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.
Hermann Harris, owner of Cattin's Family Restaurant, manages to capture a little bit of everyone's childhood in his menu. Breakfast plates piled high with pancakes and eggs recall lazy Sunday mornings whereas hearty dinnertime entrees such as the popular chicken-fried steak or the Yankee-style pot roast bring to mind trips to grandma's house. Even Hermann's business model keeps kids as the focus: Monday through Wednesday ages 12 and younger eat for free and get a complimentary toy.
Yet grownups find Cattin's just as welcoming. Open 24 hours on most days, the diner makes a great spot for a late-night slice of homemade pie or a super-early cup of coffee at the counter. Sirloins and seafood also pin Cattin's as a hub for a dinner date or for the final showdown between surf and turf.
Almost every dish at Sparks Firehouse Deli feels the heat of the flames as it cooks. The house chefs are firm believers in the flavor-enhancing properties of fire-roasting dishes, whether they are sandwiches, wings, or sides like macaroni and cheese. The flames melt swiss cheese onto the house-cooked corned beef of the All Hands Reuben, and bring out the sweetness of vegetables in the All The Bells and Whistles veggie sandwich. Sparks Firehouse Deli specializes in creating custom pizzas and pizza by the slice as well, using an array of ingredients, including six types of meat, five sauces, and their signature chipotle sauce. Chefs also make pizzas for take-and-bake service, offering a more satisfying at-home option than lighting a pepperoni-scented candle.
Iron Chef Japanese Steak House's seasoned chefs combine culinary skill with a flair for showmanship, treating guests to both a delicious meal of filet mignon, lobster, and stir fried veggies, as well as a night of memorable entertainment. As they sear tender steaks and fresh shrimp, teppanyaki masters dazzle patrons with tricks, juggling morsels of food with spatulas and creating onion volcanoes that belch flames and send lava pouring over veggie dioramas of Pompeii. Guests seated around the flat-topped iron grill ooh and aah at the masterful knife work and dexterity of their tableside host, then dig into mouthwatering meals served with salad, soup, prawn appetizers, steamed rice, and ice cream.
HG Bistro blends casual and upscale in its atmosphere as well as its food—in the kitchen, chefs use local ingredients to create a menu that draws from European and American influences. They grill 8-ounce sirloins, 10-ounce flat irons, and 16-ounce rib eyes, often serving them with toppings such as dungeness crab, brandy mushrooms, and tiny beef hats. They also infuse mac 'n' cheese with crab, pair ahi tuna with wasabi, and dress pasta with smoked-sage sauce or Sicilian-style meatballs. To help diners wash down their meals, servers mix cocktails and pour more than 80 international wines.
Made-from-scratch recipes and fresh ingredients have been setting The Original Pancake House apart from its breakfast-spot competition since 1953. That's when its owners established an all-day empire committed to ingredients such as pure hard-wheat unbleached flour and butter made from fresh sweet cream.
Today, The Original Pancake House cooks across the country still construct scrambles and omelets from fresh Grade AA eggs. Powdered sugar lines the rims of oven-baked dutch baby pancakes, and granny-smith apples simmer in oven-baked pancakes (two of more than a dozen styles of pancake on the menu). Even the toppings are made in-house, including whipped cream, specialty syrups, and sauces. To complement these flavors, staff fill cups with fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices and coffee blended specially to match the Original Pancake House's menu and upholstery. Although each location takes on the local charm of its surrounding city, all of them share in common a homey atmosphere that welcomes families with perks such as color-in place mats and kids' menus.
Name aside, The Original Pancake House isn't just a breakfast spot?in fact, it stays open for three meals a day, or six if you follow most doctors' advice to take a small pancake break every few hours. The savory side of the menu holds meat-and-egg combos and savory crepes stuffed with cheese and veggies.