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.
The Wedgwood location of QFC is smaller than some among this grocery chain’s portfolio, but with friendly staff and late hours it fulfills shoppers needs for organics, staples and healthy foods. Everything is in its place at this well-designed store, with long aisles that stock the basics, though a full-service bakery, deli with prepared meals, butcher department, coffee bar, and an extensive beer and wine department all hug the exterior walls, making for next-level shopping that supplies more than just the usual canned goods and prepackaged breads. A colorful floral department offers seasonal features like seeds and plants for the yard in summer and festive plants for the winter holidays. And if you’re picking up a bottle of wine and premade meal for dinner with a loved one, grab a DVD from the Redbox inside to complete the night.
Meet the Owner: Rod Neldam is a third-generation baker. His grandfather ran a bakery in Oakland called Neldam’s Danish Bakery for many years, beginning in 1929.
While You’re Waiting: Take a look around. The walls sport the work of local artists, and management swaps in a new batch of pictures, paintings, and photographs at the beginning of every month.
When to Go: Grateful Bread hosts open mic nights every second Tuesday of the month from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Inside Tip: If you’re in the market for something specific, make sure to time your visit correctly. Challah is only made on Thursdays and Fridays, and wild rice and onion breads only emerge from the ovens on Saturdays.
While You’re in the Neighborhood: Take a stroll through the four acres of native plants, orchards, and nurseries at the Magnuson Community Garden (7400 Sand Point Way NE).
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Grateful Bread hits the farmers’ market circuit Wednesday through Sunday, making stops at Wallingford, Queen Anne, and Shoreline Farmers’ Markets. Check the website for a current schedule.
A pair of restaurateurs opened Pair Food & Wine so they could pair local and organic food with local and imported wine. The meat and dairy on the seasonal menu comes from Washington farms, and the produce might even come straight from Pair's back garden, harvested by the tiny farmers who live behind the sidewalk planters. While the wine list is lengthy, the bar-food menu is short, containing just a snack-size handful of dishes. "But each one," wrote the Seattle Times in 2009, "falls in line with Pair's penchant for making simple dishes elegant."
Each crowd-pleasing trio comes on a reusable platter that is handy for later serving B-list house guests. The Wandering Café asks that customers call 48 hours ahead. Home delivery costs extra (call for more information, as pricing varies by area), but The Wandering Café's highway-convenient location makes pick-up easy.
The Maple Leaf coffee house offers a warm and toasty neighborhood atmosphere in which to sip your favored coffee drink, nosh on your favored sandwich, or ogle your favored coffee carafe. Splurge on the 10-drink punch card, and enjoy a marathon of its premium teas ($0.91+), lattes ($2.25+), chais ($2.25+), espressos ($1.25+), extras ($0.30+), or pour-it-yourself drip roasts ($0.91+). Or opt for a $20 credit for $10 towards anything in the store. In addition to the full espresso-bar offerings, Cloud City serves up a full menu of casual café fare, with filling breakfast bites, such as oatmeal ($3+) and breakfasty burritos ($2.25), alongside hand-held lunch fare, such as quiche ($3.75), fresh-made sandwiches ($3.50+), and salad sandwiches ($5.75). Your Groupon is also valid toward the purchase of any retail product. Spend a warm afternoon among Cloud City Coffee's free WiFi, cozy couches, and children's play area—at least, until its suave owner betrays you to the Empire and has you frozen in carbonite.