The Dari-ette Drive-In, the synonymous-with-summer dining landmark on St. Paul's East Side, closed on Saturday after a 70-year run.
"It's exciting but it's sad," third-generation owner Angela Fida told Fox 9. "It's exciting because I'm going to start a new chapter in my life, and it's sad because I've been here for so long."
Fida's grandparents founded the Minnehaha Avenue drive-in in 1951, and her parents, John and Lois, met while working there as teens. Fida grew up in the house next door. She was in kindergarten when she took on her first task — working the switchboard — and she took over the business in 1998.
Along with burgers, fried chicken, corn dogs, shakes (variations ranged from banana to crème de menthe), soft-serve cones and other fast-food fare, the Dari-ette stood out from its competition by offering a selection of Italian-American favorites, including spaghetti and rigatoni, pasta e fagioli, pizza burgers, antipasto salads, garlic cheese toast and a sausage sandwich smothered in fried peppers and melted mozzarella. The kitchen's spaghetti sauce was sold by the pint, quart and gallon.
"We're still here because we don't change things," Fida told the Star Tribune in 2015. "I keep it as it is. People like that."
Fida put the place up for sale in February 2020 and continued to operate during the warm-weather months of 2020 and 2021. They buyer has not been identified, and their intentions for the property are unknown. The kitchen served its last meatball sandwich on Saturday.
"It's just going to feel good to not get up in the morning and have to stir the sauce again," Fida told Fox 9. "But I'm sure I'm going to miss it in two weeks."
The Dari-ette was a member of a shrinking fraternity of locally owned drive-ins, a group that includes the Minnetonka Drive-In (4658 Shoreline Drive, Spring Park, minnetonkadrivein.com), the Peppermint Twist (115 Babcock Blvd. W., Delano, thepepperminttwist.com), Wagner's Drive-In (7000 W. Broadway, Brooklyn Park, wagnersdrivein.com) and Clays Galaxy Drive In (3712 Quebec Av. S., St. Louis Park, claysgalaxy.com). Oklahoma City-based Sonic, the nation's largest drive-in chain, landed in the Twin Cities in 2012 and operates five metro-area locations.