If you can instantly recall some of the top rock 'n' roll hits of the 1950s, you may still have a poodle skirt or paratrooper boots with taps on them tucked away in your closet. You might also know the No. 1 hit in 1955, (the year rock 'n' roll was born) was "Rock Around the Clock" infamously portrayed in the film, "The Blackboard Jungle." You may have even seen it while sitting in an oversize car in a drive-in while sipping on a cherry Coke.
Some of us who weren't teens until later remember the '50s through the experience of older siblings. I still recall spying on my older sister's slumber parties and teasing her about her lipstick-smeared pictures of Elvis. Newer generations have received a glamourized view of the '50s through movies like "Grease" and "Back to the Future." Even skateboarding 12-year-olds can sing the lyrics of the hit single "Earth Angel" by the Penguins from the prom scene with Michael Fox.This innocent nostalgia of the '50s (without a hint of the predominant paranoia of McCarthyism and the Cold War) is the theme of the Nifty Fifties eatery in the southwest corner of Brickyard Plaza. Bold black and white pictures of Buddy Holly and the King (a k a Elvis Presley) highlight the entry. The spacious interior is decorated with 45 rpm rec-ords, electric guitars and letter sweaters. An autographed picture of Danny and the Juniors hangs over one of the booths. (You may remember his musical prediction that "Rock 'n' roll is here to stay."
The main attraction at Nifty Fifties is live '50s music featured on Friday and Saturday nights. Bands like the Time Cruisers, Cats, Crash Pontiac and the Hub Caps perform on stage by the large dance floor. Cover charge is a mere 49 cents, and reservations are recommended for weekends.
We had to be satisfied on our late weekday lunch with a video of "Grease," which alternates with videos of Elvis films and other '50s movies like "The Buddy Holly Story" and "La Bamba."
Yet the menu also satisfied our hunger for the '50s, featuring favorites like hamburgers, fries, cherry Cokes, each labeled with a juke box number under a category of a major song of the era. Soups and salads are listed under "Purple People," soft drinks are called "Rebel Rousers."
We sampled a half and half order of fried mushrooms and fried zucchini ($1.89) which came with ranch dressing dipping sauce, a grilled ham and cheese ($3.29), the "All Shook Up" ($4.69) Philly style steak sandwich and the Fats Domino burger ($4.09), described as the "biggest burger in Utah."
The burger does indeed appear very large, spread across a bun that looks like the biggest bun in Utah. It was a very good but not great hamburger. The ham and cheese and steak sandwiches were also generous portions; the latter needed a bit more seasoning. The promised grilled green peppers were left off, though the sauteed mushrooms, onions and melted Swiss made for a tasty sandwich. A bowl of freshly made chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles was the clear favorite. All the dishes come in plastic baskets on paper.
Shakes and malts made from soft ice cream come in a variety of flavors and blends. Like the other items on the menu, they are large, flowing over the top of the cup. Sundaes, cones, old fashioned sodas, root beer floats and a 14-scoop sundae called the Monster Mash ($12.79) round out the sweet treats on the menu.
Other sandwich selections, priced from $3.69 to $4.89, include the "Sha Boom," ham, beef, turkey, Swiss cheese smothered with mushrooms and onions; the "Alley Oop," turkey and Swiss with tomato, lettuce, pickle and lettuce; the "Teen Angel," fried chicken patty covered with melted Swiss, ham and pickles; and the "Sea of Love," a 21-piece shrimp basket served with fries, cole slaw and scone. Chicken strips and fried halibut are also served.
To paraphrase one of the boppers on American Bandstand, Nifty Fifties has "a good beat . . . lots to eat . . . I like the words (on the menu), and (on Friday and Saturday) . . . you could dance to it."
Rating: * * * 1/2
Nifty Fifties, 1166 E. Brickyard Road, 466-4117. Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Closed Sunday. Check with guarantee card accepted; no credit cards. Reservations recommended for weekends.