Originally branded as the Top Hat Drive-In, Sonic didn’t acquire its nationally recognized name until 1959—six years after its inception in 1953. Today, the franchise 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 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 Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
A family-friendly co-op, Kaleidoscoops cools overheated taste buds with more than 70 flavors of ice cream, along with a host of variations on a similar dairy theme (single $2.39, double $3.99).. Raging chocoholics can indulge in flavors like More Cowbell, chocolate ice cream speckled with chocolate chunks, chewy brownies, and Oreo cookie pieces. Health-conscious connoisseurs, meanwhile, can savor low-fat options like black cherry or peach Depending on the size of their stomach and the scope of their bravery, diners may dive spoon-first into a lactic lagoon dubbed the Kaleidonator: 8 -12 scoops of ice cream rub elbows with brownie and pound cake fingers, waffle crisps, a banana, two of the neighbor's kids swimming laps, four toppings, whipped cream, nuts, and cherries. Kaleidoscoops also freeze-bakes a variety of ice cream cakes for all occasions (priced from $10-$45).
The vibrant orange walls are enough to make Antigua Latin Restaurant stand out, but owner and self-taught chef Nicolas Ramos appeals to his customers' other senses with a menu of contemporary Mexican, Latin American, and Spanish dishes. He taps into his family's experience in the restaurant industry-which spans across more than 50 years-to populate his dining room's blue tablecloths with Cuban sandwiches, paella, traditional tapas, and enchiladas crafted from fresh ingredients. Additionally, the eatery's culinary experts host hands-on cooking classes that instruct students on the finer points of preparing a Caribbean feast or using a shrink ray to transform an entree into an appetizer.
La Parihuela's kitchen team guides diners on a tour of the diverse taste terrains of Peru with a mouthwatering menu of national dishes. A squad of nibblers can warm up jaw muscles with selections of appetizers, such as the fish ceviche, where fish stews in lime juice and guilt over not spending enough time with its guppies. Navigate spoons through the piquant waters of the parihuela, in which an assortment of fish, crab, and mollusks leave dinners with enough shells to fashion a stylish maritime necklace. After appetizers, guests turn the pages of the menu to uncover thrilling entree conclusions to their meal, such as the lomo saltado, where french fry and rice conspirators accompany strips of tenderloin steak or chicken, or the paella, where fresh seafood bodysurfs across a crowd of rice and cilantro.
The Loaf & Jug Restaurant was opened more than 35 years ago to serve the customer overflow from the nearby Proud Topover Restaurant. Serving fresh, deli style meals for the lunchtime rush has been their goal, and over the years the restaurant has gathered its own loyal following. Recently they moved to a new, more modern space to accommodate their growing clientele and this spot is also available for private parties and events.
When customers enter, the first thing they see is a large menu board and below that, a pastry chef tossing and pressing fresh piecrust. Once, they’ve torn their eyes away from that hypnotic sight, customers start their order by filling out a form for a sandwich or quiche, soup, and toppings. As the request goes down the line, staff members prepare dishes using the best quality ingredients available, including locally grown apples and sourdough bread from Boudine in San Francisco. Patrons move along the counter, keeping their eyes focused on their orders, and trying not to drool when looking at slices of banana crème and Door County cherry pie. Once meals are complete, patrons can take a seat by the two-sided fireplace that divides the dining room or–in the summer months–they can eat on the outdoor patio to enjoy a side of fresh oxygen with their meals.
Named after the early-morning first shift for crew aboard seafaring vessels, First Watch ensures chefs arrive at work with the rising sun, chopping fresh produce, baking muffins, and mixing french toast batter each day. As guests arrive, perky servers greet them with an entire pot of Sunrise Select coffee, as well as the morning paper and free WiFi. Since 1983, First Watch’s carpe-diem philosophy has spread to more than 100 locations across 13 states, pleasing crowds with thin, sweet crepes and fluffy whipped eggs, hash brown skillets, and enormous multigrain pancakes. Recently placed at the top of a Consumer Reports list of best family restaurants, First Watch takes the customer experience seriously. Chefs focus entirely on crafting nourishing sunrise feasts and midday meals, shunning afterthoughts of steaks and burgers for edible masterpieces of omelets, belgian waffles, homemade biscuits, and wholesome lunch salads and sandwiches.