When I head to Madeline Island, off Bayfield, Wis., I like to cut into Wisconsin early. That’s not because I prefer passing through towns with 30-mile-per-hour speed limits or driving on two-lane highways. It’s because my route, along Hwy. 70, passes the Drive-In in Grantsburg, Wis. The classic spot serves delicious fresh beef burgers and floats featuring the vanilla-tinged root beer made on the premises. Could there be a better way to start a vacation?
I’ll take the long way for a treat at an old-fashioned drive-in. Fortunately, I’ve encountered a few of these nostalgic summertime treasures.
Most are holdovers from the 1950s and ’60s, when drive-ins were all the rage and automobiles’ front seats stretched uninterrupted from door to door, like a sofa. Drive-throughs roared into the picture in the 1970s, surpassing drive-ins’ popularity in an increasingly go-go world.
Give me a drive-in over a McDonald’s any day. Where to get a taste of this nostalgia?
The Drive-In has two other locations in addition to the one in Grantsburg: Taylors Falls, Minn., and Milltown, Wis.
In Luverne, Minn., JJ’s Tasty Drive In has been around for more than 30 years. In a confection of a building — wrapped in white and red stripes and topped with diamond-shaped signs — it serves big, juicy burgers, corn dogs, onion rings and all kinds of ice cream treats. It’s not far off Interstate 90.
I’ve also been known to veer off southbound Hwy. 169 for a detour to Winthrop, Minn. One year, I bumped into the Country Drive In there, a quiet clapboard spot with a walk-up window at Hwys. 15 and 19. I enjoyed the hot dog, but what I still dream about is the Dreamsicle, an icy lemon-orange-ice cream shake.
I’ve heard great things about Peppermint Twist, a hot pink-painted standout in Delano, Minn.
Maybe another road trip is in my future.
Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.