Carl’s Drive-in in Brentwood, Missouri

Carl’s Drive-in is a beloved historic landmark located in Brentwood, Missouri, known for its iconic presence and delicious food. It is also cited as the inspiration for Shake Shack‘s Shackburger. The building was originally a Lubrite Service Station.

Carl's Drive-In in Brentwood, Missouri
Carl’s Drive-In in Brentwood, Missouri

A Visit to Carl’s Drive-In

Cold Root Beer from Carl's Drive-In in Brentwood, Missouri
Cold Root Beer

You must start with an ice-cold root beer in a frosty mug. Now that you’ve got that out of the way, a hearty bowl of their chili with corn chips and shredded cheddar cheese should get you going.

We also ate some onion rings while we conversed about the history of Carl’s Drive-In. I’ve included some of their history once you get past all the food pictures.

If you’re looking for an over-the-top creation, the Smothered Curly Q Chili Dog will be right up your alley. It’s a split griddled hot dog served on a burger bun and then smothered in their housemade chili with shredded cheddar cheese and diced white onions.

Smothered Chili Dog from Carl's Drive-In in Brentwood, Missouri
Smothered Curly Q Chili Dog
Smothered Chili Dog Money Shot from Carl's Drive-In in Brentwood, Missouri
Smothered Curly Q Chili Dog Beauty Shot

Time for a Double Cheeseburger

I was a couple of bites in when I redirected my focus to the beautiful double cheeseburger placed before me. I kept it simple and went with pickles, onions, and yellow mustard, or as I like to call it, old-school style.

Double Cheeseburger from Carl's Drive-In in Brentwood, Missouri
Double Cheeseburger
Double Cheeseburger after one bite from Carl's Drive-In in Brentwood, Missouri
Double Cheeseburger after one bite

The ladies on the grill were able to get a beautiful crust on the patty like only an expert can. The Maillard reaction (browned food reaction that adds depth of flavor) was in full effect; you have to love the taste of meat candy!

I could eaten two of those fellas, and I probably should have, but some space needed to be left for a vanilla shake to wash everything down.

Vanilla Shake from Carl's Drive-In in Brentwood, Missouri
Vanilla Shake

Yes, I realize we started with a root beer, but Marcela and I were sharing, if you really must know, lol.

What it all comes down to is if you’re in the St. Louis, Missouri area, Carl’s Drive-In is a MUST stop. What happens if you don’t stop and I find out? I will strip you of your burger street cred, that’s what!

Carl’s Drive-in
9033 Manchester Road
Brentwood, MO
(314) 961-9652

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Tuesday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm
Thursday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm
Friday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm
Saturday 11:00 am – 7:30 pm

Some Carl’s Drive-in History

Carl’s Drive-in was established in 1952 by Carl Johnson, who had a vision of creating a classic American drive-in experience. Located on a prominent street corner in Brentwood, the drive-in quickly became a popular destination for families, teenagers, and car enthusiasts.

During its early years, Carl’s Drive-in boasted a carhop service, where waitstaff would bring trays of food directly to customers’ cars. The menu featured all-American comfort food favorites such as burgers, hot dogs, fries, milkshakes, and other delectable treats, all prepared with the highest quality ingredients.

Over the decades, Carl’s Drive-in witnessed the changing times and evolving tastes of customers. Despite facing competition from larger fast-food chains, Carl’s Drive-in maintained its local following by prioritizing quality and friendly service with a welcoming atmosphere.

A Major Remodel

In 1962, a significant remodeling effort enclosed the building to offer air conditioning and indoor seating for 16. In 1985, Carl Johnson retired and passed the torch to his son, Michael Johnson.

Under Michael’s leadership, the drive-in underwent renovations to modernize the facilities while still retaining its nostalgic charm. The iconic neon sign, a symbol of Carl’s Drive-in, was carefully restored, keeping the vintage allure intact.

In recent years, Carl’s Drive-In has also maintained its commitment to personal service and the drive-in experience, with carhop service still available for those who prefer to dine in their vehicles.

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