Summer is off and running for Mary Brusoe of Delanson.
“A Jackburger is the beginning of summer, it starts early,” said Brusoe, as she waited for one of the famous double-decker hamburgers at Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-in restaurant in Scotia late Tuesday morning. “It’s a tradition, for more years than I care to count.”
The tradition is different for Jack fans this spring. Due to coronavirus precautions, the celebrated drive-in on Schonowee Avenue missed its normal late March opener.
To ensure safety for customers, cooks and cashiers, restaurant managers have asked all visitors to remain in their cars, trucks and vans. Customers now phone in their orders, receive notification through phone or radio signal their food is ready, then drive to the rear of the restaurant’s ice cream building and grill house to pick up the goods.
Cars, trucks and vans were already in Jack’s big parking lot at 10:30 a.m., 30 minutes before the 11 a.m. starting time. Schenectady resident Nick Barone had two reasons for showing up.
“The food and to get out of the house,” said Barone, who waited in a car with friend Colleen Haffner. “We got here at 10 a.m., there was nobody here so we left and came back.”
Mark Lansing Jr., the restaurant’s general manager, appreciated the large volume of calls Jack’s staffers received during the first hour of operation.
“We’re really excited to finally be open, and excited to hear that people want to come down and give us a call and get their orders in,” said Lansing, dressed in a face mask and navy blue Jumpin’ Jack’s ball cap and T-shirt.
“We ask for your patience,” Lansing also said. “The new system, we’re still making sure the phones work, we’re still making sure the radio signal gets out as good as it can. If you can’t get a good radio signal, the transmitter is in our warehouse, so maybe the front lot isn’t the best place, you can get better reception someplace else.”
The new routine means no walk-up service. People can’t lean on the front counter and watch the grill team flip hamburgers and dip potatoes in hot oil. Tuning in 1000 on the AM dial will give people Jumpin’ Jack’s on the radio.
“At this point, nobody’s out of their cars,” Lansing said. “This is so drastically different for us, we wanted to start small and get it right with as few variables as possible. Then, when we’re up and running, hopefully we can add to the menu, put some more items back on.
“Obviously, we want people outside,” Lansing added. “We understand the draw of our restaurant. It’s outside, it’s by the river, it’s summer weather. I don’t want people stuck in their cars any more than they want to be stuck in their cars right now, but it’s the way it is and we feel like in your cars is the safest, best thing for right now.
“Hopefully, in a month, maybe sooner, we can let people out of their cars and put the tables back out. But that’s not up to us right now.”
Trish Isabella and her daughter Katie found a parking spot in the front row. They drove their van from Johnstown to Scotia for fish fries.
“We were here at 11 o’clock, we have three phones going trying to get an order in,” Trish said. “All of them are busy, but it’s worth the wait.”
“It’s a new system, but we’ll get used to it,” said Paul Taylor of Scotia, whose opening day lunch companion was young son Giovanni.
Carrie White of Glenville brought the family. Son Mason turned 7, and celebrated with chicken tenders. “We’re trying to get through, we have two phones going,” White said.
Several people said they would order the foods they always order during their first spring visit to Jack’s. That meant coleslaw-topped Jackburgers, cheese dogs, “Balantine” (a triple order of onion rings), “twister fries” (curly fried potatoes) and “whistle fries” (shrimp fries).
Others wanted the chance for summer-style lunches and dinners, and the opportunity to help out a business during the COVID-19 spring.
Mary Brusoe didn’t mind waiting for her order.
“I’m just glad they’re open,” she said. “It makes it feel a little more normal.”
Contact staff writer Jeff Wilkin at 518-641-8400 or at [email protected]