People's Choice Winner for Best Hot Dog's & Coney's for Consecutive Years Since 2002!
It was 1960. We saw the first-ever televised presidential debates and the first “Flintstone’s” TV episode. And Max & Nellie Brown opened South Lyon’s first drive-in restaurant. Teen-aged car hops in Capri pants and bobby socks delivered food on trays that hooked onto half-open car windows.
“Hot dogs and French fries were 25 cents. A frosty glass of root beer was only 5 cents,” recalls Ed Brown, Max’s son and the current owner of Brown’s Root Beer.
Although Ed was only 10 when the restaurant opened, he began working right away. “I’ve done everything from sweeping the floor to washing dishes and waiting on tables.” He smiled as he remembered opening day: “The root beer machine broke that day.” Customers had to settle for A&W Orange as they relaxed in their cars.
Judy (Garrett) Cain, who now works at Creative Hair, was a car hop at the A&W for three summers in the 1960’s. “Oh, I loved working there. It was just like family, they cared about us, and we had a lot of fun. We made 75 cents, plus tips.”
The original menu offered only four choices: hot dogs, chili dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers. By 1965, customers could get a fish or BBQ sandwich (40 cents), a chicken sandwich (50 cents) or a foot-long hot dog (45 cents, or with chili, 50 cents). Today the menu offers over 40 different entrees, including shrimp dinners and chicken nuggets. Other changes over the years? Outdoor service ended in 1972, and Ed took over from his dad in 1978. Ed has continually expanded, not just the menu but also the building. He expanded the south to allow for a counter and row of those old-fashioned spinning stools that kids love.
Later, he expanded to the east to create room for inside dining tables and booths. Throughout the cozy restaurant, Ed’s fondness for the “olden days” is obvious. The Juke box is gone but they play oldies as background music.
Nostalgia decorates the walls: old metal root beer signs, old A&W mugs, and drawings of classic cars. Near the front door, a gas pump contains a small display of everyday items, most from old businesses in South Lyon and quite a few of them were given to Ed by customers. Some have found items in their homes when a parent has passed and really didn't know what to do with it but knew that it was history and didn't want to throw it out. Check out the old milk bottle collection, some from long gone dairies in the South Lyon area, match books, lighters, maps and an old South Lyon phone directory.
So, go to Brown’s for the memories, go for the music, go for Ed’s friendly smile. But mostly, go for the fast, fresh food. But don’t go Sunday, though. Good, old-fashioned Ed believes a person should rest on the seventh day.