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Hidden Gem: Stratford residents still lining up at Erie Drive In 53 years later

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This is part of an ongoing summer series. Come back each week to learn about another hidden gem.

The Erie Drive In is what some might call the best kept secret in Stratford.

The food truck-style establishment, boasting famous foot long hotdogs on its iconic sign, has been an Erie Street landmark for over 50 years.

“The oldest articles we could find say The Erie Drive In apparently was established in 1971 on April 15,” said co-owner Mike Bayer. “So we’re in our 53rd year.”

Mike and his wife Cathy bought The Erie nine years ago and despite being the fourth owners, not much has changed throughout the decades.

“We’re trying to keep it as original and old fashioned as possible,” Mike said. “We hate even changing anything on the inside, like the counters or anything. It’s the old, orange countertops still. It’s very original and we really try to keep to that.”

The Erie Drive In located in Stratford, Ont. (Stefanie Davis/CTV Kitchener)

When the opportunity came up to purchase the local landmark, the couple said it was a no-brainer.

“It’s always been a place to go. The Erie Drive In ice cream, The Erie Drive In hot dogs,” Cathy explained. “I always enjoyed coming here with my grandparents and with my kids, so it’s an honour and a privilege.”

Mike has similar memories from his youth.

“It’s always been an interesting place. Even when I went to high school, after school we’d come up here for ice cream,” he said. “It just felt natural when the opportunity [to buy it] came up.”

The Bayers aren’t the only locals with lasting memories of The Erie.

Tony Lang has been a customer for decades.

“Many, many years ago when we were young, this was always a spot to check out,” he recalled. “Always good food, never let you down and the prices were quite comparable too. So it was just awesome and it’s always maintained that.”

The Erie Drive In's famous foot long hotdog. (Stefanie Davis/CTV Kitchener)

Tom Hunt said he and his wife have been visiting The Erie since the 1970s and still come about twice a month when the seasonal restaurant opens.  

“We used to come on dates 40-something years ago,” Hunt added.

Jack Rankin, who works at a nearby construction company, said The Erie is a common lunchtime favourite for his coworkers.

He first visited the spot when he was just a kid.

“I would have been like 10 or 12. You’re coming in here in the summer before and after ball games, before going to any sporting event,” he recalled. “It’s much later now so it’s not the same, but every time we come here we love it. Now with the guys, usually once a week we try and come visit these local spots.”

The Bayers said their goal is to keep both their customers and employees happy.

“Some staff say it’s like home and that’s what we’ve always tried to make it – that it’s a job, but it’s still home,” Cathy explained.

The Erie Drive In is open from March to October each year and closes over the winter.

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