Family Supper: Drive-ins for Days

Load your family in the car for a memory-making meal at these two drive-thru restaurants. 

Sugarpine Drive In

By Julia Silverman

I grew up on the East Coast, where soft serve in the summertime is pretty much a religion. I always get the same order: vanilla, in a cup, with rainbow sprinkles and a maraschino cherry on top. Done right, it’s my last-meal-on-earth pick.


Portland has ice cream for miles, but the city’s soft-serve game is hit or miss. For example, I’m suspicious of the flavor profiles at Wiz Bang Bar (matcha blood orange?). But when Sugarpine Drive In opened in Troutdale on the Historic Columbia River Highway, and images of its pristine soft-serve ice creams started flooding Instagram, I knew I’d have to check it out.

The small operation, which abuts Troutdale’s Glen Otto Park and the Sandy River, has a drive-thru window, but it’s more pleasant to order at the walk-up window and grab a spot on the shady outdoor patio. 

Before the ice cream, we ordered some solid food — nettle pesto pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and ricotta salata ($5) for my daughter, a pulled-pork sando ($11, though there is a downsized version for $7 available on the kids’ menu) for my son, and for me, in an attempt to be virtuous before indulgence, a kale salad with mustardy dressing and hazelnuts ($6) and a roasted cauliflower sandwich ($12). (Pro tip: Order your ice cream when you order the rest of your lunch — that way, you won’t have to wait at the window again. They’ll keep your ticket handy, and there’s an ice-cream-only window to visit to let them know you’re ready for dessert.)

Pesto pasta is a staple for Elly, but she didn’t care for Sugarpine’s version, pronouncing it too bitter. I sampled it … then had another bite … and another — so much for virtuousness. To pacify her, I got her a kid-sized grilled cheese on waffle-pressed Texas toast ($6, and you can add a cup of tomato soup for $4), which she enjoyed. Ben’s pulled pork was a hit, too, and he ate up every last drop of the sweet, housemade barbecue sauce, though I got to eat his spring slaw. As for my plate, the roasted cauliflower was savory and delicious, and I’ve already tried to recreate that kale salad at home. 

So, how was the soft serve? First off, a word to the wise: Order the kids’ size ($2 for a cup or sugar cone) unless you are ready to be confronted by a giant mound of ice cream. 


Verdict: A touch less creamy and smooth than the soft serve of my childhood, but definitely the best I’ve found in Oregon. My kids were thrilled that they could order it with hard-shell chocolate and birthday cake crumbles (horrifying me, as only sprinkles will do), and scarfed theirs down; Ben even sweet-talked me into the waffle cone upsell, for $1. 

1208 East Historic Columbia River Hwy., Troutdale

Thursday to Monday, 11 am-7 pm (Pro tip: Happy hour prices are in effect all day on Mondays.) Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.


By Denise Castañon

While Julia’s childhood summertime food crush is creamy soft serve, the nostaglia trigger of my SoCal childhood is In-N-Out burger. It’s more than a burger. It’s blue skies, the smell of ocean air and the grit of sand between my toes. (Before you give me the side-eye about Californians ruining everything, know that I’ve been here 14 years.)

And it turns out the closest thing I’ve come to In-N-Out in Portland opened up in my neighborhood last year: SuperDeluxe. In its early days, the drive-thru at the busy intersection of Southeast Powell Boulevard and 50th Avenue held up traffic along Powell with hungry hordes waiting to try the latest burger from restaurant mogul Micah Camden. (Parking can still be tricky. Pro tip: Park on Southeast Haig Street.) If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because Camden also opened Little Big Burger and Blue Star Donuts — and the tasty and sustainable Little Bean non-dairy ice cream shop mentioned on page 8. In fact, a second SuperDeluxe has opened in the Pearl right by Little Bean.

The shop was a Taco Time in another life, and the layout of booths in the dining room retains an old-school fast-food-joint feel despite the hipper paint job. Good to know: They’ve got high chairs in the dining room. There’s also a patio with umbrellas.

But back to the burger. The Single and Double Deluxe ($4.75, $5.75) sport a thin patty like the In-N-Out burger, but already come loaded with the goods — lettuce, tomato, raw onion, American cheese, pickles, sauce with a hint of Dijon mustard, and oh-so-tasty caramelized onions. So there’s no need for a secret menu. Of course, my 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son will eat no toppings whatsoever. It’s just bun, meat and cheese for them. But boy do they love SuperDeluxe burgers. I think part of the reason is that the thin patty comes well-done and is easy for them to eat. And that patty is local, high-quality, pasture-raised beef from SP Provisions, which makes me feel way better about feeding them fast food. (I do wish SuperDeluxe would offer a plain “kids’ burger” that’s knocked down in price just a smidge.)

The crunchy fries come out piping hot. The lunch-and-dinner menu also includes real-meat chicken nuggets ($4.25 for five pieces, $5.50 for eight), a fried chicken sandwich ($5.75), and an Impossible Burger option for vegetarians ($5.75). And one of our surprise favorites on the menu is the Real Fruit Fizzy Water, basically soda water with a few pumps of sweetened, macerated fruit. You can upgrade your meal, adding a drink and fries for 3 bucks — and the add-on drink can be a Fizzy Water. I would have been all over the Fizzy Water when I was pregnant and avoiding caffeine, and I love this option for my kids. Flavors change seasonally, but Adela and Cruz especially like blackberry and strawberry. 

So, for me the SuperDeluxe location on Powell doesn’t quite evoke the nostalgia that the palm-tree-studded California outposts of In-N-Out do. But I think, burger-to-burger, I may prefer the SuperDeluxe. And who knows? When my kids are grown up, maybe the things that make childhood memories flood back to them will be the sounds of a busy intersection and a Single Deluxe burger.

5000 SE Powell Blvd. Friday to Saturday, 7 am-midnight; Sunday to Thursday, 7 am-11 pm. Dining room closes at 10 pm. Drive-thru open
until close.

Scroll to Top