On the quiet, Monday-night streets of Puyallup, no one inside Ricky J’s Restaurant and Lounge seems to care that it’s a school night. The lights in the warm pub burn brightly, as local musicians jaunt onto the stage to enthusiastic applause. Servers raise their voices to be heard over the twang of guitar and the terrified screams of the drums, taking orders for pizzas and pitchers of beer. Between decimating plates of nachos or cheering at the end of the band’s set, guests engage in a little friendly competition at the pool tables. This is the scene of the pub’s open mic night—the first of many weekly events on a schedule flush with karaoke, bingo, and trivia.
As guests squabble over trivia answers or dance to DJ-spun tunes in the dining room, chefs are bustling through the kitchen. They top freshly made burgers with grill-blacked bacon and juicy pineapple slices, and dress pizzas with homemade sauce and creative toppings such as barbeque pulled pork and tortilla strips. The chefs are creative even with their side dishes, frying onion rings in homemade beer batter and painting portraits of tater tots dressed as Napoleon. In the mornings, the chefs turn their attention to breakfast items, including cheesy omelets, overstuffed burritos, and pancakes with banana, strawberry, and whipped cream.
Founded in Portland, Oregon, in 1953, The Original Pancake House puts local hungers to rest with an array of fresh, made-from-scratch breakfast choices, cooked to order until 8 p.m. every day. The wide-ranging menu demonstrates its training in conflict resolution by bringing together sweet and savory flavors in offerings such as the bacon-filled buttermilk pancakes served with whipped butter and hot syrup ($8.50). Meanwhile, a bushel of oven-baked granny smith apples adorn the signature apple pancake topped with pure, sinkiang cinnamon ($10.50). Yolk-related creations include the irish omelette, distinguished by its charming brogue and fluffy eggs paired with homemade hash composed of kosher corned beef, potatoes, onions, and cheddar cheese ($11). An array of sides, including hash browns ($4) and toast with preserves ($1.50), stand ready to provide gastronomic accompaniment.
Katie Cakes, one of Granny Lala's best-selling products, were inspired by a little girl named Katie with severe food allergies that included gluten, eggs, dairy, and a host of other ingredients commonly found in the tastiest treats on earth (cakes, cookies, cookie monsters, shredding guitar solos, etc.). With Katie's third birthday approaching, all she wanted was a proper birthday cake. Her parents put in a hopeful call to Granny Lala, who surfed a tidal wave of inspiration and water to create the Katie Cake—a quinoa-based bundt topped with dark chocolate ganache. Each delicious single-serving cake is gluten, soy, demon, and dairy free.
Great Harvest specializes in baking tasty delicacies and healthy, homemade breads ($4.50–$8.50 per loaf) that are high in fiber, free of preservatives, and crafted with freshly milled flour every day. The bread selection changes each day of the week according to a monthly schedule; previous offerings include golden honey wheat and Dakota bread. Gluten-free and high-protein breads are available in a variety of flavors, including gluten-free cinnamon-chip bread. For carb connoisseurs that prefer breaded delights that are easily juggled, Great Harvest bakes scones, muffins, cookies, cinnamon rolls, and bars.
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.