In July of 1993 the food stand at Zoar Beach on Route 34 in Stevenson changed management and was renamed Lake Zoar Drive-In by new owner, Michael Basso. Our focus was on building a menu around an already popular spot for a good burger. “When I decided to take over the stand the three things I did not want to change was the burger, Hummel Hot Dogs, and La Touraine brand coffee,” says Mike. “The regular customers that were frequenting the Drive-In already enjoyed these items so why mess with a good thing. Our attention was on building an establishment that was clean, friendly, and a great staff that offered a variety of high quality food at the most reasonable prices possible.” Over the first few years we focused solely on perfecting the menu, such as adding a few more specialty burgers, and putting a signature on our dogs by adding two types of chili, a ‘middle of the road’ recipe that everyone could enjoy, and our Texas Chili that brought the heat.
We also added a selection of sandwiches and dinners, plus more Drive-In favorites, such as Chicken Cutlets, Gyros, Lobster Rolls, and Steak and Cheese, just to name a few. Also, let’s not forget a great breakfast menu that includes sandwiches and platters that promise to satisfy. It was just then that we knew we had something good going, because we started receiving a number of awards and accolades. We were voted “Best Burger in Fairfield County” by the readers of the Fairfield County Weekly two years in a row, before the publication changed the categories. We were also voted “Best Hot Dog” in the area by the listeners of WICC radio station. We have had the pleasure of being mentioned and reviewed by our customers and others on numerous web sites and in publications. In 2003, critic Michael Sterns of Roadfoods.com graced us with a visit and wrote the following review: “Thanks to local tipsters, we finally found our way to the Lake Zoar Drive-In and plowed into the celebrated Zoar Burger. What is it, you ask? It's a quarter-pound beef patty cooked to order and topped with cheese and bacon plus lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard, all on a great big hard roll.” He continued by saying, “Honestly, we like the hot dogs more than the burgers. Zoar offers regular and foot-long Hummels cooked to taut, pink goodness and topped with whatever you like. Our foot long with "the works" was buried under onions, sauerkraut, mustard, and relish. Of course, bacon and cheese are also available.” He finishes with “The ambience we like about this drive-in is less about natural beauty than about the charm of a roadside burger joint that takes pride in what it does.”
It was a shock to all when French Bakery of Stratford suddenly closed. We were forced to scramble for a substitute roll, none of which came close to the quality we were use to. Our persistence to find a quality roll paid off when Chaves’ Bakery of Bridgeport picked up the torch and the recipe from French’s. After months of trial and error the roll we had come to expect from French’s was now available once again. In 2007 we took a leap and started serving soft serve ice cream. After hours of research we decided on the 24 Flavor System. This allowed us to offer a wide variety of flavors, which continues to grow. We are able to choose from over 60 different flavors. Not many places are able to offer this many flavors of soft serve, such as Cotton Candy, German Chocolate Cake, Pistachio, and Black Cherry, just to name a few. This has proven to be a great addition. One more plus is we are able to make as many different flavored shakes.
We once vowed never to change our Hot Dogs, however in 2008 we did. After a 3 week customer blind taste test, and lots of thought on our part, we changed to Mom & Pop’s Brand hot dogs. The Hoffman Provision Co. of Bridgeport, which distributed the Hummel Products, now had there own line of quality meats. The Mom & Pop brand was well received and the change over was seamless. Our customers love them, as evidenced by our “Top Dog Award.” This past year we were fortunate to be voted “Top Dog in Connecticut.” Thanks to the listeners of Jerry Kristafer's Morning Show on DRC-FM 102.9, being voted the second highest in the state. Then it kept getting better; we were mentioned in the Connecticut Magazine’s July 2008 edition in the article Summer Delights by Elise Maclay. She wrote, “And what would summer be without a refill or two at the Lake Zoar Drive-In in Sandy Hook, where we can count on chef Mike Basso's devotion to the foods we hate to admit we adore. If it's salty and greasy, or sweet and outrageously yummy, he'll cook it and it will taste like it used to in the good old days: the Zoar Burger, the superthick milk shake, the foot-long hot dog to eat on a paper plate at a table or on the dashboard of your car.” Now as we enter 2009 you will see that we have spent the winter putting in some long hours to give a fresh new look to the Drive-In. New as of last year, our customers can access us from one of the docks out back at the Zoar Beach Marina. Just get dropped off, pick-up some food, and return to your fun on the lake. We are hopeful for prosperity and health for all our customers old and new. We hope to see you often and, as always, you can trust that you will be greeted by the same friendly staff serving the same great menu!