girl who took my order was perky and seemed happy to see me—in short, all was right in the world.

What is so wonderful about the food from John’s Drive-in is there seems to be no concession to any the latest health craze—the straw collapsed as I tried to sip my shake and the dolphin and fries are deep-fried and a little bit salty. Probably not food to eat everyday, but as an occasional treat on a beautiful day be the beach, it doesn’t get any better.

There are other drive-ins along the Beach Road and they’re not bad at all. Down in Nags Head there’s Dune Burger and Snowbird, and they’re worth visiting. Off the Beach Road, on the Bypass in Kill Devil Hills there’s Kill Devil’s Frozen Custard and Beach Fries. Real authentic frozen custard and the burgers are wonderful.

But there is something about John’s that speaks to a different time and a different place—a time when we were 10 years old, sitting on a picnic table talking to our mom or dad about all the things we wanted to do on vacation this year. It’s doubtful if it was a better time, but the memory is wonderful.