Saturday, December 4, 2010

Making a Mess in Minnesota

Dari-ette Drive-In
1440 E. Minnehaha Ave.
St. Paul, MN
Visited September 23, 2010

Beer selection: None

Food: Out-of-this world Italian food -- served drive-in style!

My excessive dry cleaning bill has often prompted me to wonder: Am I a messy eater? Or do I just like to eat really messy food?

I mean, am I some sort of mutant, the only person on the planet who can’t seem to keep mounds of melting cheese and runny tomato sauce precariously stacked on disintegrating buns off my Brooks Brothers suit and tie while driving 75 mph on the interstate?

Or am I just the only idiot on the planet who would even contemplate such a feat?

A visit to the Dari-ette Drive-In in St. Paul certainly doesn’t do a thing to clear up this mystery.

The Dari-ette looks like an ordinary drive-in, with parking spots next to little menu boards, parking lot-patrolling car hops and a neon ice cream cone on the sign. The menu includes typical drive-in fare like burgers, hot dogs and ice cream. Stuff that’s manageable for mere mortals like me to eat off the rental car dash board.

But take a closer look.

The whole place is decked out in the vibrant green, white and red of the Italian flag – the mere sight of which makes my stomach growl.

No, the Dari-ette is no typical drive-in.

No one over the age of 12 orders burgers or hot dogs here. The specialty is Italian food. Really, really good Italian food.

But here’s the question: who in their right mind attempts to eat spaghetti and meat balls while sitting in their car???

Not me.

Fortunately, the Dari-ette Drive-In has a small dining room with a handful of cozy booths for messy eaters like me.

My biggest dilemma was what to order.

The meatballs are hand-made and deep fried and served under a blanket of homemade marinara and melted mozzarella on a sub roll. That was tempting.

You know how Suit757 feels about deep frying.

Anything delicious is instantly made more so with a quick submersion in a bubbling vat of grease. Deep fried, Italian spiced balls of meat? REAL tempting.

But the Dar-ette’s specialty is its homemade Italian Sausage. And I’m a sausage connoisseur.

For a moment, I even gave serious consideration to ordering both the sausage sandwich AND the meatball sub. I had my rationalization all ready: why not, since this is the only meal I’m going to fit into my Suit757 schedule in a 48 hour window?

“I deserved this.”

Then I came to my senses.

Twenty minutes of federal bureaucrat testicle-fondling and four hours in a middle seat was going to be miserable enough. Three pounds of slowly digesting processed meat wasn't going to make the experience any more pleasant.

No, I had to choose.

I chose the Italiano, the sausage sandwich of my dreams.

Topped with melted mozzarella and an avalanche of Dari-ette’s famous marinara on thick sliced Italian bread that was soft as the business end of Kim Kardashian (or so I imagine) and yet, miraculously, never disintegrated under the weight of all the goodness it was containing.

I’m not saying I’d even think about trying to eat it in my car, but it held together surprisingly well.

The onion rings on the side were thick and juicy and a nice compliment to one of the best sausage sandwiches I’d ever had.

But still, I couldn’t help but feel just a tinge of sadness and regret over missing Dari-ette’s famous fried meatball sub.

No doubt about it. I’ll be back. Just don’t look for me in the parking lot.

I’ll be the suit sitting inside behind the giant mound of napkins.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!

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