Inside St. Louis

An original water color painting of Pete's by local artist Marilynne Bradley.

     You never know what treasure you’ll find at the Wentzville Flea Market, considered by many to be the best flea market in the state. But no trip to Wentzville Flea Market is complete without a stop to Pete’s Drive In, one of the best treasures of all! This landmark eatery in Wentzville, MO has survived the influx of the fast food chains just down the road and there’s a good reason why. The secret to the restaurant’s longevity is the consistent quality of homemade country cooking at its best and the friendly atmosphere.

     Pete’s Drive In began 41 years ago as the old A&W Drive In. Wanting to offer his unique style and not become a soulless franchised restaurant, Pete dropped his franchise with A&W in 1996. After a fire in 1972, the establishment was revamped to include indoor dining but continues to provide the convenience of car hop service, a real

classic touch of Americana for customers ordering food to-go. Just pull up to the speaker that displays the full menu board and soon a friendly waitress will deliver your delicious country meal. And if you slip her a little tip you’ll get a big smile!


     The restaurant’s interior gives the feel of a cozy, welcoming environment and if you’re a local you’re bound to run into a friend or neighbor.  On our last visit we spotted a young couple with their realtor finalizing the purchase of their first home.  As customers wait in line you can hear them sharing friendly conversation about their families and such. Stop by for a hearty breakfast or lunch meal ordered at the walk-up counter and taken by friendly, eager staff, some of whom are children or grandchildren of the owners, Pete and Marilyn Luetkenhaus. After ordering one of the reasonably priced, savory meals grab a seat at the counter, a booth, or “in the round” at a retro style counter surrounding an inviting fireplace in the center of the dining room. The wood-carved lighting fixtures overhead have “Pete’s” carved in the rustic, old maple wood as a reminder that you have arrived.  You might see the local retirees who meet at the counter each

morning to swap stories and enjoy a piled-high breakfast plate or spot the local Bible Club enjoying delectable dinners while they meet at the roomy corner booth once or twice per week. Local political groups are also known to make Pete’s their gathering place to discuss community issues while enjoying some of the best eats around.



     One of the regular patrons is Barb Sheets, whose late husband was former Mayor of Wentzville. She said the great thing about the place is that it is family run and she feels so at home and has watched Pete and Marilyn’s kids grow up over the years. Her favorite menu items are the scrumptious biscuits & gravy and the refreshing root beer floats (not ordered at the same meal, though!). Another patron at a nearby stool is quick to tell us that “the best breakfast in the U.S. and the friendliest atmosphere around keeps the locals coming back”. He began bringing his father, who was recovering from a brain aneurysm, to Pete’s for breakfast and father and son haven’t missed a Sunday morning together at Pete’s in 7 years.

     Another heart warming story told by Jeanne Hall, an area resident who worked at Pete’s during her high school years. In fact, several of her relatives also worked for Pete at one time or another over during their teen years, so Pete’s is like home to them. Her story really drives home what a genuine guy Pete is. When Jeanne’s father, Greg Niederer, was critically injured in a farming accident back in 1982, Pete generously came through for the family by holding a fundraiser and even donated free meals. To this day, the family still talks about what a wonderful man Pete is.

     Luetkenhaus’ philanthropy and involvement in local government is common knowledge to the locals. He graciously provided each Nu Way employee with a complimentary chicken dinner with all the trimmings to welcome the new Nu Way location to the area. Another show of community spirit is the fact that Pete personally purchases a new, enormous 20 x 30 foot American flag twice each year to fly on the flagpole at the intersection near his restaurant. If you have trouble finding Pete’s Driven In, just look for the prominent flag flying near U.S. 61 and I-70 and you’re there.

     When it comes to chowing down at Pete’s Drive In, you won’t leave hungry. The breakfast menu keeps customers content with any variety of heaping mounds of hot cakes, country sausage, biscuits & gravy, ham steak, hash browns, and the likes. The coffee’s always perking and waitresses are quick to fill you up as they walk by often.



     If you stop by for lunch or dinner, try Pete’s mouth watering fried chicken dinner - it’s one of the top sellers on the menu. The chicken is fried crispy with the perfect seasonings and comes with fries, slaw, and a warm, fluffy roll. This tried and true favorite draws customers from miles around. One day, while filling

an order for 1,600 pieces of chicken for a Lake Saint Louis sales promotion, the VFW also called and ordered 600 pieces, setting a record of frying up and delivering 2,200 pieces of chicken in one day.

     Pete offers a sandwich to suit every appetite. Juicy, old fashioned burgers are a must and can be ordered with a single patty, or as a double third pounder or even a triple impressive half pounder for the heartiest of appetites. Baskets include fries and a choice of creamy Cole slaw or tasty baked beans. Or try the to-die-for chili cheese fries. A variety of sandwiches (“Pete’s favorites”) keep customers coming back. The chili dog is a popular choice or you can order one of the other signature sandwiches on the menu. The catfish sandwich is served every Friday. All sandwiches come with tasty side orders to round out the meal. Pete and his staff are always quick to fire up the grill for those ambitious souls who are in the mood for a triple cheeseburger and fries at 8:00 am!


    Thinking about dessert? Enormous sundaes are available in chocolate, strawberry, cherry, and pineapple and will make your meal complete. Pete serves Frostie root beer and will whip up a refreshing root beer float in a flash. Shakes and malts in vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, or pineapple are also offered. Fresh baked pies are proudly displayed in the glass bakery case by the front counter to entice you as you walk by.

     Businesses like this are a cornerstone to any community and Pete’s Drive In is an example of an honest, inexpensive place to eat and is a true, small town drive in. And Pete’s proud of the fact that his business is based entirely on word-of-mouth with no advertising over the years. He said that in the 41 years he’s been in business “no one has ever left here hungry, whether they have money or not”. A place can’t get any friendlier than that, can it?



Written By: Judy Hartman

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