12 Drive-Thrus You Should Check Out in Dallas
All you have to do to find the nearest McDonald’s or Chick-fil-A near you is type “fast food” into google. But we’re not talking about that entirely here. The following are drive-thrus where your dollar can support local businesses while socially distancing you. Some may even call driving through it a lost art. From impromptu setups to long-standing staples, there are 12 restaurants here, two of which are tech drive-ins where you can explore the Dallas food scene from the comfort of your car.
Emporium pies [Now Pickup or Delivery only]
With a colorful, revitalized Victorian house as a storefront, Emporium Pies certainly doesn’t look like your typical drive-through – and it doesn’t either. The cakes, which are hand-made fresh daily, could be a clue. The business was founded in 2011 by Megan Wilkes and Mary Sparks, a duo introduced by a mutual friend. It also bakes its cakes without artificial preservatives and hydrogenated oils. During COVID-19, the store in the alley set up a temporary “pie-thru” at its location in the Bishop Arts District. The employees take customer orders in a hinged canopy tent and distribute prepackaged cakes or slices to the next. However, don’t be fooled by the accessible open-air tents. They will only serve customers who come in cars. Choose from the seasonal selection of cakes on a table outside.
The broken souls
As Alzcaleria, Las Almas Rotas has long been known for its liquor selection and bar service. The owners hired Chef Armando Aguilar to improve their menu, but his first day happened to coincide with Dallas’ shutdown of dine-in services. Now, Las Almas Rotas is serving more robust kitchen offerings through a makeshift drive-through. Customers who are out and about, including bikers, pedestrians and drivers, can walk through the adjoining, mural-adorned alley and collect their order at the restaurant’s side door. Since the transit opened, Las Almas Rotas has brought out new menu items like a taco eight pack and a chorizo verde burrito that Texas Monthly raved about.
Bubba’s was housed in a Texaco station that became a diner in 1929. It was built into cars for customers. Anyone looking for Mediterranean comfort food in uncomfortable times can recharge themselves with Bubba’s rich yeast rolls, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken. Bubba’s also offers family packages for the entire minivan. Choose from a variety of rotating vegetable sides to counteract the crisco-filled rolls. The recipes are heirlooms of the Vinyard family, whose late matriarch Mary Beth made the recipes and opened the restaurant in Dallas in 1981 with her husband Paul, aka Bubba.
Great American hero
Another long-standing staple in Dallas at Oak Lawn, Great American Hero was founded in 1974 by New Jersey native Dominick Oliverie. Since then, the sandwich shop has been serving subs to Dallasites who crave a sip of delicacy. Try a specialty like the Heroletta, stick with a classic Reuben, or choose from the vegetarian options. With a bright yellow, pink, and blue exterior and a large, Instagrammable mural on the back, you can still enjoy the ambiance of your car on this local drive through.
White Rock Coffee Express
If you miss hanging out in indie cafes but aren’t ready to sit in a coffee shop with limited capacity, you can still support a local monastery at the White Rock Coffee Express in Lakewood and Lake Highlands. The menu includes smoothies and traditional coffee drinks, as well as cleverly named drinks like the Adam Bomb (two shots of espresso with vanilla and cinnamon) and the White Rocker (with caramel and chocolate syrup). The menu includes lunch items and an array of baked goods, including doughy cinnamon rolls and sugar-crusted blueberry muffins from the commercial bakery. Located in narrow buildings with a farmhouse aesthetic, this coffeehouse was meant for drive-through customers to fix their caffeine on the go.
Chicken House Plus
The menu at this Old East Dallas Chicken Joint is pretty simple. There’s fried chicken breasts, thighs, gizzards, and virtually any other body parts a chicken has. The chicken could be sandwiched in a bun with a few cucumbers or extra seasoning as hot wings, and there are a few sides like okra and french fries. But when you come to Chicken House Plus, you come for chicken. Formerly known as Brothers Chicken, Chicken House Plus has been owned by the Chan and Suzy Park couple for 12 years. There are few lonely bar stools in the narrow shop and the speakers are broken. So pull up to the window to order.
Jake’s burger and beer
The 1985 original Jakes Burgers and Beer in Lake Highlands offers the only pass-through of all Jakes and dates from when the only location was a converted gas station with drive-through and counter service. Since the restaurant was expanded throughout D-FW, the menu has also been expanded to include brunch options and side dishes such as fried cauliflower. However, the local beef burgers, wrapped in buns sprinkled with poppy seeds, remain the chain’s staple food. The last part of the Jakes name refers to the wide range of local foam that customers can order even while driving through – just don’t drink them in the car.
La Paloma Taqueria
The North Dallas, East Dallas, Plano, and Balch Springs locations of this local taqueria all offer drive-through service and provide an alternative to your sad Taco Bell burrito. At La Paloma Taqueria, you can order staples like tamales, tortas, and burritos. If you’re looking for a cuisine that you wouldn’t find in larger fast-food chains, try traditional home-made dishes with lengua tacos, menudo or arroz con leche.
Celebrities and locals have dedicated themselves to this Dallas favorite since 1951. While the original location that evokes such nostalgia in loyal sentimentalists has no transit, the Addison and Lakewood locations do, and they still make the burgers using the same old school recipe. Burger House is known for its beef patties, which are not too strong, but rather thinly shaped and easy to stack. D awarded Burger House the title of “Best French Fries” in 2012. The french fries are possibly more famous for the seasoned salt that is sprinkled on them and onion rings. The seasoning salt is so popular that it is sold in stores and shipped worldwide.
Great Outdoors Sub Shop
You can enjoy the Great Outdoors Sub Shop from the inside of your car at the Dallas, McKinney, and Richardson locations. Jerry Oliverie from New Jersey opened this sub-shop in 1973 with his brother. If this story sounds familiar to you, it’s because Dominick Oliverie, the owner of Great American Hero, is Jerry’s brother. While the brothers now own separate local franchises, they are both still shipping New Jersey submarines to North Texas. The menu includes specialties such as The Great Outdoorsman (turkey pastrami, capicola, spiced ham, salami, bologna, pepperoni and cheese), classic favorites such as the cheesesteak and breakfast rolls on croissants.
The neon sign above the no-frills kitchen and glorified parking lot that is Keller’s drive-in hints at the Dallas restaurant beginning in the 1950s, which hasn’t changed much since then. A jukebox rattles music, and most burgers cost less than three dollars. However, this drive-in was named America’s Best Drive-In, and its burgers, which cost less than a latte, were named America’s Best Burgers list. Switch on your hazard warning lights to signal to the car shops that you are ready to order. Keller’s fans recommend the No. 5 specials as a burger, a poppy seed roll with a thin pate, lettuce and tomato covered with Thousand Island Dressing.
As the name of this classic East Dallas drive-in suggests, this restaurant is lactose-friendly and was born during a time when oat milk filled the shelves of all whole foods. The soft ice cream can be eaten on its own or dipped into a frothy mug of root beer that looks like it belongs in an advertisement for the soda. The burgers are simple culinary inventions. The onion rings are thick and the fries are real. If you’re feeling dehydrated after anything other than their legendary root beer, they make freshly squeezed lemonade too.