Perry County times Section
July 12, 2007, Updated September 15, 2010
by Thom Casey
Summertime in Duncannon equals two things: the kids being out of school and trips to the Red Rabbit Drive-In.
Located on Routes 22/322 and open only Friday through Sunday from February to November, the Red Rabbit is one of the last of a dying breed. Known for its drive-in service and Bunny Burgers, the Red Rabbit offers its customers a slice of nostalgia with all the trimmings.
The Red Rabbit opened in 1964, when Sam Snyder decided it was time to open his own restaurant.
“My dad had always been involved in the food industry,” said Snyder’s daughter and the Red Rabbit’s owner, Cindy Berger. “The building that he and my mother bought was only a few minutes from their house.”
In 1988, Berger and her husband, Sam, took over the restaurant.
“My parents were getting older, and it got to be too much for them,” she said. “My dad had some health problems. He stepped out first, but he did teach Sam about running the business.”
While her husband handles the duties of running the restaurant, Berger is responsible for doing the Red Rabbit’s book work. The restaurant employs 32 people, with five or six being full-time.
Originally, my parents kept it open every day but Monday,” Berger said. “That was such a grueling schedule, but they had to be open like that until the business began to prosper and became a little more on its feet.”
With the exception of a few items, the Rabbit’s menu has stayed the same. The peanut butter fudge topping for ice cream, the chili and coleslaw still are homemade, and the restaurant’s famous seasoning, Bunny Dust, remains the same as it was in 1964.
“Most everything is seasoned with (Bunny Dust),” Berger said. “The people really like that and they even order extra of it on their food.”
If there is one item that can define the Red Rabbit’s menu, it’s the restaurant’s famous cheeseburger, the Bunny Burger. Topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, the Bunny Burger has caused a minor controversy as of late when the Red Rabbit began using sesame seed rolls rather than the traditional black poppy seed rolls.
“We have people who really like the poppy seed rolls, and we understand that,” Berger said. “As things change, we had a very difficult time getting a very good poppy seed roll for the Bunny Burger. We did come up with something that would work, however, we started to use sesame seed rolls while we did research to get a good (poppy seed) roll.”
The search for a good roll was accomplished, and the poppy seed rolls still are available, should a customer ask for one.
“We’re finding that a lot of people also like sesame seed rolls,” Berger explained. “Really, there’s a choice there that they can make on that.”
Besides the Bunny Burger, the Red Rabbit is famous for its ice cream items, such as milkshakes, floats and sundaes, the ham and pork barbecue sandwiches, and its french fries, which come complete with Bunny Dust.
There are no plans for expansion, Berger said. The restaurant’s location is surrounded by game lands, which makes it unable to add more to the restaurant.
“We like it local,” she said. “It would be hard to have another one somewhere, because we find that to make it run like it runs, because everything is made to order, it would be difficult to oversee another operation.”
What’s the secret to the Red Rabbit’s longevity? Berger said it’s the people.
“We do, of course, have travelers in the summertime,” she said. “But I think the Red Rabbit being as popular as it is, is due to our local people who like the idea of having a drive-in that has the whole flavor of the old-fashioned drive-in restaurant."
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