From its humble origins as a soda fountain in 1930s Saint Paul, Green Mill Restaurant and Bar has grown into a franchise with more than 28 locations all over Minnesota and the Midwest. As TV screens blast sports news in the background, patrons at each eatery dine on a menu of classic American and pizzeria fare. Thick, hand-pressed burgers form bunned towers with hefty toppings such as smoked bacon, haystack onions, and chipotle mayo. Families looking to bond can practice fractions on regular, deep-dish, or thin and crispy pizzas or group juggling acts with samplers of 27 juicy wings. In addition to pastas and salads, each location's bar carries a varied drink menu that includes draft beers such as Blue Moon and Samuel Adams alongside wine, martinis, and margaritas.
At Indian Aroma, spicy Northern Indian dishes sizzle inside a traditional tandoori oven. This oven's clay interior adds a smokey flavor to the food, which exits the oven looking as colorful as the dining room's cumin-colored walls. The restaurant's chefs, who are Indian natives, create these curries and biryanis à la carte, but they also serve them up on the buffet alongside spicy sauces, refreshing yogurts, and warm pieces of naan. Together, these components create a meal that is both hot and cool, much like a leather jacket that's been left in direct sunlight too long.
Riley's Pub & Grill is known for its barbecue ribs, which the chefs cook slowly until the meat falls off the bone alongside piles of cole slaw and seasoned potato wedges. They also pile burgers and pizzas with unusual toppings, such as pulled pork and pickles. The relaxed bar amps up during special events, including live music performances and bingo nights.
Though the particulars of Duke's pizza recipe remain shrouded in secrecy, its resulting flavors—thin, crispy crust, sweet sauce, and obscure toppings such as bacon bits and chicken Alfredo—are practically public domain. Seated among crimson walls and wood paneling, guests dig into pies as the kitchen churns out a well-rounded menu of pub favorites, from burgers and hand-cut fries to classic breakfast fare such as omelets and gravy-soaked biscuits. An extensive lunch buffet lines the walls amid the glow of flat-screen TVs, allowing patrons to imagine that sports commentators are narrating the scoops of soup and pasta when they breathlessly exclaim, "Commercial break!"
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.
In 1962, Lawrence William Yanz opened Hastings Bierstube, where he dished out German delicacies such as bratwursts, Reubens, and 6-ounce sirloin steaks. After his passing in 1983, his sons, Jim and Mike, started two new locations before forming a fourth with a family friend. The sons expanded Hastings Bierstube’s already extensive menu, introducing the Taste of Deutschland sampler platter, which features a selection of wienerschnitzel, sauerbraten, and house-made spaetzle.
Along with slinging authentic cuisine, the owners send lucky diners on vacations to Germany during giveaways, which fall on special occasions such as Oktoberfest and David Hasslehoff’s half birthday. For visitors remaining on American shores, the restaurants host weekly events, including bingo, open mics, karaoke, and live music.