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.
Seasoned staffers wheel a small cart directly up to dining room tables, where they smash avocados into a palatable paste of fresh guacamole right before guests' eyes. This appetizer fuels treks through Cinco de Mayo Amigos Cantina's lengthy menu, which spotlights Mexican favorites infused with authentic ingredients such as pork carnitas, carne asada, and spicy mole sauce. The restaurant's exposed brick walls house weeknight karaoke, as well as other weekly events including Salsa Night on Saturday, Ladies' Night on Thursday, and Day Planner Appreciation Night on Tuesday. On the outdoor patio, guests can get their fill of fresh air and sunshine as they sample 20 varieties of margaritas.
Jesus Angel became a restaurateur by happenstance. Working for nearly 30 years in the auto industry, Jesus drew crowds of coworkers at lunchtime that clamored to sample the Guadalajara native's Mexican dishes. Intrigued, he hit the streets and toted his food to local festivals, steadily building a following that would propel him into a second career. Today, El Camino Real spans three locations across Northwest Ohio. In addition to the menu of dishes from his homeland, Jesus's restaurants draw patrons with citrusy margaritas, live mariachi bands on weekends, and patios and dining rooms decked out with Spanish tile work and atomic clocks set to the Mayan calendar. These features have earned El Camino Real a place on Toledo City Paper's Best of 2011 list.
The outdoor patio on the Maumee Riverfront isn’t the only reminder of Forrester’s on the River’s location. Inside the main foyer, a rowboat full of poinsettias sits underneath a model sailboat suspended from the ceiling. The nautically themed entrance gives way to a spacious dining room where flat-screen televisions broadcast the latest updates on sporting events. With this happy commotion as a backdrop, the rich aroma of Chef Brian Joyce’s steak-house cuisine wafts from tables and booths. To make those dishes, he draws upon ingredients such as Lake Erie perch, which flakes apart picturesquely when battered in beer and served alongside hand-cut fries. Steaks aged in the restaurant and cut by hand serve as a hearty foundation for pub fare including soft pretzels with housemade beer cheese.
Blossoming from the original Pennywise, established in 1969, Expresso Car Wash now shoos dirt form begrimed automobiles at six convenient lube-and-detail facilities. Upholding a focus on swift service, mechanics perform quick 10-minute oil changes, towel off 12-minute full details, and scrub cloths on their eight-minute abs. As environmental stewards, the detailing staff carts off all used water to a water-treatment facility and uses fewer chemicals than home washings tend to.
Each vehicle's aesthetic and under-the-hood beauty gets continual boosts with additional services, including air-conditioner and timing-belt repair and transmission flushes. When they are not pampering autos, the Expresso staff lends philanthropic support to nonprofits, including local schools, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and teenage cars saving up for a new driver.
Like a metamorph in the Witness Protection Program, Ice Restaurant & Bar has undergone several name changes and taken a number of forms. It began as a coffee shop and later grew into a restaurant called Eddy B's before settling on its current incarnation--a nightclub where the furniture is clean and angular and the cool gray walls are peppered with modern art. Guests dig their forks and teeth into towering club sandwiches, lightly breaded lake perch, and hearty grilled steaks and pork chops.