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.
As they worked with intense, iconic ingredients such as lemongrass and curry, the cooks at Thai of Wedgwood found that they never needed to turn to MSG for help. So, they cut the artificial enhancer out of their cuisine completely, relying instead on age-old recipes and nature's own flavor powerhouses. They add sugary pop to their sweet and sour chicken with real pineapple, or spice up salmon with red curry and coconut milk. Their cuisine shows up at tables in a dining room rife with personal touches of Thailand, from the dressing screen which hides a hallway to the wall hangings that measure how much the nation has grown since last school year.
There was once a pair of friends who shared the same name. These friends—the Gregs—also shared the belief that even casual food should be fresh. So they put their heads together to found Zaw Artisan Pizza, where seasonal, organic, and locally sourced ingredients top carefully crafted take-and-bake pies. Diners can watch over the counter as pizza artistes decorate white, whole wheat, or gluten-free crusts with toppings such as free-range chicken breast, hearty spinach, and fresh artisan cheeses. Each pie leaves the shop unfrozen—as evidenced by the lack of freezers in all six stores—to be baked to a golden crisp inside the customer's oven or backyard iron forge. To further their commitment to quality, the Gregs strive to source local ingredients from neighborhood farmers' markets whenever possible, and craft each batch of dough with Bob's Red Mill flours.
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 Dead 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.
The rainbow-striped umbrella hanging over the Quack Dogs cart does a decent job of enticing curious passersby. Then again, the flavorful aromas of fresh-grilled hotdogs drifting into the air certainly can't hurt. Currently parked at two spots—McGraw Plaza and Cal Anderson Park—Quack Dogs puts lunchtime hunger to rest with its menu of hotdogs, sausages, and specialty choices. The cart doles out classics, such as jumbo Nathan's Famous dogs. But it also cooks up some unconventional creations, including apple wood-smoked bratwurst and spicy Louisiana hot links made of pork and beef.
Harissa Mediterranean Cuisine takes its name from a mountainside village in Lebanon that attracts visitors every year with a 15-ton bronze statue of Our Lady of Lebanon. Chef Walid Alabtan seeks to make his restaurant a destination as well, attracting diners with a hearty spread of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine and steadily gaining their loyalty. In her 2010 feature of the restaurant in the Seattle Times, Nancy Leson claimed, "If I lived in Ravenna, I'd add Harissa … to my list of neighborhood go-to joints."
The chefs grill skewers of lamb, chicken, and salmon over open flames, and they ladle helpings of seasonal vegetables and seafood into the kitchen's percolating stew pots. To counteract the menu's overwhelmingly hearty and savory cuisine, they also make baklava by hand and whisk herbs into yogurt and housemade cream cheese to serve them as refreshing appetizers. The dining room creates a slightly refined ambiance with crisp white tablecloths, gentle track lighting, and framed artwork along the soft-yellow and orange walls. Live belly dancing and jazz bands perform on select nights, entertaining diners even more than a jigsaw puzzle that reveals their inheritance.