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.
A row of personalized pewter mugs hangs above the lively neighborhood joint Cappy's bar—one for each of the regulars who have joined the bar's Left Handed Club, which encourages its members to only drink with their left hand as they toast to the establishment's hearty American and Italian pub fare. Salmon Creek wine, draft beer, and chocolate martinis top the tables in cushy booths, illuminated by the glow of the numerous flat-screen televisions that checker the bright yellow-striped walls. The bar's interior designer eschewed oil paintings of centaurs, choosing instead to decorate the walls with a stuffed deer head and full-size motorcycle.
The pub offers an ever-metamorphosing list of specials throughout the week, including unlimited ribs on Thursday nights and bottomless fish fries on Friday. On Sunday, a bloody mary bar allows guests to customize their own brunch cocktails with sauces, olives, meats, and vegetables.
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.
At Brooklyn Deli, owners Mark Anderson and Don Bothem slice premium meats and julienne subway passes for authentic New York-style sandwiches. Along with their menu of Brooklyn classics, the duo and their staff whip up custom creations, layering breads with meats, toppings, dressings, and cheeses. Meanwhile, freshly cut potatoes simmer in the fryer, and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies rise in the ovens. Out in the dining area, cheerful red booths and stools line up beneath photographs of New York.