Minutes after Parkette Drive-In reopened at 11 a.m. Monday, every booth, stool and parking spot was taken.
The customers weren't there because it was opening day for a new restaurant. They came because of what it used to be — one of Lexington's most famous hangouts.
The late Joe Smiley opened the landmark in 1952 on the Belt Line, now New Circle Road, near Liberty Road. There was a second Parkette on Georgetown Road.
Brothers Jeff and Randy Kaplan have been working on the restaurant for eight months to bring it back to its glory days.
The restaurant has had a couple of owners since Smiley, but most customers felt it was never quite the same.
The good news is the first customers on Monday agreed the Poor Boys — the restaurant's signature hamburger — tasted the same.
Maybe it's because their taste buds are coated with memories.
Ann Tandy and Claudia Flynn were among the first to be seated, and because of the crowd they shared their table with Bruce Bigelow and Rosetta Warford.
"She used to work here," Tandy said, nodding at Warford, who worked the salad line during the '60s.
As they were reminiscing, their attention was diverted by a '57 larkspur blue, two-door, hardtop Chevy Bel Air that pulled up to the restaurant.
The car brought back memories of all the hot cars filled with guys and girls that circled Parkette on Friday and Saturday nights for decades.
Seated at the largest table in the small dining room were James Teater, Ken Gayheart, Tim Saylor, John Harris, and Harold Lamb. Drinks and dessert were free to the first arrivals Monday but the guys were having such a good time they weren't in any hurry to get their dessert or give up their prized table.
Gayheart was bragging about circling Parkette in his '67 Chevelle Super Sport "that was shined up and looking good. And me, too."
Showing off cars has always been a draw of Parkette fans. Proud owners of older hopped-up cars — and motorcycles — have gathered in the back parking lot for decades, revving motors and admiring polished chrome.
Lamb recalled the times he would park his '56 Chevy at Parkette, and he and his buddies would jump out, lock down the hood and pull out the choke so the six-cylinder would rumble like the big V-8s.
The blue Bel Air that got the attention of the lunch crowd was driven by Bobby Brown and his wife, Flo. When the two were dating in the late '50s they came to Parkette every Saturday night.
"That was when a Poor Boy box was 50 cents. Bobby would order two for himself and one for me," Flo Brown said.
Sitting on a stool at the counter, Flo Brown struck up a conversation with Gleason "Iceman" Humphrey.
"I remember coming here when there wasn't much on the Belt Line, which was just past being a dirt road," he said.
Parkette is about younger people, too. David Schmidt discovered Parkette in the late '90s while a student at Henry Clay High School. He had just moved to Lexington from Nashville and he was the proud owner of a "hopped-up," '71 El Camino with "about 400 horsepower," he said laughing.
"I stopped by to pick a race," Schmidt said. And he wasn't talking horses. He was looking for another person with a speedster to race on New Circle Road.
Dana Fields and her brother-in-law Mike Papageorgiou stood in line for takeout Monday. They were there to pick up Poor Boys.
"My sister is craving it. She's pregnant," Fields said.
As soon as they delivered the Poor Boy to Becky Papageorgiou, they were to call Fields' father, Beckham Fields, to let him know how it tasted.
"I came with Dad all the time," Dana Fields said. "We'd come weekly for chicken and biscuits and gravy. He's worried it is not going to taste the same."
The wait at the curbside speaker box was perhaps longer than the wait inside. Warren Lowe and his fiancée, Jessica Fink, weren't the least bit impatient. Lowe said he wanted his Australian cattle dog to experience Parkette. He brought B.G. (named for University of Kentucky men's basketball coach Billy Gillispie) because Lowe had such fond memories of coming to Parkette with his grandmother that he wanted to share it with his dog. Fink's first memory was when she was 7, when her uncle brought her to one of Parkette's hot-rod car shows.
More than 100 customers filled the restaurant during the first hour Monday.
David Ries and Brian Stokes braved the heavy traffic on New Circle Road to walk across the street for lunch at Parkette. The Motorvation employees have been watching the construction and were eager to see whether the new owners could capture the true taste of Parkette.
Eddie and Eleanor White came for Smiley Boys — a sausage burger — and fries.
"We would always stop by here after skating at Scotty's Roll-Arena," Eleanor White said.
Regina Fogleman said she and her friend Carol Christian "couldn't wait for it to be back open."
"I've missed my Smiley Boy and gravy and fries," Christian said.