When America came out of World War II, our world and lives changed to what we thought were infinite possibilities. Our ancestors came home from battle to buy homes, cars, furnishings, and the latest appliances. They had children to help perpetuate this new-found abundance of life and its trappings.
In the meantime, this prosperity meant leisure time and fun. Part of it came from the automobile itself. They were a sign of freedom for Americans to do anything their hearts desire. They took the road—and roads got better over that time. They visited places they never thought they would see in their lives. They also did plenty of other things with their automobile, including dining out.
In the 1950s, the drive-in was the place to be. You drove up in your automobile, parked, and ordered your food from the convenience of your automobile. A server would bring out your food and hook it up to the window sill of your car. You had dinner without getting out of your seat.
Decades later, we began to think that the drive-in is a thing of the past. Luckily for us, the drive-in still exists. For the better part of the year, you can still drive up to one and get your food right at your window.
Throughout the Upper Midwest, there are plenty of drive-ins to patronize. Here are a few we found along the way.
THE DRIVE-IN RESTAURANT
Any drive along the St. Croix River is not complete without a stop in Taylors Falls. The main draw of this drive-in is their homemade root beer, which rivals the best made locally in the Upper Midwest. Along with your root beer is a menu of burgers and complete dinners. You can also get a root beer float for dessert. Car hops will bring your food out so you can relax after a nice drive or a big hike along the river.
572 Bench St., Taylors Falls, MN
On a frontage road along Highway 7 near Knollwood Mall, this seasonal drive-in features car hops in a 1950s sci-fi vision of the universe, along with some static displays of classic cars. The colors alone are inviting at this popular place in the West Metro. The burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches are inexpensive and tasty. The best part are the onion rings—they are indeed out of this world!
3712 Quebec Ave. S, Hopkins, MN
Open Spring to Fall
Not far from the western shores of Lake Minnetonka is a classic place where they serve some great burgers and fries at great prices! If you go on a Thursday evening, a car show will break out with some seriously classic metal. In the fall, it becomes a pumpkin patch. The energetic car hops can take your food to you or to several picnic tables dotted around the property. It is worth the drive—or a bike ride along the Dakota Trail.
4658 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park, MN
Open Spring to Fall
Take U.S. Highway 12 west of the Cities and find yourself in a magical place in the heart of Delano. Their menu is classic drive-in fare: burgers, full dinners, sandwiches, and great sides. But, you come for their shakes! You can’t leave without one! The pink building alone is worth the stop over either heading out of the Cities toward western Minnesota or just a great drive out to eat.
115 Babcock Blvd., Delano, MN
Open Spring to Fall.
For 35 years, this little drive-in has served up good food and classic atmosphere along Interstate 694 at Highway 81. The menu is simple and every bit as good. You also come for the shakes and malts; both are a big draw for this place, not to mention the car meets with classic machines from the 1930s to the new muscle cars of today. Don’t worry about the construction in the area…it is worth getting there!
7000 W. Broadway Ave., Brooklyn Park, MN
SONIC DRIVE-IN – NATIONWIDE
A modern take on the drive-in continues through this national chain. In our readership area, there are eight—five in the Twin Cities, alone. The menu is varied, but the specialty is corn dogs, along with their burgers and other sandwiches. Their shakes are pretty good, too. Car hops will bring out your food, or you can go through the drive-in window for service, as well. You might find one in your travels in the future.
Locations in Bloomington, Columbia Heights, Elk River, Fargo, Grand Forks, St. Paul, Savage, and Sioux Falls.
As you noticed, only a few drive-ins are open year-round. However, any advanced planning would help to guide you toward enjoying these great classic experiences that combine food and the automobile. Plus, there’s always a bonus that you can see something special while taking a bite out that hot burger or sipping your shake.
Wherever you roam, there may be a place where you can simply drive up, order food, and eat in your vehicle—just like they did some 60 or so years ago!