You know it’s spring in Wall Township when you can smell the onion rings while driving down Route 35.
The Circus Drive-in, that township mainstay and harbinger of warmer weather, opened Tuesday for its 58th season.
While Richard Rose Jr., son of co-owner Richard Rose Sr., put up the letters below the restaurant’s iconic neon clown sign announcing the tent flaps were up shortly after 11 a.m., Olivia Cioco, 3, was served one of the first grilled cheese sandwiches of the season.
“With a Sprite,’’ she said, proudly raising her cup.
Olivia’s grandmother, Dawn Cocio of Spring Lake Heights, was kind enough to give the 3-year-old a ride to the opening, along with Olivia’s little brother, Alex.
Richard Rose Sr. said he hopes to see a lot more of Olivia, Dawn, Alex and lots of other longtime customers return for his second full season in charge of the restaurant.
“We’re trying to perk this place up a little bit,’’ Rose, of Sea Girt, said. “This is s a neat place and people should want to come here.’’
Tweaking the menu, making minor alterations, adding specials and generally sprucing up the Wall Township landmark is the main course for Rose and his crew.
Last year, Rose added several new menu items to the restaurant’s menu. Most will make a return this year, with the exception of hot dog sliders, which proved unpopular, Rose said.
But no worry about the longtime menu items like the “Lion Tamer” or the “Wild Animal,’’ which will continue to be served as they have for more than 50 years, Rose said.
Rose said he has no intention of removing or altering the restaurant’s mainstays, which people count on year after year. Rose is was cognizant that the community expects the Circus Drive-In to remain largely unchanged, and that’s the way they’re going to find it, he says. But the new owner does want to bring back a little of the restaurants original 1950s-era luster, he said.
To that end, Rose said he has added three “cruise nights” to this season’s itinerary, taking place the second Tuesday of June, July and August. There will be more than 40 classic cars rolling into the Circus, he said, along with a deejay for four hours, spinning classic music.
New specials this year include a “Freedom Fry Tuesday,’’ where fries are buy one/get one, as well as a Monday “Circus Chill,” special. The Chill is a milkshake/ice cream treat roughly equivalent to Dairy Queen’s popular “Blizzard,’’ Rose said.
“We’re refining things, just tweaking things so that we can make this a little better place for everyone,’’ Rose said. “We’re trying to make it an event for people.’’