Donut Drive-Up opening in Brentwood

Ask any doughnut aficionado in St. Louis to name their favorite shop, and chances are Donut Drive-In near the top of the list. For more than 70 years, the beloved Lindenwood Park shop has been dazzling diners with its apple fritters, doughnut holes, long johns, and that vintage neon sign, which serves as a beacon for deep-fried dough devotees.

Now, the iconic brand is bringing even more sweet joy into the world: Owner Kevin McKernan plans to open a new spot, Donut Drive-Up, a sister concept to the flagship. Located in the former To Go Sushi space at 8950 Manchester, the drive-thru spot will serve Donut Drive-In’s greatest hits, coffee, and soft-serve.

Although no firm opening date has been set, McKernan hopes to softly open sometime within the next two weeks.

“We thought it would be fun to do something like this and come to a new place,” says McKernan. “We’re excited to have a sister brand to mess around, experiment, and just have fun.”


According to McKernan, the idea for something like Donut Drive-Up has been brewing for a while, thanks in part to late longtime baker Petrit Beka. Although Beka was the establishment’s most tenured baker, both Beka and McKernan saw the importance of developing new talent and wanted to give their younger bakers a chance to stretch themselves with new opportunities.

That opportunity came when a realtor friend of McKernan’s mentioned the former To Go Sushi location. Beka and McKernan were both excited about its potential and worked to develop the beginnings of what would become Donut Drive-Up. When Beka suddenly died this January, McKernan felt it was important to keep the project alive as an homage to the much-loved employee.

“He loved the idea of us getting bigger,” says McKernan. “He wanted to make more doughnuts to make more people happy. We knew he would still want us to do it.”


McKernan promises the same Donut Drive-In treats that customers have come to love, though space constraints will limit how many items will be available at the Donut Drive-Up. McKernan and his team are still working out the exact menu, but plans are to offer the greatest hits, including the famous apple fritter, doughnut holes, long johns, cinnamon twists, and blueberry doughnuts. Singles will be available, as well as random-assortment dozens. Guests will be able to simply drive up and order what’s available or preorder online. 

Donut Drive-Up will start with basic coffee offerings, though McKernan hopes to expand the menu to include a more robust coffee program, including various espresso drinks.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the brand will be soft-serve ice cream, which will only be available at the Drive-Up. Although the frozen treat is delicious on its own, McKernan encourages customers to pair it with a doughnut for the ultimate treat.

“I just love soft-serve, and this sounded like fun,” says McKernan. “I always thought we should put our fritter in some sort of ice cream, so when we got this location, I figured we would give it a shot.”


McKernan, a teacher and owner of The Improv Shop, bought the storied Donut Drive-In in 2020, after seeing it up for sale on a business brokerage site. A South St. Louis native, McKernan’s fondest childhood memories involved riding his big wheel alongside his mom to Donut Drive-In, grabbing a couple of vanilla long johns, and heading to Francis Park for some quality time. He could not bear the idea of such a beloved institution closing, so he bought it just as the early days of the pandemic were underway.

He admits that the early days—being a new doughnut shop owner in the middle of a major public health crisis—were difficult to navigate, but he also sees how the innovations that it required led to Donut Drive-Up’s business model. “We have a booth behind [Donut Drive-In] where we do online pre-orders and random assortments, which came from [the pandemic], because we needed to figure out how to move more doughnuts outside,” says McKernan. “We figured we could do random assortments and pre-orders out of a booth, and if we wouldn’t have done that solving, we might not have looked at something like a drive-thru sushi place for our next concept. Challenges like that force you to problem solve, which is the fun stuff.”

Leave a Reply