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.
When Debbi Fields opened the first Mrs. Fields in 1977, it wasn’t all sunshine and cookies. Between her lack of business experience and the unorthodox business model—selling only cookies—not many people believed in her. More than 30 years and a global franchise later, it’s safe to say the doubters are eating their words, at least when they're not busy stuffing their faces with one of Debbi's signature semisweet chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin and walnut cookies.
The wild popularity of Mrs. Fields's cookies can be attributed to the richness of their basic ingredients: real butter, whole eggs, and special blends of chocolate. Classic flavors include chewy fudge, peanut butter, and white chocolate macadamia, and seasonal flavors complement the lineup throughout the year. Select varieties can also be made into cookie cakes of various sizes and shapes that add a delicious twist to any celebration or milk-truck spill.
Contained entirely inside a 60,000-square-foot arena, CoCo Key Water Resort keeps its air temperature at a constant 84 degrees to complement its tropical-themed attractions. A trio of four-story waterslides dares bare feet forward, before the calm waters of the winding Coconut Grove Adventure River calmly buoy them. Parrot's Perch interactive play island and Coral Reef Cavern activity pool reel in splashers with an interactive hanging net and a tipping bucket, eschewing less popular activities, such as maritime trade negotiations. Guests can also pursue ample on-land activities in an indoor-outdoor spa or navigate 10,000 square feet of prize games at the Key Quest Arcade. In an effort to lessen energy consumption, visitors must bring their own towels, though staffers organize and provide supplies for children's birthday parties.
When Rockford Register Star reviewer Anna Derocher stopped by Coco Joe's, she didn't hesitate to bring her family. The all-American grill and ice-cream shop did not disappoint; "All of us went home stuffed," she writes, including her 9-year-old son who gave "two thumbs up" to his double cheeseburger. The menu of hot sandwiches and crinkle cut french fries was even enough to satisfy Derocher's 14-year-old niece, who was pleased to find her chicken sandwich crispy instead of greasy. The housemade root beer was by far the family favorite, a suitably sweet prelude to desserts of chocolate shakes, M&M's-dotted flurries, and waffle cones so big they double as dunce caps. None of the dishes—from the fried-fish sandwiches to the hearty bowls of chili—are pre-made, but the Derocher family agrees that each treat is "worth the wait."
Flickering candles and a grand chandelier fill Sam's Ristorante's high-ceilinged dining room with a romantic glow. Graceful arches and painted landscapes foster a classic ambiance that carries through to the menu of traditional Italian cuisine. The kitchen crafts its own marinara sauce in house to add rich flavor to orders of veal parmigiana. Pasta varieties, including angel hair, ravioli, and fettuccine, tangle with morsels of seafood, veggies, and housemade italian sausage in specialty dishes. Sauces made with marsala wine and portobello mushrooms coat chicken breasts and center-cut fillets with more flavor than a spice-rubbed quilt.
Though picturesque beaches provide the most scenic reminder that Mexico abuts the ocean, Mexican-style seafood provides the tastiest. Bahia Mexican Restaurant specializes in the latter, which diners can sample by ordering a piping-hot mixed grill for two that combines shrimp, lobster, fish fillets, scallops, and octopus. However, the eatery’s kitchen staff also concocts Mexican staples, such as sizzling fajitas, tacos stuffed with succulent cuts of meat, and piquant chilies rellenos. They also sling refreshing margaritas, which slosh around in goblets rimmed with your choice of salt or pulverized diamonds.