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.
A new take on the old salad bar, Diced Fresh’s produce cornucopia allows customers to create their own salads from more than 50 fresh toppings and 22 regular, low-fat, and fat-free dressings. Customers outline every detail of their salad on the streamlined order sheets, ticking off a host of fixings, such as feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and chicken, or signifying everything they don’t want with crudely drawn frowny faces. The behind-the-counter staff takes over from there to swiftly assemble the completely customized meal, optionally pairing it with a bowl of lobster bisque or nonfat vegetable chili. Indecisive eaters can simplify the decision-making process by ordering one of 18 predesigned salads, such as turkey cobb or fajita chicken, which can alternatively be turned into a wrap.
The cooks at Reese’s Restaurant have manned the griddle for more than two decades, firing up hearty diner fare for servers to whisk to the eatery’s homey dining room during lunch and dinner. When whipping up designer skillets and omelets, the grill masters pepper customer-picked meats such as seasoned chicken, bratwurst, or corned-beef hash with one of seven cheeses, and gardens of crisp vegetables, including fresh spinach, mushrooms, and jalapeños. Kids can request that their pancakes be poured into the shapes of their favorite characters, whether they are silhouettes of Mickey Mouse’s head or Captain Ahab’s peg leg. For lunch, diners can silence midday tummy quakes with the thin roast beef and au jus of Big Dippers or heaping tossed salads.
Cartoon flames and pitchforks adorn Dante’s vivid red awning, which crowns a cozy, white-bricked edifice. The kitchen team serves the sinfully delicious eats in checkered paper baskets, conjuring an ambiance of Americana better than Hank Aaron obliterating an apple pie with his bat. Casual fare, such as sizzling single or double burgers alongside juicy cylinders of bratwurst and polish sausage, heats up chilled craws. A chicken sandwich, meanwhile, arrives at tables sheathed in panko-encrusted armor.
Reds and yellows filter through stained-glass windows, playing across the exposed-brick walls and white linens inside Cucina Bella's dining room. The modern bistro's set of robust menus touting custom-built pasta, and sherry-kissed steaks earned the eatery the top spot on McHenry County Magazine's 2010 Best of the Fox list.
Originally opened in 1998, Papa Saverio’s Pizzeria now operates out of more than 20 locations spread across the Midwest. Each location uses 40-year-old family recipes to build a menu of italian-beef sandwiches, pastas, and create-your-own or specialty pizzas sprinkled with the restaurant’s own blend of cheeses and more than 20 toppings. Five varieties of crust thickness range from crispy thin to stuffed, which folds cheese, toppings, and a personalized fortune between two layers of crust crowned with a swirl of homemade pizza sauce. The kitchen’s rotating deck oven ensures consistent cooking throughout each pizza, calzone, and baked pasta dish.