Drive-Thru of the Year: The Official 2010 Ballot

We are now ready to announce the official nominees for the 4th category in this year’s Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. What local institution deserves the title of Drive-Thru of the Year?

Let your votes be heard — all 4 of them! You’re allowed to vote once in a comment at the bottom of this post, once in an email to our super-top-secret email address, once through Twitter, and once on the wall of Swamplot’s Facebook fan page. (You can read more about our crazy voting rules here.) If you want to swing the voting toward your favorite candidate, go ahead: Start an email or social-networking campaign. The polls for this and all categories in the 2010 Swampies will close at 5 pm on Monday, December 27th.

The official nominees for 2010 Drive-Thru of the Year are . . .


1. Connie’s Frozen Custard, 12545 Jones Rd., Cypress North Houston. “Less air than ice cream, more egg yolk, no gluten. Separate drive-thru and walk-up windows. Plus, they call the mix-ins ‘concretes.’

2. El Rey Taqueria, 910 Shepherd, Washington Corridor. “For the excellent food and the quality people-watching opportunities. On weekdays, the line sometimes backs up onto Shepherd.

3. Chick-fil-A Highway 59 at Kirby, 2715 Southwest Fwy. between Kirby and Buffalo Speedway, Upper Kirby. “An early pioneer of the two-lane drive thru (including a neat automatic-pulley system to transport food from the main building to the serving shack). During rush/lunch time they send out workers to take orders before you even hit the loudspeaker menu. This gets cars through during lunchtime with mind-boggling efficiency. I’d be interested to see how they compare with other restaurants on total numbers served in a given time/day/week, and would bet they’d be at or near the top.”

“If every fast-food restaurant ran as smooth as Chick-fil-A this city would get so much more done.

“You know it’s awesome when they can afford to shut down the second lane for a while to add freakin’ landscaping with a fountain and pond between the lanes! I mean, come on!!”

“Last time I went through Chik-fil-A at lunch time they had added even more workers outside with condiment racks near the drive-thru exit. They’re definitely taking it to a whole new level of efficiency. The only thing I wish they would improve is their menu. ‘Now we’ve added spice to our chicken sandwich.’ *zzzzzzz* But yes, their drive-thru rocks!

4. Shipley’s Donuts, 3410 Ella, Oak Forest. “Clearly the best Shipley’s in the chain. I’ve never seen any donut-shop drive-thru that consistently has a line of cars stretching out into the street, reducing traffic to one lane for at least a half block. I find myself fascinated with their range of busy hours. Mornings, especially Sunday, I get. But every night after 10 pm? What goes on there that late? Do all of my neighbors suddenly have kolache cravings?

5. W Grill, 4825 Washington Ave at Durham, Washington Corridor. “The fresh food makes it a little slow but the staff is very friendly and the food is beyond worth the wait.”

“Add to that the fact that they are now selling the sealed drinks of Louisiana (it ain’t an open container if there’s tape on the top and no straw in it!) and I’m even a little happier. Better than basic fast food and now with a piña colada. In and out!”

6. Eskimo Hut, 6730 Louetta at Seven Pines, Spring. “The lane is covered, and they have daiquiris! — sealed in a plastic bag, so technically you aren’t breaking any open-container laws. A drive-thru where they fill your c-store order and have shot specials has to rank up there . . . just wish they were in town as well.”

7. Daiquiri Shack, 12805 Cullen Blvd., Crestmont Park. “Also features ‘sealed’ drinks. Surprised the hell out of me; I thought that was only a Louisiana thing.”

8. The Original Beck’s Prime, 2902 Kirby, Upper Kirby. “Gets the nod for its creativity. No more than three (maybe) cars could fit in its Kirby side drive-thru before sticking out into the street, so they put another window with its own ordering lane on the other side of the building. Plus, points for offering a $29.95 Texas rib eye steak. I like the idea of getting a steak passed to me through a window. Not that I would ever order it, but I like to at least have the option.

9. Advantage BMW, 1305 West Gray, Midtown. “Whoever conceived of this drive-thru-style showroom looking onto the southbound lanes of the Pierce Elevated was brilliant. Okay, so nobody‘s out there taking your orders (who carries $60K in their change tray anyway?). But what a way to show off the cars!”

10. The City of Houston. “The most drive-thru friendly city in America. I’d challenge anyone to find another city with a greater per capita number of drive-thru banks, restaurants, dry cleaners, daiquiri stands, donut shops, pharmacies, coffee shops, etc.”

So . . . make up your mind! What’ll it be? May we take your order, please?

Photos: Chris Carpenter (Connie’s sign), Farrah A. (Connie’s), Candace Garcia (El Rey, Chick-fil-A, W Grill, Beck’s, Pierce Elevated), Chad & Susan Harris (Shipley’s) Sam V. (Eskimo Hut), Aaron Carpenter (Daiquiri Shack), Michael Bludworth (I-45)

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