It really confuses me when people travel somewhere new…and then hightail it the nearest McDonalds to order their usual.
Maybe I’m just immune to the comforts of routine, but I really don’t understand why you’d take time and pay money — even just a few dollars in gas money — to see a new place and then ignore a big part of what makes it unique.
If you avoid the chains, you’ll usually find something equally quick and a lot more interesting. Just keep your eyes open. That’s how I stumbled upon Favorites Drive Thru Deli in Breckenridge, Minnesota.
I was in town for a work trip to Breckenridge’s sister city, Wahpeton, and I had a tiny sliver of time between pulling into town and E’s nap time. I was actually just pulling across the the Minnesota/North Dakota state line to turn around and head back to another restaurant for a to go order when I spotted this cute little shack on the side of the road.
I thought it was one of those drive through coffee places at first, since it’s about the same size. The fact that it was a deli made me smile. I’ve traveled a lot of places, but I hadn’t seen this particular set-up before.
My usual strategy when trying a new place is to either order whatever jumps out at me or to ask the server what’s popular, new or unique. At Favorites, my server was also the chef and owner, Joel Ellingson.
Joel went to culinary school in Wahpeton, so his rotating menu of freshly made soups, sandwiches and salads goes way beyond the pre-made, re-heated stuff you’ll find at a fast food joint. He believes in fresh food, custom orders and doing it all quickly. Here’s how it works.
“You drive up, I hand you a menu,” he says. “You figure out what you want and we make it on the spot. We’re pretty flexible and can interchange different sauces, toppings or even cheeses or bread, for that matter. All my soups are made from scratch as well. A lot of people get their soups out of a bag, but I like to take things up a notch. That’s what I’m about.”
Joel is particular about even the smallest details. He’s known for making his own seasoned mayonaise blends in a variety of flavors using onion, dill and garlic. “You won’t find them anywhere else,” he says. “They really enhance the flavor.”
Favorites Drive Thru Deli celebrates two years in business the month and Joel still runs the full time catering business it sprung out of. His hearty, meaty sandwiches put him on the map and a lot of them show up on the Favorites menu. “But catering is not limited to this menu,” he says. “I can do any food that you can possibly imagine.”
Joel does his own fair share of imagining as well. The idea for one of the deli’s best sellers, the Burger in a Bag, came to him as he was driving down the road, pondering that Midwestern street food favorite, the Taco in the Bag. He grabbed a bag of Funyuns, added his signature ground beef, burger toppings and condiments and a local hit was born.
That sounded intriguing. So even though I usually hate Funyuns, I gave the Burger in a Bag a try. It was really good, actually, a great mix of textures with a savory crunch. I’d definitely order it again. And if the response from the photos I posted on Facebook and Twitter were indication, lots of other people are excited about ordering it too.
The next time you’re in Breckenridge, you should definitely check it out. Don’t forget to tell me what you tried!
The soup and sandwich photos in this post are provided by Favorites Drive Thru Deli. The other two photos are mine.