Dari-ette Drive In, the family owned retro-style diner on St. Paul’s East Side, was built by Angela Fida’s grandparents as a tiny burger and hot dog joint in 1951, back when Minnehaha Avenue was a bustling artery to Wisconsin. They had intended on eventually expanding to a full-service restaurant, but it did so well in its Lilliputian incarnation that it stayed that way for decades. Eventually, a modest dinning area and bit of additional storage space were added. Fida grew up in the restaurant when her parents owned it and took her turn at the helm in 1999. Today the old-fashioned drive-in offers a vast menu that includes fried chicken and Italian dishes using Fida’s dad’s recipes, but the burgers are a particular stand out.
The most popular burger on the menu is the Pizza burger, a perfect marriage of American and Italian flavors- just like Angela’s parents, who met when her mom was an employee. The meat patty is sprinkled with Italian seasoning, slathered with homemade pizza sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese. A basket includes coleslaw and a choice of fries and or spaghetti. "Where else can you get a burger and a malt with a side of spaghetti?" Fida joked.
The classic style Burger-ette is another big hit. A 1/3 Lbs. of certified Angus beef is grilled and topped with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese and nestled in a soft sesame seed bun. Add a root beer float, close your eyes and you are transported to the days of Peter Pan collars and I Love Lucy. The Italian Hamburger is another lovely melding of flavors, served on Italian bread instead of a bun and topped with homemade spaghetti sauce. Everything is cooked to order. Even the fries don’t sit under a heat lamp, which means they arrive at your car window nice and hot, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
Open from April to October, the drive-in offers several seating options, including concrete tables up front. But by far the most fun way to enjoy your retro dinner is to pull up to one of the parking spots and order directly from the speakers like Fonzie would have on one of his dates. A friendly carhop brings your food, takes your payment and cleans up. You just sit back and sip on your cherry Coke.