The Cricket Car Hop reopens in Stratford after 13 years
STRATFORD — The Cricket Car Hop is back, with old recipes and a new location.
“The only thing missing in the front is a cigarette machine,” said Linda Caizzi, 70, who worked at the original Cricket. The new location is a replica of the popular hot dog joint, which operated for decades on lower Main Street before closing 13 years ago.
Even the prices are the same, with hot dogs on sale for $4.50 (after inflation, that’s slightly cheaper than the $1.25 charged in the 1970s).
Former employees were on both sides of the lunch counter at a soft opening Thursday at 900 Access Road near the Sikorsky Memorial Airport.
“I want people to experience the same (menu items) as way back when, and (then) we’ll slowly put in a few different items,” said owner Stacey DiCostanzo, who started working at the old Cricket in 1980 when she was 15.
She worked there until it closed in 2004, after a 45-year-run and the death of founder Larry Wilkinson in 2002. DiCostanzo said she worked there so much that people often asked her if she was the owner.
While longtime fans of the restaurant lined up for the franks, there’s other food on the menu, including onion rings, french fries and milkshakes.
There’s no alcohol served at the Cricket, but memories were on tap Thursday. Stories flowed from city officials, old friends and even DiCostanzo’s mother, who drove down from Maine to help for the opening.
On the patio, Mayor John Harkins ate one of the first long hot dogs — mustard, red relish and hot sauce on a toasted roll — and thought back to early 1980s, when people ate Cricket hot dogs to Van Halen, Ted Nugent and Bruce Springsteen.
“It was a different time and the music is still popular today and these hot dogs are going to be the same,” he said. “They reincarnated the old Cricket and brought it to life, did a little modernization with the patio and the drive-through ... and the view is fantastic.”
About every 20 minutes, a single-engine plane took off from the nearby runway, flying just a few hundred feet above the patio and the surrounding marshlands.
Caizzi remembered eating hot dogs in cars, and listening to the Beatles on the way back from the beach.
“It was hard not to stop in and grab some fries,” said Stephanie Philips, who oversaw permitting of the new Cricket as chair of the Stratford Zoning Commission. “They are responsible for a lot of people in Stratford gaining more weight than they really wanted to.”
The Cricket Car Hop will open to the public on Saturday, with weekday hours from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekend hours from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.