Coffee Klatsch, Cuisine, Memories, Stearns, Wobegon Trail

Dairy Queen Delights

On my most recent visit to Stearns County, an evening barbecue ended with Dairy Queen dilly bars around the fire pit.

They and other Dairy Queen (DQ) treats remain a feature of life for Minnesotans in the summer months, and year round where outlets stay open over winter. Some locations will even deliver your DQ order via DoorDash.

Our local was the St Cloud Dairy Queen on the corner of Division Street and 25th Avenue N, owned and operated by the Bob Lahr family. 
The original St Cloud, MN Dairy Queen on Division and 25th Avenue N.

It had plenty of parking and was in the perfect location for families to idle their Chevys, Fords and Oldsmobiles, walk up to the windows, and order from the classic Dairy Queen menu.

Today’s menu is a bit different, but the old favorites are still there.

Dilly bars, Buster Bars, sundaes, cones.

The Hootenanny sundae is no more – Dad’s choice on special occasions – but the Peanut Buster Parfait and root beer floats endure. And much else.

In my early years, families in central Minnesota rarely went out to restaurants.

Even if you wanted to, the options were limited: diners, small town bars, family-owned pizza places, drive-thrus like A&W, American Legions and VFWs, and supper clubs like Anton’s in Waite Park or the Fisher Supper Club in Avon. Both of the latter, by the way, can still be found along the Lake Wobegon Trail, part of Minnesota’s supper club history; you may want to weave one or both into your Trail planning.

Conglomerate-owned fast food places like McDonald’s didn’t make an appearance until the 1970s. The first one in St Cloud is still there, and looks much the same today.

Before the McD’s era, families in Stearns County were bigger, and lived on smaller incomes (often one income), so meals out were infrequent.

If anyone went to a restaurant, it was usually your parents, in the company of other adults.

Younger ones stayed home to feast on wieners or Spaghettios or Chef Boyardee pizza from a kit with toppings of summer sausage and Velveeta.

Dairy Queen was accessible to all though, in its affordability, proximity, and popularity.

Back then the cute little Division Street outlet was only open in the warmer months. You never entered the tiny premises – you ordered what you wanted at the window. Its re-opening every spring was highly anticipated.

The original building was replaced some years ago by a shiny CVS store and a new DQ outlet set back from the main road. It’s great there is still a DQ in the neighborhood.

As he got older and his eyesight poorer, Grandpa Joe became a driving menace and had several accidents (all his fault) in the DQ parking lot.

These were the beginning of the end of his driving days. It was a major issue because going for little drives – being mobile and independent – had been a feature of life for Lena and Joe for more than 60 years.

They lived just a few blocks away, and loved their outings to local haunts including Dairy Queen.

It wasn't about the cone, it was about the experience - being together, picking up a few groceries across the street, maybe some bags of Joe's favorite Peeps or orange slice gum drops, and stopping off at the DQ on the way home.

For me, going to a DQ is also now about the experience and the memories.

If you’re traversing the Lake Wobegon Trail there are DQs in several small towns along the route: Albany, Melrose, Sauk Centre. Take a short detour on a hot day for a cone or soda at any of these.

There are other DQs in Little Falls, Cold Spring, Alexandria, Clearwater, Elk River, Royalton, New Ulm, Stillwater, Sauk Rapids.

In Minnesota, you’re never far from a DQ.

I like a crunch cone. Maybe with onion rings.

It’s a bold combination.

There can be consequences.

But only the bugs and the birds will bear witness as you move along the Wobegon Trail, out there in the fresh air.

Crunch cones and onion rings: a MN happy place.

A crunch cone is a DQ cone coated with sprinkles and crushed peanut butter nougats. Crunch cones aren’t found everywhere, but you can order with confidence in Stearns County. We bought ours at the Albany DQ.

The DQ Story.

Dad’s occasional splurge: A Dairy Queen Hootenanny with three mounds of ice cream covered in strawberry, pineapple, and chocolate sauces and topped with whipped cream or marshmallow, cherries, and nuts.

International Dairy Queen Inc (IDQ) is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the parent company of American Dairy Queen Corporation and Dairy Queen Canada, Inc. Through its subsidiaries, IDQ develops, licenses and services a system of more than 7,000 locations in the United States, Canada and more than 20 other countries. IDQ is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, led by its legendary investor and CEO Warren Buffett. Word has it Warren often popped by DQ’s Omaha, Nebraska locations with his great-grandchildren. Wall Street Journal reported that Warren’s favorite DQ order was vanilla soft serve topped with chocolate syrup and malted milk powder. Not a combination famous in MN, but things can be different for Warren and Nebraskans. We all have our ways. Watch Warren and Bill Gates in action at an Omaha DQ outlet.

3 thoughts on “Dairy Queen Delights”

  1. Cherie says:

    What I know, is if Mom found out any of us went to DQ and didn’t bring her a peanut buster parfait, we’d be in trouble. James and I went once when we were back in MN and just didn’t think about it. Lord. As for Gramps, he got pulled over on the freeway once. For going too slow. He wasn’t going the minimum mph posted haha.

    1. Editor says:

      I can’t imagine a greater sin than someone going to DQ and forgetting to bring me a peanut buster parfait. But it was only a few blocks away. She could have gone to get one herself if the craving was that overwhelming.

      1. Cherie says:

        James went back to get her one. It was one of the first times she met him. He always says the mamas liked him better than their daughters 😂

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