Restaurants

Your Guide to Dinner with a (Drive-In) Movie in Massachusetts

Before summer ends, hit these outdoor cinemas with amazing barbecue, seafood, and Italian joints nearby.


In 2020, “dinner and a movie” mostly means “dinner and a drive-in.” Indoor cinemas are only starting to reopen, and even the most passionate movie buffs remain unsure as to whether they want to return so soon. Luckily, drive-in culture is enjoying a reboot, with a slew of new sites popping up over the last few months. Most have concession stands, and a few tie dining even more directly into their approach: the Kowloon carhop in Saugus now serves outdoor screenings with its pu-pu platters, and the upcoming “Screen and Screams” series at Barrett’s Haunted Mansion will offer food from sibling eatery Abington Ale House. Otherwise, if you need something a little more substantive than a bag of Skittles before the show, here are a few drive-in and dinner pairings across the state.

Topsfield Drive-in. / Photo by Scott Kearnan

The drive-in: Topsfield Drive-In
The dinner: The American BBQ

As much as we’ll miss seeing the Topsfield fairgrounds transformed into a deep-fried midway this fall, repurposing the place as a drive-in theater has been a godsend this summer. (To get in the autumn spirit, though, there’s a “Terror Tuesdays” series screening scary flicks like Friday the 13th, Scream, and The Exorcist.)  In keeping with the rural charm, opt for piled-high pulled-pork sandwiches and thick bricks of mac-n-cheese from the American BBQ in nearby Rowley. If you’ve got a Brady Bunch-sized brood in tow, you can even pick up “pig-nic packs” full of rib racks, pints of meat, choose-your-own sides, and cornbread.

Topsfield Drive-In, 207 Boston St., Topsfield, topsfielddrivein.com; The American BBQ, 5 Railroad Ave., Rowley, 978-948-2626, theamericanbbq.com.

Raw Bar at Island Creek Oyster Farm. / Photo by Scott Kearnan

The drive-in: Marshfield Drive-In
The dinner: The Raw Bar at Island Creek Oyster Farm

Reverse your DeLorean all the way to the ’80s at the Marshfield Drive-In, where retro flicks like Jaws, The Goonies, Grease, and yes, Back to the Future are all on the agenda. Also on your schedule: a pre-showtime stop by the Raw Bar at Island Creek Oyster Farm, where freshly-shucked oysters, fancy tinned fish, and changing specials like caviar-topped hot dogs are ordered from a food truck and snacked at picnic tables right by the water where the namesake bivalves are grown.

Marshfield Drive-In, 140 Main St., Marshfield, marshfielddrivein.com; Raw Bar at Island Creek Oyster Farm, 401 Washington St., Duxbury, islandcreekoysters.com.

Wellfleet drive-in. / Photo by Scott Kearnan

The drive-in: Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre
The dinner: Savory & the Sweet Escape

If a socially distanced summer getaway brings you to the outer reaches of the Cape this year, the Wellfleet Drive-In is a must-go for its double features—back-to-back screenings of new superhero flicks (Spider-Man: Homecoming), nostalgia-inducing action movies (Jurassic Park), and more family-friendly fare. Fuel up at the similarly twin-barreled restaurant Savory & the Sweet Escape; there you’ll find awesome panini sandwiches with artisanal salt-cured meats and stone hearth-fired pizzas drizzled with garlic-infused olive oil, as well as homemade cupcakes, cookies, and ice cream (in flavors like “cranberry bog”) to fulfill the sugar fix. See? A little something for everybody.

Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre, 56 Us-6, Wellfleet, 508-349-7176, wellfleetcinemas.com; Savory & the Sweet Escape, 316 US-6, Truro, 508-487-2225.

The drive-in: Summer Screen at Suffolk Downs
The dinner: Belle Isle Seafood

If you really want a prime pick of parking-lot “seating,” avoid weekend crowds at other drive-ins and head instead to Summer Screen, a weekly Thursday series at the former Suffolk Downs race track. (It’s also a rewind to even older days: The site was previously home to a drive-in from 1957 to 1970.) It’s not quite a game at Fenway Park, but watching Field of Dreams under the stars ain’t half-bad—especially when you’re munching on one of the region’s best lobster rolls from Belle Isle Seafood, just down the street. (Belle Isle’s other fried seafoods, and its harbor-front deck, are awesome too.)

Suffolk Downs, 525 William F McClellan Hwy, Boston, summerscreenatsuffolkdowns.com; Belle Isle Seafood, 1 Main St., Winthrop, 617-567-1619, belleisleseafood.net.

Novara, an Italian restaurant housed inside a former movie palace. / Photo by Anna Ivanova

The drive-in: Lombardo’s Drive-In Movies
The dinner: Novara

Aside from smallish gatherings and elopements announced on Instagram (double-tap!), wedding season is obviously slow this year. So what’s a popular events venue like Lombardo’s to do? Why, convert itself into a drive-in theater, of course, and line up crowd-pleasing flicks like School of Rock, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Dirty Dancing. The surprisingly well-stocked snack shack has an Italian edge, serving flatbread pizzas, garlic-Parmesan wings, and homemade sausage sandwiches. But if you really want to eat like the Godfather, get to Novara in Milton—housed inside a former cinema and now owned by New Kids on the Block star Jordan Knight, it’s got excellent, higher-end renditions of mostly-classic Italian plates: Think seafood scampi, pan-seared scallops with lobster risotto, and Parmesan-crusted cod with pesto.

Lombardo’s Drive-In Movies, 6 Billings St., Randolph, 781-986-5000, lombardos.com; Novara, 556 Adams St., Milton, 617-696-8400, novararestaurant.com.

Northfield Drive-in. / Photo by Gabe S. via Yelp

The drive-in: Northfield Drive-In
The dinner: Black Cow Burger Bar

This rustic drive-in that falls across the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border actually starred in a movie itself: The Cider House Rules. (And if you’re interested in visiting a few other Bay State filming locations, we’ve got a whole list of them here.) Wholesome picks like National Lampoon’s Vacation and I Still Believe, about a Christian music star, share screen space with live rock-n-roll concerts from bands like Metallica. Before you grab an ice cream sandwich from the concession stand, indulge in Angus burgers—and adults-only milkshakes—from Black Cow, where the toppings range from fig to feta to Sriracha ranch sauce.

Northfield Drive-in, 981 Northfield Road, Hinsdale, NH, 603-239-4054, northfielddrivein.com; Black Cow Burger Bar, 127 Avenue A, Montague, 413-863-5183, blackcowburgerbarturnersfalls.com.