While the Lakeview has a limited view of beautiful Lake Winona, it does have plenty of great burgers, friendly car hops and a devoted following in this city along the Great River Road.
Since 1938, people have been coming here for made-from-scratch root beer, the best selling Toddy Burger and the half pound Sugar Loaf Mountain Burger, named for a limestone bluff overlooking the city. From there, you can see Lake Winona and the Mississippi River.
The menu also includes something called Smiley Fries, which sounded like fun, so I ordered some with my cheeseburger. While they were tasty enough, I must admit, they kind of creeped me out jut a little. Who needs your deep-fried potatoes smiling back at you like a twisted clown from Stephen King’s “It.”
Flash Lights for Service
There are just a handful of inside seats at The Lakeview. Most people just drive up, read the menu on the exterior wall and flash their car lights when ready for a car hop to take their order. Then I got to thinking – in 1938, not everyone owned a car, so what did they flash to get someone to come take their order?
This is a great place for the family, with picnic tables and a small playground for the kids. Every Wednesday night, the Lakeview hosts a special event, usually some sort of classic car show, but occasionally things like karaoke, pet nights and even a farm tractor night.
Not long ago, I watched the movie “The Founder” with Michael Keaton, which is the story of how Ray Kroc rather unscrupulously turned a charming little family-owned burger joint into the mega-chain that we know as McDonald’s today. As McDonald’s began sprouting up across the U.S., starting in the Midwest, mom-and-pop drive-ins all but disappeared.
There is a McDonald’s in Winona, but the Lakeview Drive Inn somehow survived the Golden Arches invasion. From what we witnessed, it does a great business and serves its community well, which is one of the reasons Winona is so adorable and worth a road trip to Minnesota.