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 Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Mike O'Donnell's Irish Pub ushers patrons from a broad stretch of Franklin Avenue into a bar from which all pretense has been stripped away in favor of a cozy vibe conducive to unwinding. Even the ceiling tiles broadcast the pub's ties to the community in the form of quaint, business-card-style ads for local businesses. In the game room, friendly competitors hone their skills at the dartboard and draw cues for dibs on the pool table between bites of Irish-inspired appetizers and burgers hot from the grill. Meanwhile, barkeeps refill glasses and chat with regulars as flat-screen TVs keep crowds updated on sports action and the latest commands from Big Brother.
Every morning, the dough masters at Aracely's Bakery rise before dawn to craft house-made cupcakes, pastries, and sandwiches to bejewel their display cases. Confectionary artists transform dreams into fondant-covered reality by crafting custom cakes for birthdays, baby showers, and Eat a Portrait of Your Boss day. Meanwhile, traditional Mexican recipes lend sweetness to cakes and spice to 11 kinds of sandwiches, whose ingredients include avocado, chihuahua cheese, and secret sauce, and pack flavor into handheld meals.
Palermo Bakery's Sicilian-born pastry professionals quell sweet teeth with authentic confectionery masterpieces, including about 70 varieties of fresh cookies baked daily. Bite into a horseshoe-shaped pistachio sandwich, pumped with nutty cream and blanketed in chocolate ($8.59/lb.), or feast on an Old World fig cookie fashioned from pasta frolla dough and stuffed with figs, raisins, citron, orange zest, almonds, chocolate chips, and family secrets, including where the family jewels are stashed and why they consider cans of tomato soup to be jewels ($8.59/lb.). Flakey fried cannoli shells depart from nosh norms, festooning sweet, fresh ricotta with glazed fruit or nuts ($1.99 each), while other pastries, such as the Genovese, keep confections delicate and sweet ($1.99–$2.49). Savory seekers can sink their fangs into focaccia bread slathered with tomato or artichoke ($2.90), a hunk of olive or pepperoni bread ($2.89, available on Sundays) or a semi-circle of cheese pizza ($8.50). Stock up on jitter juice at the classic espresso bar, contained within a cube of sunny walls and tan tiles, like the prize inside a two-colored Rubik's cube
When Fox News set out to discover who was serving the best pizza in Chicago, they put together a team of three pizza experts––a world pizza eating finalist, a think-tank chef for Fruschetta pizza corporation, and a college student––to slice through the competition. The results? The trio awarded Grand Stand Pizza the winner with a score of 4.5 out of 5, beating out Chi-Town standard Nancy's Pizza. The secret might lie in the crust. Said one tester, "you could have put anything on top of that dough and it would have tasted good." Chefs roll that crust out to make thin, pan, double-crust, and stuffed pizzas then pile on classic toppings such as pepperoni, black olives, and hot giardiniera or premium toppings such as Italian beef or gold bullion. The choices don't end there, though. Along with pizza, the restaurant also serves up hearty helpings of pasta, homemade meatball sandwiches, and Italian desserts such as cannoli, tiramisu, and homemade Italian ice.
Pescatore means “Italian fisherman,” according to Vito Barbanente, Pescatore Palace's owner and chef. He lives far from any sea and seldom pulls anything out of saltwater, but having spent his life transforming catch into cuisine, he might well have earned an honorary place among the ranks of said seafarers. In his signature dish, he tops market-fresh fish of the day with a grilled medley of octopus, calamari, cuttlefish, and shrimp. He also harvests land ingredients, rounding out his seafood-rich menu with veal chops, housemade gnocchi, and metal forks instead of tridents.