Destinations: Marcus Dairy in Danbury, Connecticut

First it was a dairy farm, then a milk processing and distribution business, then a restaurant. Now Marcus Dairy in Danbury, Connecticut is the premiere gathering place for motorcyclists in the northeastern U.S.

| November/December 2009

The Marcus Dairy in Danbury, Connecticut, is to New England what the Rock Store is to Southern California — a legendary motorcycle destination with great crowd watching and great food. Getting there is a big part of the fun, especially on the roads in neighboring upstate New York. The motorcycles show up every Sunday morning, offering a wonderful opportunity to check out the bikes and people. And the ice cream … wow!

The story goes back to 1913, when the Marcus family started a dairy farm in rural Danbury, Conn. In 1948, Jack Marcus bought more property and set up a milk processing and distribution business, and the restaurant to sell good food and Marcus Dairy ice cream. Jack’s wife, Pearl, ran the restaurant.

With its great diner food and Marcus Dairy ice cream — the ice cream really is special; you’ve got to try it! — the Dairy was destined to become a classic motorcycle destination, and it did. By the early 1960s, it was a popular riding destination. In addition to the good food, great service and unpretentious atmosphere, riders back in those days liked the restaurant’s large front windows — you could keep an eye on your bike. Today, you have to either arrive early or get lucky to find a spot by the windows, but don’t worry about parking; there’s plenty.

By the 1980s, Marcus Dairy became known as THE hot spot for motorcycles in the greater New York metropolitan area (it’s only 66 miles from Manhattan), and the crowds grew. The New York Times wrote about the place in 1983, and the growth continued. Marcus Dairy became a favored Sunday morning destination for Malcolm Forbes and other area celebrities, as well as for plain folks. The Dairy’s location at the intersection of two major highways (Interstate 84 and U.S. Route 7) also helped. The restaurant is nestled below the intersection ramp, a prominent feature seen in many photos and paintings of the place. There are great roads nearby in New York and Connecticut, and it’s within a two-hour ride of nearly every major city in the greater New York metropolitan area.

In the late 1980s, Kawasaki featured the place in its advertising and attendance continued to climb. Marcus Dairy hosted the first of Don Clady's Super Sunday charity events back then (the Marcus event was later changed to Cycle Sunday), and that concept took off, too.

By 2003, the crowds had grown to over 12,000, and things were getting a bit wild with riders engaging in parking lot burnouts, wheelies and more. The local government clamped down, so events moved to a nearby university for a few years, but in 2006 Cycle Sunday was restarted at the original (and current) location.

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