How good is the Drive-In? The name says it all. It's not the Insert-Name-Here Drive-In. Just The Drive-In, emphasis on The.
Owners Wade and Carol Vitalis have every reason to flaunt such un-Minnesotan cockiness, because their Taylors Falls landmark is one swell example of the genre. Its allure starts with a quirky and utterly seductive roadside sign, a gigantic rotating root beer mug that is one of the state's great dining salutations. The spotless red-and-white stand, which dates to 1956, is another asset. It's landscaped within an inch of its life (no wonder the yellow jackets treat the place like a KOA campground; if I were a bee I'd think the place was paradise), with plenty of shaded tables and a gurgling fountain.
Although a platoon of smiling, poodle skirt-wearing servers work to the sound system's steady stream of golden oldies, the Vitalis family does more than celebrate nostalgia. Their quick-on-its-feet kitchen strikes many of the right fast-food chords. The burgers ($3.79 to $7.25) are sensational, with thick, juicy, hand-formed patties, golden buns and an array of tasty, time-honored toppings. Chicken sandwiches ($4.69 to $6.89) boast real chicken breasts, not some factory-pressed mystery meat. The fries are crinkly and lightly crispy ($2.25 to $3.69) and onion rings ($3 to $5.40) have a delicate crunch; the deep fryer also turns out an amusing novelty, battered and fried green beans ($3.25 to $5.75).
Dessert means soft-serve cones, malts and sundaes ($1.49 to $4.39), and they're fine, but what really hits the spot on a balmy August day is a frosted glass mug filled with house-made root beer ($1.59 to $1.99), its frothy head lingering on your upper lip as bits of the iced-up beverage slip down your parched throat. Aaaaah.