Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top-five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milkshake, and Best Drivethru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through its program [Limeades for Learning](http://www.sonicdrivein.com/About/Community, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
It was a bold idea—opening a restaurant in the midst of the Great Depression. But the founders were truly convinced that if they maintained a clean space with low prices and friendly service, they'd drum up more than enough business to support themselves. And on October 24, 1932, when Krystal's first customer walked out with six Krystals and a cup of coffee for 35 cents, the restaurant's remarkably successful run began.
More than 81 years later, Krystal reigns as one of the oldest fast-food brands in the country. Their namesake creation remains their biggest draw, snack-size burgers topped with diced onion, mustard, and pickle on a soft, square bun. Over the years they've added other hugely popular menu items, including breakfast scramblers and MilkQuakes made from 100% real ice cream. Even after eight decades, enthusiasm from customers has hardly cooled: Krystal gets so much fan mail, the staff have a Krystal Lovers Hall of Fame, for which inductees have their illustrated likeness printed on more than a million burger boxes.
Traditional Jamaican flavors abound in Island Paradise's casual dining room, where a predominantly Caribbean staff revs up the sense of authenticity. Amid bright red banquettes and paintings of the tropics, tables populate with coconut-dusted fish fillets, jerk chicken, and spicy marinated pork. After diners pass around entree plates of oxtail and curried goat, they can bury forks in a sweet Jamaican dessert or utilize the eatery's dangling bead curtains as guitar strings for a three-piece zydeco band.
The sandwich-smiths at Momma Goldberg's Deli populate a mouthwatering menu with stomach- and hand-filling sandwiches. The steamed Momma's Love banishes hunger boo-boos with roast beef, ham, and hickory-smoked turkey cradled within a seeded bun (a $5.09 value), and the reuben stuffs waiting mouths with corned beef, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut accouterments (a $5.09 value). Pan-roasted slices of turkey mingle with a crowd of pepperoni, american cheese, and pickles atop a honey-wheat bun to create the Gobbler (a $5.09 value), and four of Momma Goldberg's salad toppings fill the Veggie Rider's pita encasement (a $5.09 value) like unhappy thoughts of carnival games fill a sentient stuffed animal's mind. To keep meals fully customizable, customers can temporarily don a sandwich architecture cap and draft their own edible skyscraper from an assortment of meats, cheeses, and breads approved by the local zoning commission (a $5.19 value).
My Father's Place dishes out a vast menu of Italian classics including pizzas, pasta, subs, and calzones. Begin savory sojourns with garlic knots crafted from house-made dough ($3.99) by boy scouts apprenticing for epicurean sea captains. The Spud-Nick pizza allows eaters to bask in the innovation of Italian cuisine with sliced baked potatoes, crumbled bacon, chives, cheese, and sour cream ($15.99–$17.99). Other pizza options draw inspiration from Hawaiian, Texan, Mexican, and Greek fare, and a single slice of pepperoni pizza ($1.69) satisfies classic cravings. Gear up athletic-level appetites for the lasagna dinner, which opens with a preshow salad and arrives with garlic bread at the sidelines ($7.99). Thoughtful chefs cover genoa salami and spiced ham with a provolone blanket on the cold italian sub ($5.29).
The Tavern is a brand new establishment that takes pride in providing an all-American menu and an all-star atmosphere. The professional and attentive wait staff ensures pleasant experiences, while executive chef Mike Vinson supplies diners with heaping helpings of soups, salads, sandwiches, steaks, burgers, pastas, and more. Fickle appetites are convinced to stick around with appetizers such as the Frickle, deep-fried dill pickle slices paired with jalapeño ranch ($5), or the Foghorn Sliders, pulled, smoked chicken bathed in barbecue sauce and buried beneath cheddar cheese ($7). A black Angus burger will kick off an unforgettable meatsperience; the Tavern Monster is a prime example, with an 8-ounce patty smooshed between two grilled-cheese sandwiches with pepper bacon, a house bistro sauce, and all the fixings. Real madcaps of meat will want to attempt the Incredible Tavern Monster Double Stack, a burger as big as its name ($13), where successful, complete consumption earns diners a reward of a picture on the Wall of Fame and a pitcher of beer on the house. Less daring digestive tracts can opt for the grilled salmon dinner plate, prepared with a bourbon honey glaze and a choice of two sides ($14).