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Joshua Thomas
On the outdoor pergola during Parkside's 35th Anniversary celebration Saturday are, from left, Tony Manikas, Reggie Manikas, Samantha and Collin Manikas, and Aaron and Lucy Manikas.

Joshua Thomas
Laci Talbot waits on a customer during Parkside's 35th Anniversary celebration Saturday.

Joshua Thomas
Gabby Moshinskie makes a sundae during Parkside's 35th Anniversary celebration Saturday.

Joshua Thomas
Lesly Hazzard waits on a customer during Parkside's 35th Anniversary celebration Saturday.

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Celebrating 35 Years: Parkside serves drive-in experience with unique twist

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - Updated: 3:31 AM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

ST. JOHNSVILLE -- Over the course of the past 35 years, Parkside Drive-In has blossomed into a beloved, successful local institution, remaining family owned and operated, community oriented, and focused on serving high quality, homemade food. Although the experience Parkside offers is that of the quintessential American drive-in, its unique qualities have kept customers coming back since the doors first opened in 1978.

When the business began at 7485 State Highway 5, St. Johnsville, 35 years ago, under the care of Tony and Reggie Manikas, Parkside operated out of a small, 20x20 foot building. Though the menu was much smaller then, Parkside's Mexican hots, hamburgers, hot dogs, homemade soups, ice cream cones and sundaes quickly caught on in the local community and formed a customer base that has returned year after year ever since.

The business -- including both the building and menu -- has expanded gradually over the years. An indoor dining room was added in 1985, with a second indoor area constructed in 2000, and an outdoor pergola, with picnic tables that overlook Soldiers and Sailors' Park, added in 2005.

The year Parkside opened, Tony and Reggie also welcomed the birth of their son, Aaron, who, after growing up at Parkside -- the business being a steadfast foundation in his life -- took over as owner, along with his wife, Samantha, last year.

Though Tony and Reggie had three sons, Samantha said of Parkside, "this is like their fourth child." The couple is "more than happy" and proud that Aaron has taken the initiative to not only take over the business, but to help usher in a new era, carefully crafting specialty menus for themed events and laboring over unique, homemade recipes only available at Parkside.

This year, Parkside started holding themed nights, and Aaron and Samantha have taken that opportunity to go all out, not only decorating the restaurant accordingly, but creating a full specialty menu. On Cinco De Mayo, Parkside offered an entire Mexican menu. Upcoming nights will include a Caribbean night -- featuring specialty items such as smoked jerk chicken and pineapple mango salsa -- and a kids' night.

"The menu has definitely grown extensively over the last 35 years," said Samantha. 90 percent of Parkside's food is made from scratch, including house roasted pulled pork and braised beef brisket, which, topped with homemade onion straws, homemade barbecue sauce, with cheddar cheese on toasted French bread, has become a favorite blackboard special. 

Alongside regular menu items such as house-made soups, gourmet salads with homemade dressings, wraps, paninis, hand crafted burgers and beer battered haddock (on Friday), a new item, created especially by Aaron, has been recently featured. The new item is a 35th anniversary burger, which features a 6 ounce angus beef patty sautéed in mushroom butter, fresh garlic, white wine, and topped with swiss cheese, onion straws and served with french onion au jus.

As Parkside makes all their own hard ice cream, Aaron has also taken the opportunity to add numerous signature flavors, including cannoli, cinnamon bun, coconut cream pie, Nutella chip and a slightly spicy Mexican hot chocolate.

Aaron noted that he's humbled to have the opportunity to expand and better the already-great business that his parents began. His father, Tony, still points out to him customers that have been coming to Parkside since the literal day it opened. "They really become a part of our life," said Samantha of Parkside's customers, noting that her children -- at ages 3 and 6 -- are currently spending a lot of time at the restaurant, as Aaron did -- a third generation of Parkside family witnessing the business' faithful customers introducing a new generation of devoted diners.

Aaron and Samantha, and Tony and Reggie, are endlessly thankful to those that have supported the business over the years, and Aaron noted that "Without everybody's support, we wouldn't have been able to do this for 35 years. We love doing it. We want to thank all our customers." Aaron explained that every customer is important, whether they've been coming for 35 years, just stopped in for the first time, or have yet to become a fan of Parkside.

"We put our heart and soul into the place, and people seem to be really receptive to that."

This year, Parkside Drive-In will bring back Classic Car Cruise Ins -- a tradition for 15 years -- after not holding them for 5-6 years. The Classic Car Cruise Ins will take place on Saturday evenings.

Parkside's hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 12 Noon to 9 p.m. Like Parkside on Facebook to keep updated regarding themed nights and specials. The page is updated almost every day with new information.

Joshua Thomas - Laci Talbot waits on customers during Parkside's 35th Anniversary celebration Saturday.

Joshua Thomas - Brian Ewanyk puts up an order as it's ready.

Joshua Thomas - Parkside Drive-In celebrates their 35th anniversary this year.

Joshua Thomas - Parkside Drive-In prides itself on providing the quintessential drive-in experience with a unique twist.

Joshua Thomas - Saturday featured the return of the Classic Car Cruise-In, which will be held every Saturday evening at Parkside.

     

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