Monday, August 25, 2008

They Had To Put Up Barricades

Chicago Tribune:

The other day, three very large men in a very small car rolled up behind the Sonic Drive-In in Aurora. The smell of tar was pungent. In nearby fields little yellow flags from new developments flapped in the wind. The largest of the men, in the passenger seat, with a stomach so vast and gelatinous it rested on the dashboard as if taking a lunch break, rolled down his window. His right arm hung over the window lip like a dead goose. "You people open yet?" he asked. Sonic general manager Ray Mejia shook his head. "Tuesday," he said. The man slapped his palm hard against the metal of the car door. "The 19th," Mejia said.

It has been like this for weeks...the line of cars has not stopped at 2974 Kirk Rd., the potential customers not ceased; they slow, beg for food, ask when, what day, what time -- now? "This is craziness," Mejia said, and turned to meet the SUV that replaced the car of large men. "The 19th," he said.

Next car.

"The 19th," he said.

And sighed. "If we didn't have these barricades we wouldn't get anything done," he said, waving over to the dark green Dumpsters blocking the entrances. ...

"The phone has been ringing for weeks about Sonic," said Sherman Jenkins, Aurora's executive director of economic development. "My niece even told me she was taking the day off when it opens."

Can this continue? Or is some sort of health-based national inflection point approaching?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

These people need to chill. It's a Sonic Drive-Thru. Ok, I have never eaten there, but how good could it be?

At this point, I think everyone needs to see the movies Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me. Seeing them made me really think about what I was eating and I changed my eating habits pretty drastically. I'm not vegetarian yet, but I'm moving in that direction. But fast food is out. It's all shit. Sometimes literally.

8/25/2008 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is just plain weird. Really weird. I guess they just want to go someplace else than McDonalds...How different can it be?

8/25/2008 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aurora is west of Chicago in DuPage County--very heavily Republican (pun intended, it's in what was Denny Hastert's district). This has been all over the news here, as if yet another fast food place opening up 50 miles from here is important.

8/25/2008 12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you forget, we're long past the end of history by now. The only achievements left to us are economic. Storming the Sonic Burger is the closest we're evah going to get to storming the Bastille.

8/25/2008 2:23 PM  
Blogger 8 said...

I have to mildly dissent.

I see those Sonic commercials all the time on national broadcasts, especially sports.

To me, a place that serves clever drinks like that is new and different, and I will have to at least check it out if we ever get one near here.

The "are you open" thing drives me crazy, though. Context clues, people. No sign saying "Now OPEN"? Probably not open.

I've had people actually pull back my security gate, as they see me working, shirt untucked, by myself, in a darkened store, and say "Are you open?"

Uh, no.

8/25/2008 8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not from the midwest but it seems to me that Sonic is a chain that brings back a little bit of Route 66 car-hop hamburger stand nostalgia. I can see that going over big in a white bread conservative kind of town. The food at Sonic is OK for fast food but I think Wendy's is better. The slushes however can't be beat.

8/25/2008 11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it seems to me that Sonic is a chain that brings back a little bit of Route 66 car-hop hamburger stand nostalgia.

I like to think that Pulp Fiction put all that to bed back in 1994.

8/26/2008 12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Similar thing happened here in Minneapolis when Sonic opened. Long lines, press coverage, the whole nine yards. Of course the same thing happened when Krispy Kreme opened, and they no longer have a presence here.

8/26/2008 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're getting something called Fatburger in the south suburbs too which is supposed to be a big deal.

I truly do not understand eating in chain restaurants. We have something like 6000 places to eat in the city that aren't part of a franchise or they may be part of a local chain like Lettuce Entertain You. I see no reason to eat crappy "Italian" food at Olive Garden when I can get the real thing at Pizza D.O.C. I don't eat at Wendy's, I get a burger at Jury's which was rated by National Geographic as one of the 10 best burgers in the world.

8/26/2008 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that doesn't get where the random scorn for Olive Garden is coming from? I mean, by all means if you live in a neighborhood with a traditional Italian (read: so Italian that it is owned and operated by Italians, Italians do all cooking, and it's been this way since forever) restaurant then enjoy, but the way I've seen some people talk about it you'd think it was to Italian food what Taco Bell is to Mexican.

As for Sonic: people are stupid. My mother tells me all the time about people who come by her salon after closing time and ask if they're open, so it's not just food apparently. In the specific case of the Sonic I don't even see the fuss, I've eaten there once and though it wasn't nasty it wasn't particularly memorable either. The one thing I thought was cool was that you can get extra flavors put in your drink for free -- root beer with cherry & lime added is quite delicious, BTW.

8/26/2008 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Olive Garden IS to Italian food what Taco Bell is to Mexican. Actually, Olive Garden is worse. Practically everything is pre-processed, frozen, and re-heated in the "kitchen". Olive Garden serves overpriced, crappy "food" in ugly cookie-cutter restaurants.

8/26/2008 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am back on the West coast(Seattle) for the time being...away from my Ohio hideout. They have Red Lobsters here. They are even full!!! People really amaze me. There are seafood restaurants all over...serving fresh never frozen seafood...and they go to Red Lobster. It is trully mindboggling.

8/26/2008 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can they be converted to "culinary conservatism"? :)

8/26/2008 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are seafood restaurants all over...serving fresh never frozen seafood...and they go to Red Lobster.

You can go to Captain D's and get the same food you'd get at Red Lobster for entire family and save $30-$45. I know because they said so on the TEE VEE last nite.

8/27/2008 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I attribute a lot of people's restaurant choices to advertising. The Olive Garden and Red Lobster advertise on TV all the time. So when you think of a place to go, it readily pops into your mind. Since many people do just what pops into their mind, this can be a big influence. Mama Pescione's doesn't have that kind of ad budget.

I also think that eating quality food is just not a priority for many people. Either they don't know any better (they have been eating crappy food their whole life, so it's normal) or they don't get any perceived benefit from it, so they don't really care.

In many parts of the country, there just aren't as many choices outside of chain restaurants. The market is small and the chains can best compete, with their economies of scale and all that.

But I still don't get why people are so excited by a Sonic Drive-Thru.

8/27/2008 10:57 AM  
Blogger Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

I recall my first meal at Sonic in Eldorado Kansas when I was a kid. The burgers were good, the onion rings were awesome, and their limeade was out of this world. I was convinced I'd truly found gold. We didn't have Sonic in Colorado, so that made summer vacations all the more special.

We did have a local burger stand where I grew up that made a better burger and the shakes were decent, but the hours were weird and the proprietors a bit on the cranky side.

Here in Seattle we have two Red Mill Burger restaurants and several Dicks' Drive-Ins. So one can go high end or low end and still get a decent burger for under $4 on the high end or $1.80 on the low end. Red Mill serves one of the top rated burgers and makes an outstanding Verde Chicken sandwich. I highly recommend Red Mill: their founders worked under Tom Douglas of Cafe Sport and Dahlia Lounge fame.

For us, these are treats. We try to eat healthy and simple foods and keep away from too many fats and carbs.

Earlier this week we were in Idaho at an indoor waterpark. Yes, America does have an obesity problem. Perhaps not a crisis, but some folks need to lay off the fried foods for a year or two!

8/27/2008 2:35 PM  
Blogger Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

Kilfarsnar makes an excellent point: advertising creates a sense of 'familiarity' and most folks are loathe to explore when it comes to eating. Pity.

8/27/2008 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be sure to read the last two sentences of that Chicago Tribune article. Heh.

8/27/2008 4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stickler: I'll put it this way. When I'm thinking "man I could REALLY go for some MEXICAN food!", I don't go to Taco Bell. My pockets have to be a contributing factor before I consider them, and rarely even then. How could Olive Garden be worse than that? Now, Fazoli's I can understand, that place is an obvious disgrace.

You used to work at an Olive Garden or something? No matter, just wondering. My first job was at a Pizza Hut & it had the same effect, I haven't eaten their crap since. I suspect the inside story about a lot of restaurants would surprise people.

8/28/2008 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kanye West is opening up several Fat Burgers in Chicago. The last I read it was ten.

Some local politician was saying that in some communities you can get french fries, but you can't get a fresh potato.

8/31/2008 4:50 AM  
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9/02/2008 3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say what you want about sonic, but in the small towns, all the car hops are insanely cute. When my wife says/notices it (I always noticed), it's got to be true.
Other than that they are just another run of the mill fast food joint, save for the drinks.

9/08/2008 5:58 PM  

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