At Doc’s Drive In Theatre in Buda, Chris and Sarah Denny aim to bring modern flair to a 1950s classic by bridging the past and the present through new age and vintage movie showings. Located just outside of Austin’s city limits, this unique drive in offers a number of extraordinary amenities, such as movie-themed tiny homes for those who wish to stay the night, a private beach and swimming hole and a two-story bar with a patio overlooking the theater’s screens. What really sets this drive in apart from the rest, however, is the food served at Doc’s Diner, the theater’s onsite restaurant.
Inspired by their shared love for good food and traveling, the Dennys crafted the menu at Doc’s Diner specifically to emphasize fresh, high-quality ingredients—which meant taste testing every single bun, cut of meat and condiment. The diner also smokes its own brisket and makes many of their own sauces and dips, like guacamole and pico de gallo, from scratch daily. What’s more: everything at Doc’s is baked rather than fried, meaning movie-goers can enjoy many of their favorite comfort foods—from chicken wings to corn dogs—guilt-free. In addition to burgers, hot dogs and a variety of other offerings, the diner has all the traditional snacks movie-goers expect: popcorn, nachos and candy. For those with kids, Doc’s Diner also offers make-your-own s’mores kits that can be picked up and enjoyed at your location of choice, whether that be the drive in’s grounds or the tailgate of your car.
Even with all of the seemingly fancy updates to the facility and menu, an overwhelming sense of nostalgia remains infused in the space. “Basically, everything we’ve done out here is our favorite stuff in our favorite childhood memories,” Chris says. The themes of the onsite tiny homes, for example, which include Star Wars, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Harry Potter, were chosen because they were favorite childhood movies of Chris, Sarah and Sarah’s sister.
At Doc’s Diner, these childhood influences and personal touches can also be seen. The homemade sauce on the signature “Drive-In Burger” was an attempt to replicate a special sauce from Sarah’s childhood in Washington state. Other items are named for special people in the Dennys’ lives. “The Stanley” is the favorite sandwich of the couple’s soon-to-be 90-year-old neighbor—a grilled peanut butter, banana and honey concoction. Other inspired menu items include “The Logan,” a vegetarian sandwich named for Sarah’s best friend, and “The Don Juan,” a sandwich named for the contractor who built the drive in.
“We really wanted to create something where people could have a conversation, put away their phones, hang out in the car with friends and talk while a movie is going on,” Chris says. He emphasizes that he and Sarah are “in the business of creating happy memories.”
By the end of 2020, Chris and Sarah plan to add an underground, 1920s-themed speakeasy complete with craft cocktails and finger foods. Much like the rest of the drive in, Chris says the idea was inspired by memories of building secret hideouts and pillow forts as a kid. The speakeasy will feature old family recipes, including a bean dip that has been passed down through generations for nearly 100 years.
For those looking for a fun way to spend an evening with family and friends this summer, Doc’s Drive In offers a chance to take a step back in time, curl up in the passenger seat or at the end of the tailgate and enjoy some quality time and delicious food with a film and those you care about most.
Story by Sarah McConnell Pictures by Doc's Drive In