Snow White Drive-In Keeps 1950s Nostalgia Alive

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Photo by Snow White Drive In.

In the midst of all that is happening in the world, sometimes it’s nice to take a step back to a time that appears much simpler than today. One place where that can happen is Snow White Drive-In in Lebanon. It is the oldest restaurant in Wilson County, and its popularity has not diminished over time.

Frozen in the 1950s, the building was initially built by Wesley and Myrtle Vantrease with no dining area. The construction being done by Wesley and his two sons, Jerry and Bobby according to “Wilson Living Magazine.” Patrons in the early days had to go up to the window or blink their lights for a car hop. And the very first order was, according to the Vantreases’ son Jerry, four each of burgers, fries and cokes for $2.12.

After going through a number of other owners, the restaurant has been in the Wyatt family for about 20 years. Wyatt ownership began with the current owner, Sarah Wyatt-Moore’s mother, Anne Doherty Wyatt Birdwell, and Wyatt-Moore’s sister, Edie Oats. Between mother and daughter, the drive-in was owned for ten years by brother, Billy. Billy died about three years after selling the restaurant to his sister.

Sandra is a registered nurse who has a degree in organizational management, but she grew up in restaurants. From the age of eight she has been making cheeseburgers helping her mother when she owned Ann’s Kitchen and at the old Dairy Queen in Carthage, according to “The Wilson Post.”

When the Wyatt kids were growing, up their grandparents lived in Lebanon, and every Sunday they would stop at Snow White on the way home to East Nashville according to Billy Wyatt in a “Tennessee Crossroads” interview.

“I never dream one day I’d own it,” said Wyatt.

Just as Wyatt’s parents brought him to the Snow White when he was about six years old, it is still often filled with children and their parents, also first dates, and grandparents bringing their grandkids because they came as kids. It also gets a lot of tourists who have heard of it from others who have visited in the past.

“My daddy always took us here as kids 40-so years ago,” said Lori Dugan on Facebook. “It holds a special place in my heart. They have the best burgers, onion rings and ice cream cones. It’s become mine and my mom’s place to visit…”

The menu has basically remained the same, although over time recipes have changed and a few things have been added to the menu. Best known for handmade burgers and pulled pork barbecue, they also have daily special meat-and-three meals. These were added by Wyatt-Moore’s mother. A long-time favorite has been the chicken and dressing dinner. Everything is homemade. They do not use anything pre-packaged. It is all from scratch.

“[T]hey have a pretty full menu of American standards,” said one reviewer. “They make an excellent from-scratch burger here, way above the average for fast food…The prices are low, the milkshakes are yummy, the servers are terrific, and anybody who can make a patty melt that’s this good can probably be trusted to make every other kind of diner classic better than average.”

During the summer months, Snow White has classic car cruise-ins on Friday nights, which makes the place feel even more like something from American Graffiti. They also have music on warm nights.

There are not a lot of places like this left. And it almost went away. In 2014, the property owner was going to have the building razed and the land turned into a parking lot until there was great public out-cry. It has endured, and the owners plan to keep it as is for many years to come.

“It’s an icon, everyone knows where Snow White is,” said long-time employee Polly Barnes on Tennessee Crossroads. “It’s a big family place. It’s just one of those places everyone loves to come to.”

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