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.
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).
If you find yourself DWH – driving while hungry – in Alabama, check out these excellent places to fuel up:
If it clucks, you’re in luck with this Mobile-based regional chain that specializes in yardbird fingers, sweet tea and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
Yes, you can get fries with that – crinkle cut – and slaw and a few other sides, plus sauces for your chicken. They’re made in-house every day. Start with the signature Foo sauce, which regulars refer to as Thousand Island with a kick.
What’s with the name? People had trouble pronouncing the name of the owner – Will Fusaiotti – who decided “Foosackly” was close enough and pretty cool-sounding.
Multiple locations in coastal Alabama and northwest Florida.
Jim ‘n Nick’s
Barbecue isn’t just a meal in the south, it’s a tradition that deserves reverence and respect. At Jim ‘n Nick’s, the ‘cue is cooked low and slow, by actual chefs and pitmasters – as it should be – but the service is reliably speedy. That’s true in the large sit-down portion of the restaurants and especially at the drive-thru, which has been a popular feature for more than 20 years.
The menu encompasses several styles, from the brisket, ribs and classic pulled pork popular in Texas to Carolina-style chopped piggy with a vinegar-based sauce. Chicken, smoked turkey, catfish, scratch-made sides and other traditional faves round out the selections.
Multiple locations in Alabama, neighboring southern states and as far west as Colorado.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers
Freddy’s knows the way to a fast-food lover’s heart (if not their arteries): a cooked-to-order, crispy-edged burgers with a choice of toppings accompanied by fries (or cheese fries or onion rings) and followed up by a creamy, freshly churned frozen custard treat.
This Kansas-based chain has been around for just over 20 years and is one of the fastest growing franchises in the nation.
Multiple locations in Alabama. Hit the drive-thru in Tuscaloosa at 315 15th St.
Pass the Yum Yum sauce. This fast-casual eatery dishes up hibachi, yakisoba and teriyaki entrees in a hurry.
Location: 216 State Farm Parkway, Homewood.
Whit’s Frozen Custard
The basics stay with us for a reason. Whit’s offers chocolate, vanilla and a flavor of the week, all made fresh daily and augmented by a delicious range of toppings including chocolate, butterscotch, nuts, candies and a variety of real fruits. You can get mix-ins or floats, plus food such as hot dogs or pulled pork barbecue.
Whit’s can be found in nine states, mostly in the south. Vegan options are available at some locations, including the one at 1204 Main Street in Daphne.
Mudslingers was born in 2020 after a family of Alaskans moved to the Huntsville area, bringing their coffee-craving ways with them.
Locally owned and drive-thru-only, it provides its Rocket City clientele with classic hot and cold caffeine, smoothies and energy beverages, plus a limited range of snacks and a little something for the kiddos. But that’s where the similarity to other coffee shops ends.
Moon Pie in a cup, anyone? The signature concoction features espresso (one to four shots, your choice) with Ghirardelli chocolate and marshmallow syrup topped with whip, mini marshmallows and chocolate sauce. Sure, why not!
Location: 6935 US Hwy 431 South, Owens Cross Roads, Huntsville.
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