DELANO, Minn. (WCCO) — There’s always one place you can grab a bite to eat where time seems to have stopped — a drive-in restaurant. And with the weather finally warming up, there’s no better time to put the top down and grab a burger at your favorite spot.
We wanted to find the best of Minnesota. Your votes sent Natalie Nyhus to a family-owned and operated restaurant who’s signature look has been a staple in Delano for 34 years. This is the Peppermint Twist Drive-In.
“You drive up under the speakers like the old-fashioned drive-ins. You can order from the car and we bring it out on a tray with the carhops,” owner Vickie Mirenda said.
Peppermint Twist is a drive-in restaurant with twist. If you drive through town and miss it, you might want to get your eyes checked. This mom and pop shop has been a Delano icon for 34 years, owned and operated by this mom and pop.
“We met at a restaurant in Minneapolis — Mama Rosa’s,” owner Michael Mirenda said.
Vickie served tables and Michael was the cook.
“Well he’s the food person, and I’m the people person,” Vickie said. “But we both are involved in all the cooking and everything that’s involved here every day. And I think that makes a different. You can tell when the owners are involved and that someone really cares what’s going on.”
When the Mirendas bought the former A&W in 1982, it needed a lot of TLC to become the Peppermint Twist customers know and love today.
“Hardees came into town, which was a big franchise in the area, the first one. So we stood here and watched everybody check that out. And we knew we had to do something to get attention. So that’s when we painted pink,” Vickie said.
Now the pink is as much a part of the restaurant as the food.
“At the time, pink wasn’t such a popular color as it is now. My neighbors weren’t too happy with us,” Vickie said. “But it did what we wanted to do. It drew attention to the place and got people to stop and try us.”
Between the eye-catching paint and their Teddy Bear Park, it’s a wonderland for kids — a place to sing, dance and play.
“Somebody once called it the Peppermint Twist Compound,” Vickie said. “It’s not just a restaurant, not just a playground.”
You’d almost forget they serve food. Almost. Each meal is made to order, and with a lot of love.
“We don’t make it ahead of time and it’s sitting somewhere. You might wait half an hour for your food. But you aren’t waiting a half hour to order,” Michael said. It’s burgers, wedge fries with Sriracha, thick onion rings, and you have to wash your meal down with a signature raspberry shake.
For a restaurant that’s been around for three and a half decades, Vicki and Michael have fed a lot of mouths, and touched a lot of lives.
“It doesn’t always hit me when you’re busy. But when I look out and see the moms and kids hula hooping or dancing together. You go, oh they’re really having a good time. You think, oh that’s what I’m here for,” Vickie said.
“In the years, we’ve shaped a lot of lives because of the way we are with the kids here. And that makes me proud,” Michael said.
The Peppermint Twist is open for the season, every day except Mondays. Your other favorite drive-in restaurants are the Dari-ette in St. Paul, The Country Drive-In in Winthrop and The Drive-In in Taylors Falls.