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.
A new take on the old salad bar, Diced Fresh’s produce cornucopia allows customers to create their own salads from more than 50 fresh toppings and 22 regular, low-fat, and fat-free dressings. Customers outline every detail of their salad on the streamlined order sheets, ticking off a host of fixings, such as feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken, or signifying everything they don’t want with crudely drawn frowny faces. The behind-the-counter staff takes over from there to swiftly assemble the completely customized meal, optionally pairing it with a bowl of lobster bisque or nonfat vegetable chili. Indecisive eaters can simplify the decision-making process by ordering one of 18 predesigned salads, such as turkey cobb or fajita chicken, which can alternatively be turned into a wrap.
The cooks at Reese’s Restaurant have manned the griddle for more than two decades, firing up hearty diner fare for servers to whisk to the eatery’s homey dining room during lunch and dinner. When whipping up designer skillets and omelets, the grill masters pepper customer-picked meats such as seasoned chicken, bratwurst, or corned-beef hash with one of seven cheeses, and gardens of crisp vegetables, including fresh spinach, mushrooms, and jalapeños. Kids can request that their pancakes be poured into the shapes of their favorite characters, whether they are silhouettes of Mickey Mouse’s head or Captain Ahab’s peg leg. For lunch, diners can silence midday tummy quakes with the thin roast beef and au jus of Big Dippers or heaping tossed salads.
Cartoon flames and pitchforks adorn Dante’s vivid red awning, which crowns a cozy, white-bricked edifice. The kitchen team serves the sinfully delicious eats in checkered paper baskets, conjuring an ambiance of Americana better than Hank Aaron obliterating an apple pie with his bat. Casual fare, such as sizzling single or double burgers alongside juicy cylinders of bratwurst and polish sausage, heats up chilled craws. A chicken sandwich, meanwhile, arrives at tables sheathed in panko-encrusted armor.