Couple Sharing Milkshake at Big M

The Big M Drive-In Restaurant: Serving Great Food and Great Nostalgia Since 1965

When we say “nineteen sixties,” “nostalgia,” and “burgers,” what comes to your mind? Is it a drive-in restaurant? It’s true that the hayday of these popular vehicular eateries belong to a bygone era, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone along with the times. Now more than ever, we need an authentic nod to the past, where good times never get old and fast food never skips on quality. Drive-in restaurants brought us together then, and they’re bringing us together now—some eight-odd years later—proving conclusively that tradition is worth the trip to York Durham Headwaters.

Big M
The Big M Drive In Restaurant Date
Pickering The Big M Drive In Milkshakes

The Big M Drive-In Restaurant in Pickering has been going strong since 1965, when drive-in restaurants were all the rage. It may be one of the only original restaurants of these types left, but people are still flocking here from far and wide to experience a little bit of the past. Owner Tony Guglielmi and his team work hard to bring you time-tested favourites like delicious homemade hamburgers, steaks on a kaiser, onion rings, french fries, jumbo dogs, fish and chips and more. Located close to Pickering Nautical Village, with its famous beaches, waterfront parks and walking trails, Big M is a destination for enthusiastic travellers looking not just to eat some great food, but to make some great memories. It was even voted Ajax and Pickering’s Number One Hamburger, and hosted a year-end car show this past May for cars 1990 and older. Now that’s vintage charm!

Couple at Waterfront

For many, it’s a tradition that goes back generations. For many others, it is the start of a tradition that will carry on for many generations to come. If you haven’t yet experienced the blast from the past that is Big M, then what are you waiting for? Jump in your Oldsmobile Cutlass or your Mercury Coupe, and head into to Pickering, because the 1960s are ready to welcome you to a simpler, more wholesome time.

Welcome to 1965 at Big M

Burger

Not much has changed since Big M first opened nearly sixty years ago – except the name of the town in which it is located, of course. Did you know that back then, Pickering was known as Bay Ridge? In this dirt-road area east of Toronto, two Macedonian immigrant families opened a traditional drive-in restaurant serving handmade burgers, steaks on a kaiser, onion rings, and other fast food joint favourites. “Since then, it’s grown into a huge phenomenon,” says Tony Guglielmi, who represents the third generation of his family to operate Big M. “People would drive from all over back then. We have people who come here now telling us that they used to come here from as far as North York and Richmond Hill in the sixties—at a time when it was all dirt roads, so it was a real trek to get here.”

When you have a formula that works, you don’t change it. That’s why The Big M Drive-In is run much the same as it was in 1965, and why people love it so much. Tony and his team still make everything from scratch the way his family did over half a century ago. There is a ton of old memorabilia on the walls, like pictures showing what the neighbourhood looked like originally, and photos of all the celebrities and sports stars that have visited over the years. The whole vibe of Big M, in fact, is like stepping into a time capsule, where it’s 1965 every day. Even the style of food is nostalgic—nothing says the sixties like a good old-fashioned shake, or soft-seve ice cream at the beach!

Big M today—sixty years and still going strong

The Big M Drive In Restaurant Employees

For Tony, whose family introduced the Big M phenomenon to Pickering, seeing how much people love his restaurant is a source of pride. “I’ve been doing this since I was a young child,” he says. “I grew up in the business, and it’s a tough business to be in. There are a lot of hours, and it can be high-stress when it gets busy. But that’s what makes it all worth it. When people come here, this place puts them in a great mood. That then puts us in a good mood, and we get to give them good food that makes everything that much better. We have some laughs, we listen to music, and it’s such a good vibe.” Tony and his team see hundreds of people a day, so the fact that Big M is still thriving is a testament to the fact that they love what they do—even though times have changed so much just outside the door.

Pickering Nautical Village The Big M Drive In Food

“I think that, nowadays, everything is changing so much,” Tony observes. “You see it everywhere, this change. In response to that, I think people are starting to look back on the days where things were a slower pace. They are wanting the nostalgia of an earlier time.” Places like Big M Drive-In don’t exist the way they did decades ago, so when new diners come in for the first time, they are amazed. “I joke with them and say that out there, it’s 2024, but in here it’s 1965,” Tony laughs.

For many of the guests that pull up into Big M’s parking lot, this restaurant is a place where they can relive an experience that they once knew and loved. For some, it’s a place where their parents or grandparents used to come, and by coming themselves, they’re able to remember someone who was special to them. “We’ve had people tell us that they’ve come back here as grownups just to relive a childhood memory,” Tony says, “or to feel close to the person they loved that used to bring them here. That’s really nice to hear, and we’re so happy to be a part of that for people. And then there are people who used to come here as kids, and now they’re bringing their kids because this place means so much to them. That’s really special to be a part of, and it’s something you don’t see everyday.”

Step back in time for yourself and prepare to be amazed

Shakes

The Big M Drive-In Restaurant is an experience you simply must have for yourself. You can’t invent this kind of nostalgia, as so many of Big M’s repeat customers know. Spend a day in Pickering Nautical Village wandering the beach, browsing the shops, having an ice cream cone with friends and family, and enjoying this unique destination in Durham Region. When you’re hungry, head over to Big M Drive-In Restaurant for a taste of 1965. We’re sure it won’t be your last visit to this well-loved and time-honoured “blast from the past.”

Pickering Waterfront Couple Beach Pier

The Big M Drive-In Restaurant

711 Krosno Blvd., Pickering

www.thebigm.ca

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