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.
Owner Lance Ratze named Yola’s Café for his Grandma Yola, a sensational cook who hoped to own a cafe but passed away before realizing her dream. She did come close, though. In addition to filling her kitchen with restaurant equipment, she piled her basement's ping-pong table high with roast beef, waffles, and pies so as to serve as many people as possible.
Today, Yola's aims to recreate its namesake's hospitality by filling stomachs with baked goods. By lunch, artisans dole out sandwiches, salads, and soups to sate midday cravings. As they dine, grownups peruse a rotating selection of local artwork, while kids play with the cafe's toys, board games, and an old tin can.
A basket of warm housemade bread greets eaters at Tutto Pasta Trattoria, where a homey vibe welcomes diners at dinner and lunch. The menu is a geometry book of pasta shapes, which guests can peruse to prepare for quizzes on spaghetti, angel hair, rigatoni, penne, spaghetti, and housemade tortellini. The noodles share kitchen space with chicken, veal, and seafood dishes, as well as thin-crust pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven rather than a space-rocket launch pad.
At night, shadows blanket the eatery's warmly toned walls, arched-booth alcoves, countryside murals, and outdoor seating area. Amid this dim lighting, bartenders mix martinis and serve wine from their expansive selection, which is displayed on overhead wine racks.
Jackie and Dawn, the mother-daughter team behind Scott's Pastry Shoppe, have been crafting fresh-baked pastries that range from elaborate wedding cakes to adorably frosted cookies for more than 20 years. When not hypnotizing sweet teeth with rapidly swirling lollipops, the baking duo funnels its dessert expertise into treats such as cupcakes, raised donuts, and kringles––a Danish-American sweet pastry. Ornate wedding cakes, which are available in marble, carrot, and strawberry, can be customized with fillings of custard, blueberry, cherry, or german chocolate. The steady-handed artists also personalize pastries by draping cakes in delicate flowers, bows, and scalloped tiers crafted from airy buttercream frosting.
Rookies Food & Spirits sports a menu brimming with hearty, all-American fare in a family-friendly, sports-themed atmosphere. Right off the bat, begin with a whole pound of home-run hot wings slathered in Rookies' signature sauce ($7.29), or pinch-hit a half-pound of Wisconsin white-cheddar cheese curds ($5.79). Rookies' homemade soups ($2.49+) provide an appetizing accompaniment to the quarter-pound bullpen bratwurst ($3.99) from Stoddard's Country Grove Market. Step up to the plate with the Major Leaguer, a half-pound patty of charbroiled, USDA Choice beef pinstriped with delicate seasonings ($5.29). Patrons harboring home-run-sized hunger can dine on broiled cod ($12.99) or a 10-ounce rib-eye ($12.99). Seafood lovers can feast on a Friday fish fry, and Guinness World Records sticklers can bring stopwatches to time Rookies' hops-filled happy hours, which they claim to be the longest in Dane County.
Papa John's has carefully crafted a menu of specialty pizzas to satisfy any taste or mouth shape. Order a hawaiian barbecue chicken ($16), or go all-out and get The Works ($16), a top-heavy combination of pepperoni, ham, spicy italian sausage, fresh-sliced onions, green peppers, gourmet baby portabella mushrooms, and ripe black olives. Satisfy herbivores and herbivoyeurs with a tuscan six cheese or garden fresh pie. The full list of specialty pizzas includes several more; take the hassle out of haggling over individual ingredients and boldly cast your straight-ticket ballot for the pizza party that your conscious dictates.