Who invented the drive-thru window? It’s a trick question, I know, because restaurants that serve food to go date back at least to ancient Rome, although funny reports that they had “drive-thru windows” are probably a joke because wheeled vehicles were often banned in cities where you’d find restaurants, and it was mainly the wealthy who traveled long distances in wheeled vehicles anyway. And while it’s true that some British pubs, and probably taverns and bars across Europe, have historically had open windows where people could come up and order a pint most of the time customers would sit and sip their bitters at tables right next to the building.
There is a funny and underappreciated 2001 indie film called Scotland, PA about the first burger joint to have a drive-thru window. It’s pure fiction—the story is somewhat loosely based on a certain Scottish play by Shakespeare—but it’s clever and also worth checking out if you want to hear Christopher Walken say “baba ghanoush”.
My own associations with drive-thru windows, too, is that they’re mainly for terrible food. What I mean is you go through a drive-thru window if you can’t be bothered to stop and you don’t really care about the quality of what you’re getting because most of the time it’s been sitting under a heat lamp for at least an hour.
There are exceptions, though. The other night my wife had a craving for barbecue and, lucky for us, there’s a pretty good place down the street that’s both nearby and has a nifty drive-thru window. They cleverly converted an old full-service garage with a car wash into a restaurant and put in a pick-up window. And the service was fast—so fast I didn’t really have a chance to get a good picture of some of the cool advertising on the inside walls.
And because it’s so close the food was still pretty good by the time I got home.
What was left of it, anyway.