STRATFORD, Conn. — The fridges are jam-packed with long dogs, the pinball machine has a place of honor in the corner and the hot sauce recipe is still a well-guarded secret.
Yep, Cricket Car Hop — a Stratford landmark for more than 50 years — is once again open for business.
“This is like a time machine,” said general manager Ron DiCostanzo of the Access Road eatery. “There’s just a never-ending stream of Cricket stories.”
DiCostanzo, his wife Stacy DiCostanzo and business partner Ken Burns joined Mayor John Harkins to cut the ribbon outside the front doors Wednesday. The celebration was a soft launch with the official opening day coming on Saturday, July 1.
Some said the picture-perfect sky overhead was a harbinger of good things to come.
“It’s exciting they’re reincarnating the Cricket of old,” Harkins said of the beloved original that closed just down the street in 2004. “I think it’s going to be very successful. There are so many memories here.”
And many of them belong to Stacy DiCostanzo, who was a cook at the old Cricket from 1980 until the end.
She said she’s not worried about living up to the hype at the new digs because she’s well-versed in the fried dogs and red relish that made the old place such a hit.
“A lot of people thought I owned it,” said DiCostanzo, whose 70-something mom Pat Fogg drove down from her home in Maine to help out. “They always saw me there. I worked there 70 hours a week!”
To say she respects tradition is a bit of an understatement, her husband said.
“When we were dating, she wouldn’t tell me what was in the hot sauce,” he said.
The mayor passed on the hot sauce Wednesday, as he sampled one of the first long dogs out of the fryer.
“The chili sauce was wicked hot,” he said smiling.
Back in the day, the Cricket had competition from several other hot dog stands in the area, which was home to hundreds of hungry workers from surrounding plants. Most of those workers are long gone, but the DiCostanzos and Burns believe there will be enough mouths to feed at the new location.
The new spot boasts an outdoor patio where diners can watch planes taking off and landing at nearby Sikorsky Memorial Airport. A drive-thru window should be open in a month or so.
Cricket fans have been abuzz for months on social media, posting artful photos of the building’s construction and memories of days gone by. Want to join the conversation? Head to their Facebook page.
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