Johnnie's Drive-In was known as one of Elvis Presley's favorite hangouts during his childhood. Originally opened in 1945 by Johnnie Chism, Johnnie's Drive-In is Tupelo's oldest restaurant. Chism started the restaurant after he was discharged from the armed forces, and the site remains popular today. The restaurant is still serving the same great food that was served when Elvis dined there, allowing visitors to experience the Drive-In the way Elvis did during his younger years. Featured on the Elvis Presley Driving Trail, the restaurant is known as one of twelve important sites form the time of Elvis' youth.
Backstory and Context
The drive-in serves several different meals, all of which are considered Tupelo heritage dishes today. The restaurant is known to serve the same dishes that were popular when it first opened, giving visitors a taste of dining during the 1940s and 50s. Some of the dishes include barbecue, country fried steak, toasted cheese, and pimento cheese. One of the most famous dishes is known as the doughburger, a meal that dates back to the times when the restaurant opened. Rationing was still in effect when Johnnie's Drive-In opened, making food harder to come by. Beef was especially costly, having to be purchased with both money and ration coupons. In order to make beef last longer, it was mixed with flour before being cooked into burgers. This unique take on hamburgers is still being served at Johnnie's today, keeping a special piece of history alive for future generations to enjoy.
Alongside its historic significance as Tupelo's oldest restaurant, Johnnie's Drive-In is well known as an Elvis hangout. The restaurant even features a booth known as the Elvis Booth. On the wall next to the booth is a photo of Elvis sitting in the same booth in 1956. The photo was taken by Paul Cramer, a traveling jewelry salesman who happened to be next door to Johnnie's and hear that Elvis was eating there at the time. Cramer got Elvis' permission to take the photo, keeping it in his belongings until 1997, when he donated a copy to Johnnie's. Today, the photo hangs with an assortment of other photos and historic memorabilia, giving visitors a glimpse into the history of Tupelo and the Drive-In itself.
2. Johnnie's Drive-In. Tupelo. Accessed June 23, 2019. https://www.tupelo.net/vendor/johnnies-drive-in/.
3. Robinson, Kat. Road Eats Johnnie's Drive In, Tupelo, MS-Where Elvis Ate. Tie Dye Travels. March 19, 2015. Accessed June 24, 2019. http://www.tiedyetravels.com/2015/03/johnnies-drive-in.html.