This Legendary Laurel, Mississippi, Drive-In Is Beloved By Ben And Erin Napier

Who doesn't love an old-fashioned burger joint?

Phillips Drive-In PDI
Photo: Courtesy of Phillips Drive-IN

Every great Southern town has its tried-and-true eateries. The places where you can't make a reservation, but you can always count on a line out the door. Where things have been done the same way for 50 years with no signs of changing. And where you're guaranteed to get a great meal at a great price with the best service. In Laurel, Mississippi, that spot is Phillips Drive-In—better known to locals as PDI.

The old-fashioned burger joint started out as a Dairy Queen back in 1948, but made a name for itself (literally) in the early 1960s when franchise owner Joe Phillips decided to transition the restaurant into a place of his own called Phillips Drive-In. The drive-in specialized in nostalgic food done right—made-to-order hamburgers, hot dogs smothered in homemade chili, and creamy milkshakes and malts.

Joe Phillips PDI
Courtesy of Phillips Drive-In PDI

At the time, there weren't many restaurants in town, so everyone ended up at PDI. Women who worked at the garment factory across the street walked over each day for a hot dog and ice-cold Coca-Cola. Local teenagers made it their afterschool hangout spot. And families pulled up all weekend long with hungry kids in tow.

"People from the 60s, 70s, and even 80s, they remember hanging out in the parking lot," says Frances Phillips Murphy, daughter to original owner Joe Phillips. "Then, of course, they had kids and would go back and reminisce about the good times they had there."

Today, not much has changed at PDI. You can still roll up to the drive-thru or walk-up window six days a week and leave with a juicy burger and fries for little over $5. Adding a small milkshake will set you back just $3. A large will cost you a dollar more. Murphy says over the years the menu has expanded a little to include items like a shrimp po'boy, Frito chili pie, and Philly cheesesteak, but the unequivocal top earner remains the #5 Dressed Cheeseburger.

PDI Hamburger
Courtesy of Phillips Drive-In PDI

PDI is a Laurel tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation, and its ownership is no different. In the late 1950s, Joe Phillips noticed a boy by the name of Autry Beard hustling to sell newspapers across the street. Impressed by the teen's work ethic, Phillips offered him a job. Autry accepted and eventually worked his way up the ladder. As Philips got older, he passed management of the business to Autry and named him a part owner. Autry worked at PDI up until the time of his passing, and today his son Barry has picked up right where he left off.

PDI will always have a special place in the hearts of the Phillips and Beard families, and the same is true for dozens of other Laurel families who have been patronizing the restaurant for decades. Ben and Erin Napier of HGTV's Home Town are regulars who each swear by their favorite order. Ben is partial to the Jumbo #3 Dressed Hamburger (mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles) with a side of tots, while Erin prefers a #1 Burger (ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions) and a Sprite with crushed cherries.

Both sound great to us!


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