Edwards’ Drive-In’s Dashboard Diner takes customers back to the days of poodle skirts, sock hops and the dawn of rock ‘n roll with a timeless menu and a classic aesthetic that wouldn’t look at all out of place in the late 1950s.
The heart of that iconic time in American pop culture is retained in the Edwards’ food truck, which carries on the legacy of the restaurant’s late founder, Herb Edwards. With the drive-in restaurant having recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, the Dashboard Diner hopes to continue a proud legacy, showing Indy residents and visitors that great food and quality customer service have never gone out of style.
Jeff Edwards, who co-owns the restaurant with his sister Terri, took a few minutes to talk about the business, which gained national exposure when it was featured on Man v. Food in 2010. About two years later, the Dashboard Diner hit the streets and the rest, as they say, is history.
Q: Edwards Drive-In’s Dashboard Diner retains the same 1950s feel as the famed original restaurant on S. Sherman Dr. in Indy. How do you balance nostalgia and your restaurant’s vintage feel with the needs of today’s more health-conscious consumer?
A: I am not sure we do. We have added the Dash wraps to our menu after many requests from our food truck customers.
Q: From hand-breaded tenderloins to homemade root beer, the Dashboard Diner takes the beloved drive-in restaurant’s famous menu on the road. What are some other customer favorites?
A: Well, of course, our Hand Dipped Onion Rings — always fresh, not frozen — and the breaded pickle chips have become very popular.
Q: Jeff and Terri are the third generation to operate Edwards Drive-In. What did they learn about the business from their father (Tom Edwards) and grandfather, and how has that helped them continue to make the business thrive?
A: I think Dad taught us many things, but the one thing that sticks out the most is that nothing comes easy. We have been given an opportunity to touch many people with what we do and the food we serve. We are very mindful that our customers can eat anywhere, so we stress the importance to treat each customer the best we can.
Q: What do you like most about the Statehouse Market?
A: I love the variety of food trucks and how the people who visit enjoy what we do.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge in operating a food truck alongside an accompanying business? What has been the most rewarding part of that work?
A: I think the hardest part is getting the people who work for you to have the same passion that we have. Rewarding… well, I would have to say the place we have taken our business since our dad’s passing in 2012. We lost our restaurant in 2010 in a very bad fire at about the same time my dad was experiencing the early effects of Alzheimer’s, so Terri and I challenged ourselves to create a spin on a modern day diner — something Dad always wanted to do. Then Man v. Food came along and made us a worldwide name, which led to the Dashboard Diner and the Super Bowl. We have been blessed in many ways and we have learned to take none of it for granted.