In 1953, Shawnee, Oklahoma played host to the very first Sonic, a drive-in diner replete with carhops on roller skates who served classic burgers, fries, and tater tots. Now, more than 50 years later, Sonic is the biggest chain of drive-in restaurants in America, a title that's fueled by its signature toaster sandwiches, its foot-long, quarter-pound coney dogs, and its 398,929 possible combinations of frozen beverages. The restaurant's original dishes remain largely unchanged and silent, and new additions, such as breakfast burritos and a rotating selection of shakes, keep diners on their toes.
The restaurant doesn't just feed bellies—for more than 15 years, it's fed the minds of Oklahoman youth with academic enhancement programs, and its national Limeades for Learning program works to advance educational opportunities for youth throughout the country.
If ever you wanted to eat your way across the globe, Nadia's Bistro would be a good place to start. Here, diners can check off Indonesia, Thailand, and parts of the Mediterranean all in one sitting, and all without having to learn language translations for "mmm." Chef Tom prepares dishes from many cultures using both traditional and contemporary techniques. There's the Indonesian specialty gado-gado, for instance, which contains a jumble of fresh veggies, tofu, boiled eggs, and potatoes. Pastas, meanwhile, reign supreme over the Mediterranean portion of the menu, and stir-fries represent Thailand with such specialties as pad pong ka ree–a seafood-based dish loaded with calamari, scallops, and shrimp.
Ask any of the regulars at Opie Taylor's to name their favorite burger, and you might hear a different answer each time. Fans of spicy foods might point to a burger topped with swiss cheese and jalapenos, though traditionalists will likely swear by the no-nonsense double cheeseburger. If you happen to ask a vegetarian, she might expound upon the deliciousness of the black-bean patty, while a mischievous patron might goad you into taking on the Double Tank burger—a hearty tower of two beef patties, bacon, and mushrooms. The restaurant’s chefs whip up more than 30 specialty burgers, so there’s never a shortage of options.
When they're not inventing new burgers, these chefs turn their attention to crispy chicken sandwiches, tender baby back ribs, hand-rolled mozzarella sticks, and hearty chili inspired by the owner's mother's recipe. Judging by the cheers that regularly erupt in the dining room, the lively crowd appreciates their efforts as much as they appreciate their signature Packer sauce. The dimly lit space is the perfect place to catch a sports game on a projection screen; it’s even decorated with memorabilia featuring star basketball players and underappreciated champions of hopscotch.
After continually traversing the globe since its breakout television performance nearly 18 years ago, Riverdance returns stateside for a last hurrah. A cast of six principal dancers will clobber the stage with the stomps, taps, kicks, and tackles of traditional Irish step dancing, which, when synchronized with a live band and 18 troupe dancers, sends waves of rhythm cascading over all 3,200 seats of the regal Indiana University Auditorium. The show’s 18 scenes break into two acts: the first depicting the mythical beginnings of the Celtic people as they hatched from a kelpie's head, and the second portraying the Irish famine and ensuing wave of emigration.
The owners of Grazie! Italian Eatery decided to revamp their restaurant following advice from an unlikely source—a class of IU marketing students studying how to make the eatery more efficient. Based on their findings, the owners began using ingredients from local farms, hiring culinary grads to improve their menu, and training their staff in wine pairing.
However, the chefs kept customer favorites, such as the freshly baked focaccia with herb dipping oil that accompanies each meal. Bartenders pour specialty martinis behind a modern cement bar, and plates of spinach fettuccine with roasted-garlic cream sauce sit on tables next to glasses of wine drawn from a list of more than 250 varietals. Live jazz music and wine-tasting events entertain diners in the indoor lounge, and those seated outside can look out at the bustling square or the night sky, whose stars perpetually shift into the faces of talk-show personalities.
The historical brick building that houses Janko's Little Zagreb, once a reputed 1940s brothel, now beckons in a much more respectable clientele with its cheerful red awning and brightly lit dining room. Large cushy booths enclose red-checkered tables, while IU football and basketball posters speckle the walls. Tables have a clear view of two open grills, which sizzle with menu items including thick, succulent USDA Choice steaks, seafood, and more. An extensive wine list and locally made beer from Upland Brewing Company wash down entrees as IU fans dish out endless Hoosier puns, such as “Hoosier daddy?” and “Hoosier favorite Disney princess?”
From atop the hill, a sea of green beckons. The manicured, meandering trails of Blueberry Hill lead guests of the secluded estate and day spa from tranquil setting areas to a disc golf course, from mineral to mud baths, from a luxurious pool with cabanas to a peaceful sunken gardens. But as the inspirational poster industry would tell you, it's about each guest's journey, not the destination, even when the destinations are so pleasant. The experience is key at Blueberry Hill Estate, from the wine and gourmet-appetizer pairings that await visitors across the grounds, to the crackling fires, to the picnic baskets perfectly suited to leisurely trips through their pastoral surroundings.
While the view is spectacular, there are many reasons to stay indoors. Skilled massage therapists do as much as the peaceful atmosphere to imbue bodies with relaxation. Elegant cottages and stately rooms welcome guests at the end of relaxing evenings or overly competitive disc golf games, and bungalow tents on custom decks offer a luxurious, unique camping experience.