June 29, 2022

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11 essential Houston drive-thru restaurants

5 min read

Texans love Whataburger, we get it. The burger chain is fast, it’s cheap, and there’s a drive-thru window that is all too convenient on days when you’re strapped for time.

But before you grab another Double Meat, you should know that Houston—being the amazing, diverse food city that it is—is teeming with craveable drive-thru options, and many go well beyond the burger. Tacos al pastor, local brisket kolache, shrimp pad Thai, and yes, even those classic burgers, fries and shakes. It’s all up for grabs.

Here are 11 great drive-thrus in Houston.

Common Bond expanded with a several Common Bond On-the-Go concepts across Houston.

Common Bond expanded with a several Common Bond On-the-Go concepts across Houston.

Common Bond

Common Bond On-The-Go

Since opening in Montrose in 2014, Common Bond has stretched across Houston, including a number of On-The-Go locations that have drive-thru windows. Take a ride to the Heights, Garden Oaks or Marq’E locations to snag French specialties like sandwiches stuffed with jambon de Paris, gruyère and Dijon butter; traditional pastries from buttery croissants and sugar-coated kugelhopfs to a rainbow of macarons; and espressos and lattes to wash down the baked goods.

El Rey Taqueria has a drive-thru on Shepherd Dr.

El Rey Taqueria has a drive-thru on Shepherd Dr.

Google Maps

El Rey Taqueria

The Cuban tacos—hot tortillas filled with beef or chicken fajitas, black beans, sweet plantain and sour cream—are a must from this local Cuban and Mexican taqueria, which offers both dine-in and drive-thru ordering at all of its four Houston locations. The ropa vieja, tacos al pastor and house-roasted rotisserie chicken are also worth an order.

House of Fries

Forget big chain fries. This local burger joint and fry house serves its fried potatoes in curly, battered, shoestring, waffle and fresh-cut form, with a variety of dipping sauces and toppings—ranch, gravy, buffalo chicken, Philly cheesesteak—to load on as you please. Order online and pick it up from the quick-moving drive-thru.

Kolache Shoppe serves a variety of fruit-filled kolaches as well as savory ones like brisket and sausage and cheese.

Kolache Shoppe serves a variety of fruit-filled kolaches as well as savory ones like brisket and sausage and cheese.

Carla Gomez.

Kolache Shoppe Heights

This local icon has been slinging from-scratch kolaches in Houston since 1970, with a dough recipe standing the test of time and an army of loyal fans to prove it. Get the old-school Czech pastries loaded with traditional poppy seed, fruit and cream cheese fillings, or go for newfangled numbers like scrambled egg, jalapeño and brisket from local smokehouse Pinkerton’s, all available via the drive-thru window at the Shoppe’s Heights location. 

Long Coffee's honey raspberry tea with boba, from left, ca phe sua da with boba and royal artichoke (with jellies, logan and basil seeds).

Long Coffee’s honey raspberry tea with boba, from left, ca phe sua da with boba and royal artichoke (with jellies, logan and basil seeds).

Yi-Chin Lee/Staff photographer

Long Coffee

Bellaire Blvd is home to this decades-old Vietnamese coffeehouse and roastery, which sports a convenient drive-thru window. Pop by for matcha lattes, honey milk teas, ca phe sua da and frozen avocado drinks, all available with boba. Pair them with fruit tarts, almond cream croissants, creamy fettuccine alfredo or popcorn chicken.

MytiBurger

Classics stick around for a reason. Case in point: this Oak Forest institution, which has been flipping patties and nostalgia to loyal locals since 1967. Jump in the driver’s seat and swing by its window to pick up classics like quarter-pound cheeseburgers, chili dogs, fried fish sandwiches, homemade onion rings, jalapeño poppers and chocolate shakes, all at affordable prices.

River Oaks Donuts offers seasonal specials, like Peep donuts for Easter.

River Oaks Donuts offers seasonal specials, like Peep donuts for Easter.

Abby Johana

River Oaks Donuts

Drive-thru doughnuts are the perfect morning pick-me-up, and this neighborhood doughnut shop has just about every flavor you’d desire. Grab Bavarian cream-filled, strawberry-iced and chocolate-glazed numbers in addition to all kinds of doughnut holes, weekend-only cronuts, hot drips, Katz Coffee cold brews and savory kolaches with stuffings from spinach and feta to Prasek’s sausage and cheese.

Vietnamese fast-casual concept Saigon Hustle in Garden Oaks serves banh mi, spring rolls, egg rolls, salads, rice and vermicelli bowls.

Vietnamese fast-casual concept Saigon Hustle in Garden Oaks serves banh mi, spring rolls, egg rolls, salads, rice and vermicelli bowls.

Saigon Hustle

Saigon Hustle

Garden Oaks is now home to a rare bird, a modern Vietnamese drive-thru concept housed in a renovated vintage gas station. It’s the kind of stuff you’d only find in Houston, so take advantage by visiting it (or its patio) for turmeric-kissed Saigon crepe rolls with braised pork belly, shrimp and peanut sauce; banh mi filled with honey-glazed lemongrass salmon or chargrilled barbecue ribeye; and a bold ca phe sua da that’ll keep you plenty alert for the ride home.

Chef Benchawan Painter in the drive-thru window of her East End Thai restaurant, Street to Kitchen, which opened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chef Benchawan Painter in the drive-thru window of her East End Thai restaurant, Street to Kitchen, which opened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karen Warren Staff photographer

Street to Kitchen

Fiery red curry and drunken noodles with local pickled chiles. Spicy Northeastern-style laarb and pad Thai studded with fat Gulf shrimp. All of the food is fast, fresh and quite excellent over at this real deal Thai haunt in the East End. Preorder directly from Street to Kitchen’s website to score pickup from the drive-thru window.

Voodoo Doughnut in Buffalo Heights has a drive-thru.

Voodoo Doughnut in Buffalo Heights has a drive-thru.

Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Voodoo Doughnut

Houston is blessed with two outposts of this Portland-born doughnut ace, and the Washington and Waugh location rocks an easy drive-thru ordering experience. Head there to get your hands on a pretty pink box of Voodoo’s most beloved creations, from the bacon maple bar to the outlandish voodoo doll, a jelly-filled, chocolate-frosted raised yeast doughnut with a pretzel stake spiked through its heart.

W Grill's original location at 4825 Washington Ave is open.

W Grill’s original location at 4825 Washington Ave is open.

Yelp/Emily B.

W Grill


If you know about this totally-illegal-feeling-but-actually-legal drive-thru margarita spot, you know. If you don’t, head to Washington Ave to score burgers, wraps and frozen margs in flavors from strawberry and mango to “The Swirl,” a mashup of classic marg mix and sangria. Once you’ve safely made it to your destination, remove the tape from your marg’s top and happily slurp away.



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