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.
The menu at Mother’s Pancake House can sate breakfast cravings both sweet and savory. Plates such as the homemade banana-bread french toast and the banana split pancakes—topped with strawberries, bananas, and, of course, ice cream—awaken diners with an early-morning sugar rush. Meanwhile, chefs bake veggies, cheese, and breakfast meats such as ham, bacon, and sausage into hearty omelets. As time ticks into the afternoon, the staff begins serving sandwiches, burgers, pastas, and country-fried steaks.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
As soon as the chefs at Sushi + Rotary Sushi Bar put the finishing touches on their specialty rolls, they send them over to tables on a conveyor belt. As guests eagerly await their color-coded plates?which signify price and conveniently match the brightly colored d?cor?they can watch the chefs as they slice, roll, and season their latest batch of seafood, which arrived in the restaurant that very morning.
When Hounds Blue Moon began serving up inventive pub fare in 2008, the menu included a modest selection of eight signature stuffed burgers. That list has since expanded to offer diners 26 varieties of burger, each bedecked with elaborate ingredient combinations such as avocado and jalapeno jack cheese, chili and cheese sauce, bacon and cheddar, or roasted jalapeños and pico de gallo. During dinner hours, palates can further expand with Italian dinner specialties such as the chicken vesuvio roasted with potato wedges and peas. And on Sundays, staffers at a brunch buffet customize comfort fare by sizzling made-to order omelets and carving off slices of meat in the shape of each patron's favorite Aleutian Island.
Every month, Sweet Tomatoes rolls out a new roster of fresh-made eats—including many vegetarian and gluten-free selections—in its wholesome buffet. Simmering soups bubble with vegetables and savory chicken, alongside tossed salads tumbling with crisp produce, much like an Ent in a washing machine. On Sunday mornings, plates fill with comforting breakfast classics such as belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.