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Food on the Go: Top Drive-Thrus of Washington | Mullinax Ford Blog

Food on the Go: Top Drive-Thrus of Washington | Mullinax Ford Blog

Posted at Wed, Jul 5, 2023 9:00 AM

The fast-food drive-thru has got to be one of the best inventions of the 20th century. Think about it: piping hot, freshly made food, handed directly to you through your vehicle’s driver’s-side window.

Brilliant, right?

Thank Harry and Esther Snyder, who owned an In-and-Out Burger in Baldwin Park, CA in 1948. According to most accounts, at least one other drive-thru already existed.

But Harry’s the one who spent late nights in his garage developing the two-way speaker box – an early version of the technology still used today – that allowed people to order and receive meals without ever stepping foot out of the car.

Since then – drive-thru explosion! They’re everywhere, and hungry people can get everything from the original burgers and fries to tacos to doughnuts and even a caramel macchiato with caramel in the cup, upside down, with whipped cream, a shot of decaf espresso and cinnamon on the top (no drizzle).

In the Pacific Northwest, you have no excuse for DWH – driving while hungry – or DW/OC – driving without caffeine. For caffeination or a full-on chow-down, visit one of these drive-thru locations:

Eastside Big Tom

Treat yourself to some significant culinary history. Opened in 1948 as an In and Out Hamburgers – hmmm, why does that year seem significant? – Eastside Big Tom in Olympia lays claim to being the very first drive-thru in Washington state.

The menu back in the early days consisted mainly of dogs, fries, shakes and its signature Big Tom burger, for which the restaurant was eventually renamed. The menu has expanded to include chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, a veggie burger, salted caramel shakes and gluten-free buns on request.

Still nothing fancy architecture-wise, Big Tom is a must-stop in Washington’s capital city. By the way, never refer to it as Tom’s – that’s a sure giveaway that you’re not a local. Other ways to blend in include learning to love the secret sauce called “Goop” and asking what’s on the secret menu.

One more thing: Would you like a T-rex with your order? Since Covid, the restaurant has invested in an array of dinos to lure the kids – and the kid in all of us – back to the burger joint. They’re crazy popular, so good luck getting the gang back in the car.

Location: 2023 4th Ave E, Olympia.

Dick’s Drive-In

Dick’s was ahead of its time. Back in the 1950s, Dick Spady and his business partners knew that Americans were on the move in their automobiles. They wanted burgers and fries, fast, without having to sit and wait. Just order and get back in the car.

The first Dick’s opened in January 1954 on NE 45th Street in Seattle’s family-friendly Wallingford district. The fresh, fast and affordable menu was an immediate hit and Dick’s quickly became a place to hang out as much as grab a burger in a hurry.

The place has grown into a regional chain, but not much else has changed. Dick’s is still an emporium of burgers, fries and shakes served up without much in the way of customization. You can get a plain hamburger or cheeseburger these days and fries without salt though.

Multiple locations in the Seattle metro area.

Taco Time

This family-owned chain proudly proclaims that it’s the official taco joint of the Pacific Northwest. Also the official carbon-free taco joint of the Pacific Northwest.

An emphasis on fresh food fits right in with efforts to save anergy and protect the planet. The varied menu features burritos, crisp and soft tacos (including fish and veggie), salads, bowls, platters and kids’ meals.

Taco time’s first drive-thru debuted in 1978 and was still considered a novelty at the time.

Today the chain has 77 locations across the greater Seattle area, including Olympia and Tumwater.

Shipwreck Café

This popular sit-down restaurant, known for its fresh local oysters, burgers and fish and chips also offers a drive-thru for those who need a quick fix. Really, who hasn’t needed a cod fish sandwich and tater tots on the go?

Oh, and there’s breakfast all day, which recently won The Olympian’s readers’ poll for best breakfast in the region.

Location: 244 Madrona Beach Rd NW, Olympia.

Twister Donuts Olympia

Is this heaven? No, it’s a donut shop with a drive-thru and that’s maybe even better.

Donuts, donut bars, donut holes, cream puffs, bear claws, cinnamon rolls, fritters, bagel sandwiches, even donut cakes are on the extensive menu of fresh-made goodies. Coffee tends toward the pour-your-own variety, but that’s okay. You don’t want to overdo things.

Location: 2302 4th Ave. E., Olympia.

Varsity Espresso

This tiny but mighty independent gourmet coffee stand is quick with all the essentials for PNW-level caffeination. We’re talking five sizes of most hot and cold beverages, plus lattes, mochas, milkshakes, smoothies and extras like almond milk, caramel sauce and the all-important espresso shots. 

Guaranteed to wake you up and get you down the road.

Fun tip: The Varsity is in the corner of the parking lot of the local animal services facility. No, you do not need a puppy. Just a latte.

Location: 3120 Martin Way E., Olympia.

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