Fast Food Happy Hour: Dairy Queen, Sonic Drive-In and Steak 'n Shake


  • Rease Kirchner

Gut Check generally associates happy hour specials with booze because we're adults. But if you're not an adult, you might associate happy hour with Dairy Queen, Sonic Drive-in or Steak 'n Shake, which now all have their own happy-hour specials, offering half-price drinks between the hours of 2 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. We decided to investigate these specials and report back on just how happy they will make your hour.

Up first was Dairy Queen. DQ gets great marks for the variety of beverages that are included in its happy hour. Customers have the option of milkshakes, fruit smoothies, lemonade chillers, "moolattes" and soft drinks. The list of flavors for each item varies by location, but you can expect a long list of options no matter which Dairy Queen you visit.

Gut Check ordered two of the five options: a banana milkshake and a strawberry lemonade chiller. The milkshake was a lot more legitimate than expected. Being at a fast-food place, we hardly expected any actual bananas to be involved in a banana milkshake, but, surprisingly enough, actual chunks of banana were mixed in. The strawberry lemonade didn't disappoint either, as actual strawberry bits were in play. Of course those strawberries did seem more likely to be of the soaked-in-syrup, defrosted variety rather than fresh from the market. Dairy Queen has never claimed to be for the health-conscious, right? After the happy-hour discount, the shake was $1.35 and the lemonade chiller was $1.10. Not bad at all for an afternoon treat.

Next, Gut Check headed over to Sonic Drive-In, home of the one-of-a-kind limeade. All limeades and slushies are half price during happy hour, but Gut Check felt slightly hoodwinked by the lack of discounted milkshakes. Sonic lists the milkshakes right alongside the limeades and slushies, giving the impression that they are also a part of the happy-hour deal. Sadly, this is not the case.

  • Rease Kirchner

That being said, the limeades and slushies are nothing to turn up your nose at. The limeade flavors include: original, cherry, strawberry, cranberry, low-cal diet cherry and low-cal diet original. The slushies come in lemonberry, lime, lemon and strawberry. While there is nothing fresh or truly fruit-based involved in these iced beverages, they certainly do hit the spot. The limeades are reminiscent of a popsicle, taking you back to the carefree days of childhood summers with just one sip. You can snag the gargantuan 44-ounce cup for only $1.15 during happy hour, but beware, you just might slip into a sugar-induced coma if you finish the whole thing. Sonic gets bonus points for outdoor dining options. You can enjoy your discount limeade or slushie at a patio table or parked in your car under the carports.

The last stop was Steak 'n Shake, not just famous for Steakburgers, but also its

  • Rease Kirchner

hand-dipped milkshakes. Thanks to Steak 'n Shake's 24-hour business hours, you get not one, but two daily happy-hour opportunities. The happy hour includes all shakes and soft drinks. It has nothing of the slushie variety to offer but makes up for it with its more than fifteen shake flavors -- not including all the hybrids you can make through the use of side-by-side milkshakes and candy mix-ins. Gut Check is happy to report that even the specialty milkshakes are included in the happy-hour promo. The milkshakes are thick, creamy and actually taste like real ice cream. They are also quite generous with the heaping dome of whipped cream on top. However, it's worth noting that no real fruit seemed involved in the making of these shakes; it was just syrup through and through. A regular-size specialty shake rang up at $1.88 after the discount, making it the most expensive happy hour of the three.

Steak 'n Shake has the option of dining in, but because this is technically a restaurant and not fast food, you'll have to deal with tipping a waitress, which might negate the money saved during happy hour. You can pick up your half-priced shakes and drinks through the drive-thru, but Gut Check highly recommends you take the time to order inside and order it to go. Steak 'n Shake cooks its food to order, so your chances of getting stuck behind someone getting a big meal in the drive-thru are fairly high. No use wasting gas money sitting in idle.

All three locations offered big discounts and drinks that satisfied our 3:30 p.m. snack cravings. Gut Check loves a good excuse to take an afternoon break and now we have three dangerous options to choose from each day. Oh good.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.