Make that fall-colors day trip even more memorable with a meal.
The Upper St. Croix River's fall foliage always looks better with a visit to the Drive-In. Go for the hand-formed burgers (beef and bison) and crinkle-cut fries; stay for the floats splashed with caramel-ey house-made root beer. Perky service, affordable prices and an immaculate, fun-for-the-whole-family environment are also on the menu. Be on the lookout for the gigantic rotating root beer mug.
572 Bench St., Taylors Falls, Minn., 651-465-7831, www.taylorsfalls.com.
At tiny Rabbit's Bakery, a wood-burning oven does beautiful things to the rustic breads -- foundations for a handful of excellent, ever-changing sandwiches -- that are the house specialty. That oven also stays busy on "Pizza Night," a first-Sunday-of-the-month reason to make Lake City the last stop on any autumn-leaves weekend drive (the next one is Oct. 7, from 5 to 8 p.m.). Dessert? A small and highly tempting array of classic cookies, rolls and bars.
304 S. Washington St., Lake City, Minn., 1-651-345-3199.
After years as a dinner-only restaurant, Söntés is serving weekday lunch, and if that isn't a reason to take a vacation day and zip down to Rochester, it's hard to know what is. Chef Bryce Lamb's imaginative, nuanced cooking -- best experienced through a keep-them-coming parade of small plates and tapas, but still evident in the sandwich and entree categories -- rivals any Zumbro River valley color explosion, and the wine cellar is stocked with an unerring sense of adventure and authority.
4 3rd St. SW., Rochester, 1-507-292-1628, www.sontes.com.