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.
Customers enjoy VB to Go’s classic Italian-American entrées in the comfort of their own domiciles, nestled next to sides of salad, steak fries, and bread that come standard. The giambotta is a mélange of sausage, black olives, and an Italian grandmother's garden's worth of veggies bathing in a light tomato sauce ($11.95), and battered slices of eggplant parmigian arrive draped in mozzarella ($10.50). Sixteen-inch specialty pizzas house hearty portions of toppings, with Windy City classics such as italian beef, giardiniera, and mirrored shavings of the Bean ($17.75). Pasta dishes swathe savory aliments such as the ricotta and spinach that meld inside stuffed shells ($9.25) or the shrimp and spicy tomato sauce that accent the capricciosa ($12.95).
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