Red Line Review: my version of Diners, Drive-ins, and dives!

Hello world! Last weekend, I visited my aunt and uncle’s house located in Chautauqua New York, which is approximately one and a half hours from Buffalo. They told me about a local establishment called Red Line which makes very good hamburgers. While I understand that some of you might not be able to visit Red Line, I really enjoyed my experience there and I would like to describe it:

Background:
Red Line is located between Chautauqua and Mayville New York. They are only open from May 27 thru Labor Day each year. It opened in the 1960’s, and according to their website: “By the mid 70’s there were 600 of these little drive in restaurants in 38 states and Canada.” The Red Line drive in was renovated six years ago and the result is a “retro” atmosphere: Rock ‘n Roll music, carhop service, some waitresses use roller skates, and an outdoor dining area featuring refurbished truck bench seating! (They also have counter service inside, but the outdoor experience seemed superior to me.)

Red Line
Route 394 (The website does not list an address)
4.5 stars out of 5 stars

Sound: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars: I heard a myriad of sounds while waiting for my food at Red Line. The most obvious sounds were the music of Elvis Presley being played and the sizzle of the hamburgers which were being prepared. However, after a few minutes I could hear other things too: laughter (possibly of children), the wind, and the little signs of nature which occur in more rural environments. All in all, these sounds made me feel very relaxed.

Scent: 4 stars out of 5 stars: Naturally, the main scent at Red Line was that of great food, especially the hamburgers. I enjoyed this, but on the other hand, it made me anticipate the food even more.

Touch: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars: I would normally take off points for a restaurant whose chairs and benches are all hard, but I suppose that I can forgive Red Line because of their attempt to feel so old fashioned. The texture of my food was excellent: a well cooked and slightly crisp hamburger, a bun which was soft but worked well enough to hold the burger in place, and very crispy sweet potato fries. Red Line really represents what the restaurant experience should be:
1. Friendly service
2. Accommodating staff
3. Cooking your food to order
4. Fresh and high quality ingredients.

Vibe: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars: I particularly enjoyed the ambiance at Red Line: there was a real old fashioned feeling about the whole experience which to some extent is beyond words. The table and chairs were very quaint, I could hear the music of Elvis Presley being played, and the service was so friendly and efficient which is a rare thing. (Of course my order reflected my picky nature: substitutions, taking off certain items, and requesting specific toppings not mentioned on the menu) The location is remote, at least by my urban standards, and the environment was rather quiet which I thought was a nice change. (The fact that there was a very nice breeze didn’t hurt either.)

Taste: 4 stars out of 5 stars: As you might know, the most important element of the dining experience for me is taste. Therefore, even if all of the other sensory elements were excellent, I could not honestly give a restaurant a high score for its overall review without great food. Fortunately for Red Line, the taste of my meal was better than I even expected.
All of the hamburgers at Red Line start with 100% fresh premium angus beef. They are flame broiled to order and are served on hearty Costanza rolls. There are two sizes of hamburgers available here: a quarter pound patty or a half pound patty. Normally I would immediately go for the half pound burger; however I ate lunch at 3 pm so I figured that I should try the quarter pound patty instead. I ordered the value meal: a quarter pound hamburger with your choice of cheese, French fries, and a drink. I asked for Swiss cheese as well as sautéed onions which is a topping that is not mentioned on the menu. I requested sweet potato fries instead of French fries which turned out to be a good decision. (Red Line makes four varieties of fries, I tasted two different kinds from people at the table which were both very good but I am a big fan of sweet potato fries.) From my first bite, I could taste the quality of the food: the smoky char of a properly cooked hamburger was combined by the mild flavor of well melted Swiss cheese and the sweetness of sautéed onions. I particularly enjoy hamburgers when they are just a bit crispy on the outside, such as in this case. It just seemed that Red Line did everything right when it came to the food. (Side note: it helps when you lower your expectations: I was predicting a slightly above average meal before my food arrived, possibly due to my doubt regarding the quality of an establishment in such a remote location. This could represent a golden rule of life which I often ignore: lower your expectations in order not to be disappointed.) These sweet potato fries characterize the model of all such fries to me: crispy on the outside, thickly cut, definitely fresh, and seasoned slightly. Restaurants in New York City: take note!

If you take one thing away from this review, just remember that you can find excellent food even in a small or out-of-the-way location. Thanks for reading!
Dan

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