I Don’t Have to Leave My Car: Drive-Thru San Diego

Now that my girls are two, I am beginning to realize that I can’t do it all. It’s just not possible to run all of the errands like I used to, getting them in and out of the car has become more challenging, and often turns into a parking lot negotiation to strap the girls into their car seats.

Couple this with what seems like the girls falling asleep just as we hit the road, and it feels like I am trapped in the car. We get out of the house, but we can’t get out of the car. So it’s my mission to see how much I can accomplish without leaving my car and disturbing the girls restful sleep, while still feeling productive.

Here’s a list of unique drive-thru services in San Diego County. Some of them I’ve tried, some I will be trying in the near future. And yes, I intentionally left off the typical fast food windows, drive-in movie theatres, Starbucks drive-thrus, and financial institution drive-up ATMs  to focus on the most interesting in the area, presented here in no particular order:

Ocean Cleaners: For weeks I might have clothes that need to be dropped off at the cleaners. But is it worth unloading the girls and wait in line to see my friendly neighborhood gentleman who owns our local cleaners? While I enjoy chatting with John, and they know me by name, it’s just not possible to  make this happen with the girls. When I’m desperate, I’ll drive down to Pacific Beach and drop off the laundry at Ocean Cleaners. When I pick up my order, they will place it in my trunk for me. LOVE. IT. Ocean Cleaners is located at 1186 Garnet Avenue in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego.

Better Buzz Coffee: Also in Pacific Beach is Better Buzz Coffee. Their mochas are awesome and service is pretty quick. If you’re looking to venture out from the Starbucks Drive-Thru, then drop in to Better Buzz Coffee. They have a drive-thru location in San Marcos too!

Evolution Fast Food: The website boasts this restaurant is the only San Diego drive-thru restaurant offering a healthy, delicious, vegetarian menu. I am not a vegetarian, but it’s nice to know there is a low-fat burger option available, and I don’t need to leave the car! Evolution Fast Food is located at the corner of Quince and Fifth in the Hillcrest neighborhood in San Diego.

Winchell’s Donut House: I love donuts. Luckily this little donut shop is on our way to and from the after-hours pediatrician, which we seem to frequent about once a month. Instead of retail therapy, I stop by for some donut therapy. I guess it reminds me of my childhood, when it seemed like there was a Winchell’s on every corner. Now in San Diego County, there are only two. Winchell’s is located at 6912 Miramar Road (92121). Tip: Donut shops are often cash only, this one accepts credit/ATM cards.

Alta-Dena Drive-Thru Dairy: THIS. PLACE. IS. AWESOME. According to their website, the company opened their first drive-thru dairy when Harry S. Truman was president more than 60 years ago. Just roll right up through the garage door, and tell the clerk what you want. This is especially convenient when you need to pick up milk for the kiddos, or maybe a bottle of wine for after the kiddos go to bed. One Yelp user writes, This place is a “LIFESAVER.” The San Diego area drive-thru dairy is located in the Clairemont neighborhood, at 6426 Mt. Ada Road, tucked away off of the busy artery of Balboa Avenue.

A little bit of history: According to this Wikipedia article, Jack In The Box was the first major restaurant specifically designed as a drive-thru, featuring a two-way intercom. So apparently, drive-thrus are near and dear to the hearts of San Diegans.

I’m always on the look out for fun places to drive-thru. What are some of your favorites here in San Diego County? Remember, they need to be unique, rather than a mass chain location. Share them below! Who knows? If I get more suggestions, we may need to write another blog post! Thanks in advance.


12 thoughts on “I Don’t Have to Leave My Car: Drive-Thru San Diego

  1. Saffron Chicken on India Street now offers curbside pickup. Call in your order and your credit card number, then call them again when you pull up outside on busy India Street (usually double-parked), and they run your order out to your car. Win!!

  2. Love this! Thank you for sharing! I remember many drive-thru dairies in town when I was a child. Thanks to your post, I look forward to taking our kids to the one in Clairemont. I didn’t realize there was still one in the area. Also, Fast Keys & Engraving, on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. offers drive-up services.

  3. I have been meaning to try the Alta Dena drive thru in Clairemont – what mother has not run out of milk and needed to pick something up before breakfast and not want to fight the whole dislodging of kids in and out of the car? The drive thru places should really be a special place for families with more than 1 child… just sayin’ —- I’ve had this conversation too about the DINKs (double income no kids) who use the Starbucks drive thru… again, should be reserved for those of us who really NEED the caffeine and have double or triple duty to get it.

  4. Thank you so much for this great article. I have never heard of the Alta Dena drive thru and I have lived in this area for a long time. I am so excited !! Oh and my favorite drive thru with kids is Starbucks 🙂

  5. Love it! I remember that Alta Dena drive thru from when I was a child. Not cheap, but SO worth it when the time is right! I’m also very jealous of a drive-thru Rubio’s – that would change my life!! I’m going to keep snooping on this site; sorry I don’t have anything to add right now! 🙂

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