Polk-A-Dot Drive In: 1950s Diner Home Of Famous Chili Cheese Fries

BRAIDWOOD — What do Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Superman, James Dean, Betty Boop, “Joliet” Jake Blues and his brother Elwood all have in common? They’re life-sized statues, gracing the presence of Braidwood’s beloved roadside diner, Polk-A-Dot Drive In On Route 66.

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Polk-A-Dot has remained a fixture along the old historic Route 66 since opening in 1956. The nostalgic 1950s roadside restaurant draws its share of area residents and more than its share of international tourists.

On Thursday morning, a two-person paramedic crew from Braceville’s Fire Protection District parked the red ambulance in front of the giant Elvis Presley statue along the two-lane highway and to grab a carryout lunch before heading out to save more lives.

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Polk-A-Dot has been owned for several decades by Judy Chinsky and her sister-in-law Cathy Dixon. Judy’s son, Dan Chinsky, helps manage the Braidwood roadside attraction that was quite busy during Joliet Patch’s 11 a.m. interview on Thursday. Polk-A-Dot is at 222 North Front St, now called Route 113. It’s next to the Berkot’s grocery store.

There are a whopping 1,259 Google Reviews for Polk-A-Dot, averaging 4.4 stars out of 5.

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During May, June, July, August and September, Polk-A-Dot stays open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. During the fall and winter, it’s 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

One of Polk-A-Dot’s busiest times of the year is December because there’s a huge Christmas tree farm nearby that generates an influx of visitors to Braidwood.

The “Big Elvis” Elvis Presley statue along the two-lane highway lets travelers know that they’ve made it to Polk-A-Dot. Big Elvis and the Superman-Clark Kent Phone Booth are two of the most recent additions for Polk-A-Dot.

“A lot of kids like the Superman,” Chinsky said.

Chinsky said there’s always a possibility that more life-size of superheroes or iconic movie stars will be added to the growing collection spread around the Polk-A-Dot. It all depends on the price and what’s available on the online auctions, he noted.

“I see the tourists, they try to mock and recreate the pose,” he said.

If you visit Polk-A-Dot for the first time this summer, Chinsky said there are two items on the menu you ought to try.

“Cheese fries and our milk shake,” he said. “And we do a lot of hot dogs too. Honestly, everything on the menu goes real well. We have a very good menu,” Chinsky suggested.

Besides the cheese fries and chili cheese fries being top sellers, Polk-A-Dot is known for its chicken.

“The broasted chicken is delicious,” Chinsky proclaimed. “The roast beef is good too. The hoagies, with garlic butter on them, oh yeah!”

When was the last time Polk-A-Dot overhauled the menu?

“It probably hasn’t changed in 30 years,” Chinsky said. “As long as our food suppliers get it, we keep it going.”

While Polka-A-Dot sees its daily share of traffic, it’s the Route 66 tour groups that generate a ton of business. Chinsky was preparing for Friday’s mega-lunch order for the Route 66 tour group out of Chicago. Because so many of the motorcycle-riding tourists come from other countries, the tour company brings along two translators to help with the food ordering.

“It’s going to be 15 to 20 bikes and a lot of them are doubling up,” Chinsky explained. “Traveling Route 66, we get a lot of travelers.

This summer, Joliet Patch is producing a weekly restaurant feature focused on Joliet area roadside attractions, notably ones that are big draws for Route 66 tourists. Check out back next week for another installment to find out which destination you’ll want to visit, too.

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