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.
An unwavering devotion to freshness permeates Tomacelli's kitchen, where pizza chefs adorn their daily made dough with house-made sauce, all-natural cheese, and more than 50 market-fresh toppings. Millions of possible build-your-own combinations complement 23 creations brainstormed by a husband-and-wife team, from a ham-and-pineapple-studded hawaiian pie to the seafood supreme's maritime medley of fresh ingredients. Not content to recline on the edible laurels of their circular masterworks, the Tomacelli's kitchen team rounds out the menu with piping-hot pasta dishes and fresh salads.
Backed by five generations of popcorn-making pedigree, sisters Beth Boettcher and BJ McClellan trained where it counts—their mother’s kitchen. Armed with family methods and recipes, they craft housemade gourmet treats that feature real Jolly Time popcorn. After prepopping the corn, they coat it with yummy ingredients to create flavors that range from classic caramel and cheddar cheese to cinnamon roll, raspberry cheesecake, and chocolate-drizzled caramel. They fashion gift packages for all occasions, from birthdays and holidays to movie nights, office parties, and casual snacking.
Reflecting its Spartan, all-business ambience, Dan’s Pizza keeps the focus on its menu of New York–style pizza—crispy, thin-crust medleys of sauce, cheese, and dough in delicious disk form. The bacon cheeseburger pie ($17.95 for a large) delivers the ingredients of a topping-laden burger in a convenient vehicle that allows multiple mouths to savor it without accidentally kissing. The all-meat special packs pepperoni, hamburger, sausage, canadian bacon, and american bacon into one circle of carnivorous joy ($17.95 for a large).
At the beginning of the 20th century, horses whinnied and snorted in the basement of The Livery building, according to the Des Moines Register. Today, though, the cleaned-up space is home to a cozy cafe run by Betsy and James Gideon. Betsy and James strive for thoughtful quality in the form of single-pour brews of coffee and the pastries they bake in-house. The café's ovens are not only for pastries, though; the Gideons also bake fresh bread for sandwiches rather than using prepackaged bread or reconstituted croutons. Guests can recline on wooden furniture that James Gideon constructs himself, or head to the outdoor patio in warm weather.
A selection of 40 themed rooms at the Hotel Pattee celebrates historical contributions to Midwestern life. Standard stayers can pass notes in the Alton School room or sleep under the stars and stripes of the marching-band room. A space celebrating Japanese culture is available to premiere guests, and the aura of Louis Armstrong resides in a New Orleans-inspired suite room. Personalized touches include a wood-burning fireplaces in select rooms and more than 130 pieces of original artwork. Active bodies can find a niche in the fitness center, which features cardio equipment and a hot tub, a sauna, and a steam room.