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.
Chef Chuck Crawford channels his 20 years of culinary experience when crafting his seasonal steak-house cuisine, casting a new spin on classic favorites with his native East Coast flair and southwestern influence. Within the landmark eatery—The Rusty Nail has been serving up juicy steaks since 1967—he tops tender filet mignon with tangy blue-cheese butter, sears flaky seafood fillets, and whips up daily soups.
As guests sidle up to a rustic, octagonal wood bar and dip bread into house-infused oil and butter, bartenders shake up gin martinis and pour global wines and seasonal draft beers. Wait staff bring dishes to tables on the outdoor patio or serves them inside, where a wood-burning fireplace offers a convenient way to thaw cold bodies during Ohio winters. On select nights, The Rusty Nail hosts live entertainment, car and bike cruises, and karaoke.
In 1981, Luchita Galindo and her son Jorge began Luchita's, a humble family endeavor that focuses on fresh, authentic dishes. Over the course of 30 years, the Galindo family has continued to grow along with their restaurant, which began as a 24-seat eatery and currently occupies three locations throughout the Cleveland area.
Luchita's chefs work to maintain the family's vision while constantly seeking out new flavors to add to the menu. Their specialties include authentically prepared meats and seafood, such as shredded chicken simmered in a smoky sauce (tinga de pollo), tender strips of marinated steak (carne asada), and shrimp sautéed with potatoes, cactus, and poblano peppers (camarones borrachos). Chef Galindo also concocts vegetarian-friendly entrees, such as cheesy chiles rellenos, and tinkers with new recipes until—like a klutz unleashed on the stage of an awards show—he stumbles on a winner.
The sumptuous aromas of cheese and rich tomato sauce fill Zeppe’s Pizzeria & Italian Bistro, where Old World Italian specialties and thin-crust pizzas line tables in the elegant dining room or on the sunny outdoor patio. The bistro menu serenades the senses with savory medleys of pastas, salads, and seafood plucked from Italy’s creamy alfredo coastlines. Chefs fling golden-baked frisbees into take-out boxes as passing caravans consult the pizzeria menu, which carries a delicious cargo of thin- and stuffed-crust pies, chicken wings, and baked subs. Sauce-soaked penne dishes and cheesy calzones exude a royalty befitting of the restaurant’s columned arches and red drapery, and a covered patio supplies the shrubbery necessary to fashion makeshift crowns of laurel.
Inside Cafe Toscano's elegant dining room, with stone walls and wood accents, diners serenade their stomachs with authentic Italian dinner fare. Chomp on melty wonders with the goat cheese trio antipasti—a luscious layering of crusted eggplant, melted ricotta, goat cheese, and tomato ($9)—or the brick-oven pizza Bianca—mozzarella fresco, provolone, roasted garlic, and black pepper whispering cheesy pickup lines to diners atop a thin, crispy crust ($11). Much like macaroni art and Niagara Falls, Cafe Toscano's pastas are made in house, by hand, with the assistance of Mama Nature. Fork a few well-coiled capellini noodles, which wrap around specklings of shrimp, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach ($22.95). Or, invite the pollo Genovese over to the table to enjoy its eclectic personality, defined by grilled chicken, roasted red pepper, mushrooms, and pesto sauce on light-weight linguini ($22).