Friday, June 11, 2010

Sonic - the restaurant?

The other day, a few colleagues were walking back into the Capitol after lunch. I asked them where they ate -- a logical question. The answer? Sonic. Not a logical answer.

Sonic? For lunch? Isn't that a drive-in slushy drink/ice cream place at which people only actually consume real food because they're on a road trip, starving, and haven't glimpsed a better alternative for miles?

They were appalled that I was appalled, and responded, "Sam, sometimes we go to Sonic for lunch. Don't judge us."

My first introduction to Sonic was five years ago, when my father and I spent a weekend in Columbia, Mo., visiting the University of Missouri's journalism program, which I would later attend. My father knew all about Sonic (could it have been around when he attended Washington University in St. Louis almost four decades ago?) and was obsessed with this lime drink. We must have gone three times in a single weekend to sate his craving.

The word Sonic otherwise brought to mind that little hedgehog.

My brother, Justin -- who accompanied me on my drive through the Ozarks when I moved to Little Rock in December 2006 -- mirrored my father's excitement. Sonic is like a force that propels East Coasters to the Midwest. Always trying to find something more interesting on the road, we decided to give Sonic's menu a shot. That was a decision I regretted, and I vowed to never again order anything that resembled dinner at the place.

The hype about Sonic kind of reminds me of when I was a kid at overnight camp in North Carolina, my one chance every year to get a blizzard at Dairy Queen. But I'd never think to order actual food there.

Maybe people love the place so much because as a drive-through, Sonic is sort of a throwback. Aside from the location at the bottom of Cantrell Hill, I know of no other that you can actually walk inside and find seating. Typically, patrons stay in their cars and drive up to one of several menus with speakerphones circling the building. You order, then some high school kid brings out the goods on a tray.

Sonic cups are ubiquitous and gigantic. I think their sheer size is what gets people so excited about Sonic's Happy Hour, where you can get these huge drinks in the afternoon at half-price.

It's always interesting to me how fast-food places are regional. I am similarly fascinated by the fact that even in the 21st century, when refrigerated commercial transportation is the norm, you can only get certain craft beers locally too.


  1. Chili cheese tater tots are my jam.

    I'd never been to a Sonic before I moved to Charleston, but now that I have, I no longer judge the Sonic fanatics.

  2. In Prescott, where I grew up, it was the ONLY fast food place. I guess your palette becomes acclamated to a certain taste and it just becomes a way of life.

  3. I love Sonic! The food is horrible though. So is the ice cream. Wait... why do I love Sonic again? Oh, like your dad, "that lime drink." Rt. 44 Cherry Limeades! I spent several summers in Illinois, where they have no Sonics, and about cried when I finally hit the south and saw my first Sonic.

  4. I love everything about Sonic, and it hurts my heart that you say "some lime drink." Oh my.

    Also, I can't believe that you've never eaten real food at Dairy Queen. When I was 15, my hometown got a Taco Bell. Prior to that, Dairy Queen was it.

    Forget pies, our next adventure needs to be a steak finger basket from DQ. :)

  5. DQ food way better than Sonic food