Grease goes pink and burgundy

With chewy onion rings, thick shakes and salty French fries, Porky’s is an excellent way to return to your conformist American roots.

Remember when grease was OK because it was family-owned flavor, and not corporate scumbag trans-fatty oil? You know, when life was simpler and no one had cell phones that surf the Internet or ceramic hair straighteners? Tanning didn’t cause skin cancer or premature aging, but a healthy, youthful glow, and all the boys wore sport coats to the diner for a shake. Well, let’s channel that perfectly idealized, pre-melanoma era for a moment or two.


WHERE: 1890 University Ave. W., St Paul
PRICE: $5-10

Porky’s, a drive-in restaurant that originated in St. Paul, has been around as long as Elvis Presley – 1953 to be exact. With its circular blinking light bulbs and pink, portly mascot, it is a wholehearted attempt to remind us of those frequently discussed “good old days” when premarital sex didn’t happen and cigarettes made you look cool.

You may be asking yourself: What separates Porky’s from Mickey Dee’s or the BK Lounge? Isn’t Porky just another corporately constructed character to lure in small children and naïve homemakers? How can we truly distinguish between corporate production and authentic “down-home cooking?”

Let’s start off with the more abstract basics. As a Midwesterner, you know that things are just better when they hail your homeland, breeding nationalistic pride and fleeting nostalgia with its roots in times when you weren’t even born. Minnesota prides itself in slews of artistic ingenuity (Bob Dylan, Josh Hartnett and the Mall of America, just to name a few).

Porky’s has more than just pink paneling and age to its name. The restaurant’s burgers are exceptional – far from the skinny slabs you’ll find at larger chain stores. Each combo meal is served with onion rings and a cookie. The delightful onion rings are far from something you’d find at Applebee’s. Instead of a thin, flaky shell that crumbles instantly, the rings are adorned with a hearty bread-like covering that is a little chewier and an effective mask of any heavy onion tastet you may want to hide when you go parking.

The French fries are a highlight as well. Just like old times, they’re made with real potatoes in real grease, sprinkled with real sodium chloride. Even better is the pink-and-burgundy square pattern that the fry container boasts.

Top your experience off with a charmingly moist cookie. Even though it’s sealed in plastic, the cookie looks and tastes like it was baked by your 9-year-old niece a few weeks ago.

When dining at Porky’s, the key is to focus on variety over quantity. Everything, though delicious, can get a little sickening. By the end of the onion rings, you’ll be wishing you had substituted them for fries; a large fry may necessitate a hasty examination of your blood pressure. Everything is great in moderation, so make sure to bring a few friends along. The drive-thru offers on-site parking and plastic picnic tables to accommodate an excellent pre-finals treat.

What’s more than great burgers, fries and onion rings is the fact that there are so many others willing to embrace the 1950s with you. On summer weekend evenings, Porky’s is packed with wistful families and classic cars yearning for the same romanticized nuclear family assembly. Parking is sure to be a pain, but such nostalgia always comes at a price.

For a trip to when your mother was just a twinkle in your grandfather’s eye and conformity reigned supreme, indulge in some American middle-class grease-in-a-good-way at Porky’s drive-in – just make sure to bring your own poodle skirt.