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 pick up from the drive through or receive from skating car hops 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 chefs at Jake's Eats like to keep things simple. The menu eschews long lists of extravagant ingredients or detailed records of the poultry's SAT scores in favor of a straightforward selection of familiar, beloved American classics. Breakfasts are steaming platters of eggs and piles of pancakes, and lunches and dinners showcase burgers, sandwiches, and steaks. This slate of simple food pairs with frosty glasses of beer or mixed drinks from the full-service bar.
Paws Restaurant, a sister eatery to The Leopard dishes out casual elegance in a romantic dining room. Hashes and hot cakes greet each morning in the softly lit dining room, and at lunchtime, breads and buns envelop pulled pork, portobello mushrooms, and fish fillets paired with crisp vegetables and piquant cheese. During dinner, pans sear filet mignon, porterhouse steaks, and other luscious cuts of meat reveling beneath house-made steak sauces and demi-glaces, and grilled fishes of the day don fruit salsas or sweet soy sauce flavored with shiitake mushrooms. A team of sushi chefs slice sashimi, cinch hand rolls stuffed with fish, such as eel and tuna, and arrange bento boxes into scale models of the Large Hadron collider.
When Lisa Rains began baking, she thought of it as a simple pastime that let her use knowledge passed down from her pastry-savvy mother and grandmother. Little did she know that less than 1.5 years later, she would be fitting brownies, cupcakes, and cinnamon rolls into glass display cases at her own bakery. Ovens puff up tins of cupcakes in flavors such as lemon, chocolate with raspberry filling, peanut butter, and carrot in time for weddings, special events, and the orders of customers sipping coffee at the in-house coffee bar. Rains rolls the dough for fresh cinnamon rolls using the same techniques that she and her son perfected when making them for family breakfasts; he now helps her craft them in the bakery every day. After customers suggested it, Rains recently added a coffee bar that serves local Velvet ice cream, implemented free WiFi, hired a wedding cake specialist, and set the building sprinklers to rain free candy at noon each day. In addition to running a bakery, Rains hosts private events with her exclusive caterer, which take place on an outdoor patio overlooking the lake surrounded by leafy green trees.
When they made them move from La Piedad, Mexico to Aurora, the Hernandez and Alarcon families brought more than just their possessions; they brought their families’ entire repertoire of classic Mexican recipes. They prepare everything from classic burritos stuffed with meat or vegetables, to their own unique contributions such as grilled shrimp, scallops, and pineapple tossed in chipotle sauce. Most of their dishes come with Mexican rice, beans, and tortillas, and pair nicely with the sharp sweetness of their margaritas, which come by the glass or the pitcher.