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.
Pow Pow Wings, a casual sports bar written up in The Columbian and Clark College's The Independent, serves up 13 styles of wings and 10 sauces. A raspberry-chipotle sauce was recommended by The Columbian, whereas the ghost pepper-infused Super Pow was reported to create "an inferno on the palate" by The Independent. Pow Pow Wings also grills burgers that can be doused in any wing sauce or topped with a stack of fried-mozzarella sticks. A full bar supplies beer, soft drinks, and other libations, and pinball machines and foosball distracts patrons from shouting curses in Esperanto at the sportsmen on TV.
The giant circular grill can be seen from almost anywhere inside the restaurant. Yummy Mongolian Grill's chefs stand around it waiting to stir-fry the custom creations their diners assemble from a long buffet brimming with colorful veggies, noodles, and meats. Guests pile their selected ingredients into a nearly endless number of combinations before ladling on freshly made sauces and waving goodbye as their plates are carted off for cooking. Additionally, a full appetizer bar warms midsections like an electric fanny pack with bubbling soups, chicken fried rice, and honey chicken wings.
A platoon of self-serve yogurt dispensers gleams along the walls of Lachelle’s Frozen Yogurt, each waiting to dispatch a different velvety flavor into the shop’s giant pink cups. Swirls come in both traditional varieties—Dutch chocolate, alpine vanilla—and unique flavors, such as hawaiian pineapple and Mounds. To complement the mountains of yogurt, Lachelle's offers a selection of toppings that, like the Indy Five Million, is seemingly endless, comprising more than 100 treats from fresh fruit to hot apple-pie filling.
Thoreau might have lasted longer than two years in the woods if he’d been within walking distance of Lapellah, a restaurant that draws strongly on the deep-woods vibe of the Pacific Northwest, with dark wood furnishings, comfy booths, warm brick walls, and plenty of roaring fire—Lapellah features a wood-oven stove and a flaming grill. The elemental atmosphere of wood and flames is reflected in the name: Lapellah comes from the trading language used by natives of the region and means “roast.” And like any good citizen of the woods, Lapellah endeavors to minimize its footprints in the soil. The restaurant works with area farmers to obtain sustainable, local ingredients and recycles or composts 80% of its waste. This locally owned, do-gooder restaurant also gives back to the community, donating turkey dinners over the holidays.
When the instructors at Design Metals School aren’t crafting alloy masterpieces—such as the intricate rail that encircles the pendulum at the University of Alaska’s library—around the country, they impart the skills of their trade to groups of torch-wielding students. The teachers pull from 25 years of experience in metal fabrication for their classes, demonstrating and critiquing pupils’ techniques for welding, cold bending, and making cool showers of sparks.