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.
Al Capone regularly feeds the customers at Algonquin Sub Shop. The sub named after the famous gangster is the staff's most popular creation, stacked with capicola, salami, pepperoni, mortadella, provolone cheese, and olives. It's one of many meaty offerings on a menu of more than 20 signature sandwiches, whose fillings are bookended by freshly baked and toasted Italian bread. The Smoke Stack slathers smoked turkey, ham, and imported gouda with spicy Russian mustard, whereas Mom's BBQ Beef spotlights roast beef dressed in a secret barbecue sauce and an extra sweater, just in case. Vegetarians have multiple options to choose from, such as the Where's Waldorf: imported brie, sweet peppers, apples, walnuts, and spinach. Guests can even nix the bread entirely and request that their sub be prepared as gourmet salad, yielding a lighter lunch and plenty of room for one of the family-owned shop's one-pound cakes and brownies.
Today, Colonial Cafe & Ice Cream may have seven full-service family-friendly restaurants, but when it started in 1901, it was only a single small ice cream and dairy store. Now guests can settle into breakfast, lunch, and dinner at each of the eateries –and still enjoy the ice cream that put them on the map. They have garnered particular attention for their signature dish, the Kitchen Sink Sundae, which features two whole bananas, six scoops of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry), whipped cream, chocolate, and chopped almonds with a cherry topper. It’s served in a large dish shaped like a kitchen sink with a S-pipe as the handle. And when diners finish it, they receive a bumper sticker that reads, “I Ate a Colonial Kitchen Sink.”
While ice cream reigns supreme, their breakfasts have also earned praise. They were voted “Best Breakfast” by the Elgin Courier News, Aurora Beacon News, and Naperville Sun. Favorites among the regulars include the stuffed very berry French toast and cinnamon roll French toast. Come dinnertime, they continue serving comfort foods including fresh baked meatloaf and a mac and cheese bacon melt, as well as sandwiches such as the pot roast French dip. The restaurant has also earned plaudits for its popularity with its littlest diners, grabbing the "Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant" designation in the Kane County Chronicle Reader's Choice awards.
Soft light floats in through the shoji-style windows at Bangkok Thai & Sushi, where the menu lists a diversity of Thai curry and noodle dishes such as garlic pepper chicken or roast duck in Thai chili sauce. Sushi chefs prepare rainbow rolls, which wrap the traditional California roll in red tuna, salmon, and avocado, as well as black dragon rolls, which contain spicy salmon, shrimp tempura, and eel.
Using fresh ingredients, chef Mario Arevalo scratch-crafts a menu of Italian-American fare with Spanish and Mediterranean influences. Quickly quiet talkative tummies with a black-olive tapenade, kalamata olives puréed with garlic, fresh herbs, imported cheeses, and extra-virgin olive oil, and served with herb crostini ($3.25). The pasta aglio olio—angel-hair pasta tossed with sautéed garlic, herbs, spicy red-pepper flakes, white wine, and butter—is cooked al dente and doubles as dental floss ($7.50). The herb-breaded Sicilian pork sandwich warms finger docks and bellies with a cloak of marinara sauce and baked cheeses ($8.75), and the pollo vesuvio keeps forks fit with a plated obstacle course featuring a pan-seared chicken-breast mountain, a shallow pool of garlic-and-white-wine sauce, green peas for juggling, and fried potato wedges for balancing on the nose ($11.25).
With more than 700 locations, Jamba Juice proves to the masses that nutrition can be speedy and delicious. Since the beginning, the company’s product philosophy has revolved around choosing whole fruits and other natural ingredients over artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives. The menu is completely free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, and it offers additional accommodations for vegan and gluten-free diets.
This naturalistic approach is fully realized in Jamba Juice's selection of smoothies. Made with 100% fruit juice, sherbet, and frozen yogurt, the frosty delights range from all-fruit smoothies such as peach perfection and strawberry whirl to more indulgent creamy treats, including peanut butter moo'd, an enticing blend of peanut butter, bananas, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, and milk chocolate.
For those with heartier appetites, steel-cut oats steep in soymilk before being enhanced with toppings such as apples, cinnamon, and brown-sugar crumble. The lunch hour presents protein-packed mini wraps, toasted bistro sandwiches and artesian flatbreads that pack only about 320–420 calories each.