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.
Since 1972, the kitchen at The Blue Lantern has filled plates with an array of steak, seafood, and comfort-food dishes. The chefs batter or pan-fry lake perch, mix lobster meat into a five-cheese macaroni, and expertly sear 8-ounce Lamplighter steaks that were traditionally used to illuminate alleys in Charles Dickens novels. As a nod to Notre Dame, whose campus is only 10 minutes away, The Blue Lantern's lounge screens sporting events while surrounding alumni, fans, and students with memorabilia and drawings of the school's best coaches and players. The main dining room is decorated with images of Mishawaka and the New York City skyline around intimate table settings. Electric blue light bathes up to 48 attendees during private soirees in the Blue Neon Room, which includes its own bar, wide-screen television, and outdoor balcony.
Stacks of tortillas, jumbo shrimp, marinated steak, sour cream, rice, and cheese shreds transform into gooey quesadillas and crispy chimichangas at Monterrey Mexican Grill. The eatery's made-from-scratch dishes include such specialties as carne asada and chiles poblanos—chilies stuffed with cheese, dipped in batter, and deep-fried or cryogenically frozen.
Even pancake fanatics could get overwhelmed at American Pancake House. Twenty varieties of the expertly flipped discs fill the menu, their numbers bolstered by a lengthy list of crepes, blintzes, waffles, and french toast. Fresh pecans are swirled into the diner's special pancake batter, emerging from the oven slathered in a cinnamon-sugar glaze, whereas chocolate pancakes blur the lines between breakfast, dessert, and feeding frenzy. Not to be outdone, the diner's menu of savory breakfast dishes and lunch plates dazzle in syrup-free glory, from the mediterranean frittata that pairs smoked sausage with onions and feta to the a classic diner reuben stacked on perfectly toasted rye.
Barbecue lover Michael Kauffman puts his Tennessee roots on display in the newly opened HillBilly Deluxe BarBeQue, serving up a menu packed with southern-infused fare and monsoons of sauce. Starters such as fried green tomatoes ($5.95) and deep-fried zucchini ($5.95) rev up dormant digestion engines for dinners of ribs ($13.95 for a half slab) or rib tips ($8.50), both of which arrive at tables with corn on the cob and corn bread. A bratwurst basket ($5.50) comes with two sides, such as hillbilly baked beans or hillbilly potato salad, and strings of warm pulled pork ($5.50) serve as the perfect building materials for aromatic welcome wreaths. HillBilly Deluxe BarBeQue’s dedicated, friendly staff welcomes all levels of barbecue warriors, including perpetually sauce-covered veterans in need of fresh bottles to bathe in.
As a student at Ball State University, Scott Wise spent many a night at Mugly's Pub & Eatery, a local dive known for its burgers and trio of draft beers. After some time away, Scott returned to his college town of Muncie only to discover that Mugly's was for sale. Rechristened Scotty's Brewhouse, the former dive now sports a handmade oak bar and old-fashioned gas-burning lanterns, not to mention more than 30 beers on tap.
Scotty's now has six locations throughout Indiana as well as sister pub, Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co, and each has its own menu of brews, wines, cocktails, and alcohol-repellent sodas. Though the libations change, the food menu remains the same at each award-winning eatery. The brew houses' cooks pair beer-spiked marinara sauce with gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches full of cheddar, mozzarella, and pepper jack, as well as crown half-pound burgers with peanut butter and jalapeños. Bison burgers are available on a low-calorie menu, and gluten-free options include chicken sandwiches smothered in thai peanut sauce. All venues welcome scores of families and kids, who feast on homemade pizzas, salads, and subs--especially on Sundays and Tuesday, when kids eat free with the purchase of adult entrees.