Insides Pad Thai, mint green and soft yellow walls surround linen-topped tables populated with traditional Thai dishes. A grandiose mural of a seaside vista blankets one wall, and sheer curtains block out the sun and its inane chattering. It's within this airy, relaxed atmosphere that servers shuttle out savories from an easy-to-navigate menu that has separate sections for stir-fries, curries, noodles, and vegetarian items.
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 Milkshake, and Best Drivethru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through its program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Head Chef Miriam Sosa culled from South American and Caribbean traditions when she built her menu of Latin dishes at the fast-food eatery Latin Chicks. Sosa’s Peruvian-style pollo a la brasa—coal-fired chicken—headlines the menu and makes appearances with fries, in salads, and once on Jimmy Kimmel Live. For a sweet treat, she also presents a choice of filling and topping for churros, including strawberry, cream cheese, and guava.
Top-of-the-line cuisine from the land and the sea meets in the kitchen of Toni Steakhouse, a family-owned restaurant that opened in 2008. Chefs hand-cut steaks such as the 28-ounce bone-in Cowboy rib eye and the center-cut chateaubriand for two, pairing them with traditional sides such as loaded baked potatoes and wilted spinach. Those who opt for seafood choose from specialties such as sushi-grade grouper and red snapper filleted onsite. Cocktail pairings range from classics such as the Ketel One vodka martini to the decadent creations such as the Godiva chocolate dessert martini.
Chefs at King and I inject spice into dinnertime by preparing authentic Thai cuisine with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and artful presentation. Each of the menu’s stir-fry, noodle, and curry entrees may be customized with a choice of chicken, beef, seafood, or tofu before being tossed with such tempting morsels as snow peas, ginger, or bamboo shoots and seasoned to taste with spices ranging from mild to thai hot. Seeped in soft lighting from sparse lamps and a small fish tank, the dining room gives off an air of understated elegance by balancing rich red walls with crisp white tablecloths and a thankful absence of tap-dancing balloon artists.
Best Caribbean Cuisine draws on culinary influences from across the equator, preparing a menu that mixes together dishes and flavors of the West Indies, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, and more. Chef Baptiste prepares hot wings and signature entrees that include a homemade grilled-jerk burger, caribbean coconut curry shrimp, caribbean fried pork, and creole gumbo?shrimp, mussels, octopus, and chicken sausage tossed together with okra and bell peppers. The BYOB spot also offers ample vegetarian options, such as veggie curry, and a slate of rotating daily specials.