Two Local Drive-Thru’s That Don’t Serve “Fast Food”

For those of us who prefer not to go inside restaurants during the pandemic, drive-thrus are perfect.

Heck, I’ll take a carry out window and just shiver outside for a bit.

It feels unsettling to call in an order and then go inside to pick it up while people dine and socialize, open-faced.

I can’t blame restaurants. The owners and employees are making impossible choices to survive.

If you have a drive-thru, I’m intrigued. I’ll be there.

Most of the fast food restaurants in the city have drive-thrus. But, these two local restaurants in the Twin Cities offer foods you might not typically think of as “fast food” through their drive-thrus.

Thai Pepper, West Saint Paul

Thai Pepper, which opened in late 2019, is located in a small building in West St. Paul – they offer a concise menu of Thai dishes. You can order ahead or at the window.

Read more about Thai Pepper here in this West St. Paul Reader article.

I ordered three entrees and an appetizer at the window and pulled to the side to wait- someone brought out my order in about 10 minutes. All of the employees inside wore masks. Our meal was reasonably priced at $34 + tip.

Each entree included generous amounts of protein and the vegetables were crisp and fresh. The medium heat-level actually tasted quite spicy. I liked their twist on cream cheese wontons which came as little rolls served with a sweet and spicy fish-sauce type of sauce.

The green curry tasted much sweeter than you would find at Bangkok Thai Deli. I love sweet and savory things, so I don’t mind sweeter coconut curries.

Overall, a really satisfying meal I will return for.

Mi-Sant Banh Mi Company, Brooklyn Park

Someone on Twitter recommended Mi-Sant as another drive-thru option.

Mi-Sant opened in 2018. According to this MPLS – St. Paul Business Journal article, one of the co-owners’s family also operates Trung Nam on University Ave in St. Paul.

Trung Nam has been one of my favorites for croissants, Vietnamese coffee and banh mi’s. Their drive-thru window is also open now. 

At 9:15, Mi-Sant was steady with customers. Lots of customers seemed to be going inside to order, but I found a short line at the drive-thru. An attractive menu board featured all of the dishes. Even at 9 a.m. you can order from the full menu including pastries, breakfast croissant sandwiches, rice and noodle bowls, banh mi, spring rolls, and salads.

The extensive drink menu offers many types of coffee and bubble tea drinks.

I ordered a tofu banh mi, lemongrass chicken bowl with peanut sauce, and croissants. After a very short wait at the window, they handed me my order.

Jake really enjoyed his chicken bowl. I appreciate when restaurants offer tofu banh mi’s – this sandwich was nearly as large as iPho’s (a personal fav). Made with fresh, warm bread and  filled fresh veggies and mayo. The tofu soaked up flavor from a savory marinade with sautéed onions. I wish I had ordered two. It’s closed Sundays so I’m still thinking about it.

Good thing I ordered three croissants – the outsides have a thin crisp and light sweetness. Soft and buttery like Trung Nam’s. The only thing I didn’t love was the wintermelon cooler – the sweetness was so intense it made my favorite caramel mocha at Starbucks seem like child’s play. Maybe that’s how this flavor usually tastes – I’m still newer to bubble tea drinks.

If you know of any more non-fast food drive thrus, please let me know! As well as any other good vegetarian banh mi’s.


  1. Nikki

    I just discovered mi-sant a month ago and am so happy it’s on my way to and from Duluth. I’ve had two of the Bahn mi, and one was eaten a couple of day’s later and still tasted delicious. I had a Thai tea ice drink and will pass on that in the future as like your beverage it was way too sweet.

  2. Amy

    Not “drive through” exactly, but one of my Robbinsdale favorites that is doing really excellent curbside is Marna’s. It is an order ahead situation, but they have always been fast and delicious! The Front Burger, Arroz con Camarones, and Puerto Viejo Ceviche are my favorites.

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