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When we think of drive-thru food, we think of a fast-food chain. Instead of getting your run-of-the-mill burger and fries, we suggest you keep it local. Austin-based drive-thru joints range from burgers, to tacos, to everything in between. Whether you’re in need of a late night indulgence, or you don’t want to get the kids out of the car, we have a list of our favorite local drive-thru spots.
1508 West Anderson Lane, open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
When you think of a drive-thru, you usually think of unhealthy food. However, Baby Greens has the convenience of staying in your car, paired with made-to-order salads and wraps. When the restaurant took over a hamburger drive-thru in 2004, founder Sharon Mays wanted to be the destination for fresh and healthy fast food.
Our favorites: watermelon aqua fresca, Asian wrap with grilled tofu, and any of the soups of the day.
9001 Cameron Road, Suite 101, open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Buddy’s has dine in options with both indoor and outdoor seating, but the overall mission of the concept is to provide a high-end burger via a drive thru setup. The menu is short and simple and uses all natural ingredients and top of the line 100% angus beef patties that are hand formed daily. They serve fries, of course, as well as a variety of handspun milkshakes – oh, and draft beer! And here’s a fun fact: their fresh hand-squeezed lemonade is a recipe you may already know and love – it’s the same blend that was used for decades at the Zilker Park concession stand!
Our favorites: the original lemonade as well as a mango flavored option paired with a Double Classic with Cheese topped with Buddy’s Smack Sauce!
Multiple locations, open daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Dan’s Hamburgers has been an Austin tradition since 1973. This family-owned and operated joint serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We love this classic fast-food joint because of the different fry options – choose from regular or curly, or upgrade to their crispy onion rings.
Our favorites: keep it classic with a cheeseburger and vanilla shake, huevos rancheros for breakfast.
El Pollo Rico
Multiple locations, open daily from 10 a.m. to 9:50 p.m.
If you’re looking for authentic charcoal-grilled chicken to feed a lot of people, El Pollo Rico is your spot. For a drive-thru, their menu is extensive – serving dishes like enchiladas, gorditas, and their incredibly delicious chicken and carne asada meals. With 10 locations around Austin, you won’t have to travel far for good food.
Our favorites: chicken bowl, whole chicken meal, and flautas.
Multiple locations, open everyday from 7 to 12 a.m.
We love El Tacorrido because you can get an authentic, delicious taco without leaving your car. The owner grew up in a small town in Mexico and brought his cooking skills to Austin to prepare fresh, high-quality tacos. With multiple locations around Austin, you can get your fix anywhere, plus 1 of their locations is open till 3 a.m. for those late-night fixings.
Our favorites: the carintas, barbacoa, and tortas.
Multiple locations, open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The folks ay Flyrite believe that fast-food should be real food. Not only do they use all-natural chicken, but they also use planet-friendly packaging that is compostable or recyclable. All the chicken sandwiches on their menu are well thought out. Flyrite offers chicken sandwiches and wraps with toppings like avocado salsa, kale slaw, and house-made pickles. Or, dip your chicken tenders into creative sauces like their Thai chili or cucumber yogurt.
Our favorites: The Greenbelt, The Cowboy, and tots.
Fresa’s 9th and Lamar
915 North Lamar, open daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Stop through their location with the drive-thru off North Lamar for fantastic and creative Mexican food. Fresa’s offers family-style meals where you assemble your tacos once you get home. Choose from a whole, half, or quarter chicken with all the sides. They also offer single tacos, sides, salads, and more.
Our favorites: El Rey taco, side of Brussels sprouts, classic queso.
Hat Creek Burger Company
Multiple locations, open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Hat Creek Burger started as a food truck in Austin, and after gaining attention, they opened up their first brick-and-mortar off Burnet Road. The founder of Hat Creek, Drew Gressett started the casual restaurant with the goal to become the best fast-casual, family-friendly restaurant in the country. They’re doing just that with playgrounds at most locations and Tuesday Night Family Night featuring discounted meals and kids meals.
Our favorites: grilled chicken sandwich, sweet potato fries, and any of their unique dipping sauces.
Multiple locations, hours vary between location
Juiceland is probably one of the most popular spots to get a fresh juice or smoothie in Austin. The folks at this local juice bar are passionate about health and wellness. In 2001, founder Matt Shook took a break from swimming at Barton Springs Pool to grab a juice at a spot on Barton Springs. He filled out an application and found his calling. In 2011, Shook started Juiceland and has developed the menu from 4 smoothies to an award-winning menu of juices, to-go food, bowls, shots, and cleanses. While there are tons of Juiceland locations, only some have a drive-thru!
Our favorites: Soul Boulder, Strawberry Mylkshake, Peachy Green
Multiple locations, open daily, hours vary between locations
Of course P. Terry’s is on our list! Austin couple Patrick and Kathy Terry opened this American fast-food restaurant in 2005 and it has had a strong following ever since. The restaurant prides itself as being quality fast-food — no additives, fillers, preservatives, hormones, and the food is definitely never frozen. Their basic menu consists of a burger, chicken burger, or veggie burger accompanied by fries and shakes. They also serve breakfast until 11 a.m.
Our favorites: veggie burger, oatmeal chocolate cookie, and shoe-string cut fries.
Plaza Colombian Coffee
3842 South Congress Avenue, open Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
New to Austin, this restaurant/coffee shop/bar/more features a drive-thru menu with a Colombian cuisine and bakery. We especially recommend the coffee – it’s robust, flavorful, and strong. If you’d rather get out of your car after you go through the drive-thru, enjoy their quaint and colorful patio.
Our favorites: Sweet Bee latte, veggie empanadas, and shredded chicken empanadas.
603 Barton Springs Road, open daily from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
With Sandy’s being right next door to another burger spot (rhymes with Putaburger) on Barton Springs, it can be tough to choose which drive-thru to get into. We recommend getting in line at Sandy’s, an Austin icon drive-thru and walk-up burger joint that’s been open since 1946. While there isn’t any indoor seating, they are a handful of picnic tables behind the restaurant. Perfect stop for lunch or dinner after you taken a dip in Barton Springs Pool.
Our favorites: old-fashioned burger, root beer float, and corndogs.
Top Notch Hamburgers
7525 Burnet Road, open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Wanna eat at a local drive-in that has also been featured in a movie? Then head to Top Notch. This old-school American drive-in was featured in the 1993 film, Dazed and Confused, but also features a large menu for a fast-food spot. Opened in 1971, the iconic Austin restaurant has only seen a few menu changes. They’ve kept their charcoal grilled hamburgers and classic drive-in theme, with friendly service and mouth-watering milkshakes.
Our favorites: classic burger, onion rings, and fried okra.
Featured photo via Baby Greens on Instagram.