2650 Niles Avenue
St. Joseph, MI 49085
Monday-Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Students making the trip from campus to Saint Joseph’s Silver Beach will likely have at least noticed the Neon Grill, if only due to the fact that it is (to my knowledge) the only building in the area which has a car on its roof. The blue-green 1955 Chevy is not the only thing which makes the Neon Grill remarkable; it is also one of the few drive-through restaurants still in business. The Neon Grill’s selling point is its 1950s nostalgia, which it lays on heavily in its décor and menu.
Food: The Neon Grill is not necessarily ideal for people with specialized diets. The fries might be safe for gluten-restrictive diets, and there are only a couple of options for vegetarians, including the shakes, fries and onion rings, as well as a grilled cheese option. The fries were the best thing I sampled; the seasoned crinkle fries were delightful, and can also be covered in cheese and/or non-vegetarian chili. All of the ingredients of the Old Fashioned Deluxe Cheese Burger (a beef patty, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, olives, cheese and a sesame bun) were fresh. However, the burger was a bit overdone for my companion, and I would have appreciated a more flavorful experience. The onion rings are battered and very well-done, so much so that the onion was only a liminal element of the rings. This is preferable to some people, but I like thick, juicy onions in my onion rings. For dessert, the Neon Grill has Old Fashioned shakes (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and cherry) and floats (root beer, Coke and Sprite). I sampled the strawberry shake, which was made with exceptionally creamy ice cream and candy-sweet strawberry syrup that has likely never come in contact with actual strawberries. Even so, it was an enjoyable end to the meal.
Atmosphere & Service: While nostalgia generally makes me uncomfortable, the kitschy-ness of the Neon Grill is innocuous enough that it is still overall a pleasant experience. The color-scheme and décor of the establishment is steeped in this nostalgia, with ‘50s Coke advertisements and fonts surrounding the menus, in addition to the aforementioned Chevy adorning the roof. Because it is a drive-through, there is no seating available outside of one’s car, so one is not at the establishment for long. The service was quite quick, with all of our food coming to us less than ten minutes after ordering. The close proximity of the Neon Grill to Silver Beach makes it easy to take food the few extra minutes to eat in view of the lake or on the beach itself.
Price: The prices were generally standard for fast food. The burgers range from $3.59 for a regular Neon Burger (with ketchup, mustard, pickles and onion) to $4.59 for a Deluxe Neon Cheese Burger, plus an extra $2.50 for a bonus patty. The sizeable portion of fries is $2.39, plus $1.20 for cheese and chili, which is enough fries to share between two people. Likewise, the onion rings are $2.69, while a large shake or float, also plenty to share, is $3.05.
Overall: I will definitely be returning to the Neon Grill, if for nothing else, for more fries. I think it will actually be difficult for me to not drive through any time I am headed for the beach. The burgers and shakes were also good enough that, in stopping for fries, I may also be tempted into buying another, but I wouldn’t make a special trip for those. On the other hand, the fries might inspire me to go to the beach more often.