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.
Though tamales are a staple of Mexican cuisine, they span a range of flavors and textures depending on who makes them. The Tamale House’s owners, Tony and Magdalena Jump, hold the keys to some of the category’s finest, earning second- and third-place standings at the national Best Darn Tamale Contest in 2011. They fill their tamales’ masa shells with ingredients such as pork sautéed in a green or red sauce, pork spiced with the house’s barbecue sauce, or a vegetarian-friendly combo of cheese and jalapeños.
Though the tamales have garnered national awards, regulars know that the rest of the menu is nothing to skim over. Every morning, Grandma Jump creates a limited number of chilies rellenos that sell out like hotcakes dipped in gold. The staff also fills freshly pressed tortillas with a range of traditional meats to create items such as chorizo-and-egg tacos, carne asada burritos, and cheese enchiladas.
After years of working for other businesses, Carmen Medina and Armando Sanchez fulfilled their dream of opening a family Italian restaurant. At Armando’s, they dish up comfort in the form of pastas such as spaghetti marinara, meat lasagna, and shrimp capellini, along with hot paninis and Italian-style sandwiches. Daily specials include homemade desserts such as the family’s tasty tiramisu.
If you don't know what a piadina wrap is, here's a rundown: It's an Italian flatbread wrap, served from unpretentious stalls throughout Italy, especially in the Emilia-Romagna region. It's part of a long tradition, too. As a writer from Saveur notes, in as early as the nineteenth century, poets were writing homages to the wrap, praising its smoothness and its often-impressive size.
Nowadays, Americans can get in on the historic trend, and dig into custom piadina wrap of their own at Strada: Street Food of Italy. Stuffed with delicacies from sausage to fried rounds of calamari, the wraps come dressed up in customizable extras, too. Pesto or marinara sauces smother more than 25 toppings, including Mediterranean specialties such as white bean relish, black olives, and spicy arugula. There's gelato for dessert, too, rather than the original frosty Italian treat, frozen pizza.
The chefs at Lucky Bistro cull fresh ingredients to form an extensive menu of Chinese meat, seafood, and vegetarian favorites, including 38 varieties of dim sum. Diners sink into cushy booths or circle around group tables as tabletop hot pots simmer meat and noodles in curries and other flavorful broths. They also sauté fried rice with chicken and salted fish, heat savory porridges to just-right temperatures, and gussy up tofu and eggplant with sampan and other regional spices.
You'd never spot a cook uncapping a bottle of store-bought salsa or a robot frying up pork carnitas in the kitchen at El Guajillo Mexican Restaurant Bar & Grill. The chefs at this family-owned eatery insist on making their sauces and Mexican specialties themselves, from the pico de gallo to the crispy tortilla chips. When they're not chopping up fresh veggies for these house-made delicacies, they're folding fresh meats and veggies into enchiladas, burritos, and tortas, as well as showering tamales in red and green salsas. These versatile kitchen staffers also extend their culinary expertise towards pizzas, topping pies with homemade tomato sauce and specialty ingredients. To complement the diverse menu, the restaurant's bartenders blend a selection of tangy margaritas and fruity cocktails.