Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sonic

Prologue:
With my sincerest possible apologies, I offer this week’s lackluster review. We had planned to go to a nice sit-down place and enjoy a leisurely meal. Instead we went to a drive-in and ate burgers in the car.

Often our schedule is dictated by affairs of the dogs. In this case it was Ace, a handsome, young, tall and narrow German Shepherd (GSD). Ace spent much of his life at the C.A.R.E facility in a kennel. We took him in on Wednesday night to get some good photos that we could post on petfinder.com. Angel also planned to spend some time with him to evaluate his behavior, which helps when placing dogs into new homes. Friday night we got a call, a couple form Rogersville, Mo. was ready, willing and able to adopt him. They already had one GSD, a small female, and had raised others. They seemed to understand the dogs and sounded competent and worthy. They made plans to pick him up late Saturday afternoon.

Rogersville is about 185 miles from our house so they couldn’t pin the time down very well. They suggested somewhere around six, or six thirty depending on traffic. That quashed our normal five-ish dining time, so we decided to dine later, after they picked up the dog.

They arrived about six-thirty and out plopped their female GSD. A rather small specimen, she stayed close, attached at the hip to her female owner. She presented all the indications of being very shy and non-socialized. This is not always a bad thing and it can get better over time. Angel did point out to the owners that it didn’t help to reinforce the timidity.

Ace was about twice the female’s size, and the small dog was frightened. Angel took them to the training facility and let them acquaint. Ace wanted to play with the pretty girl, she just wanted to dig a hole and crawl into it. I left them alone and went about my business. (doing nothing, just doing it elsewhere)

Angel came in about a half hour later and sighed, the deal was off. Ace just wanted to play, and in coaxing the shy little one he barked at her, which just made matters worse. She took it as aggression and would have nothing to do with the big, lumbering puppy. A mutual decision was made; the couple didn’t have the time (days/weeks) to put in getting the dogs over their confused signals, so they opted out.

It was about seven thirty before we finally climbed into the car to eat. By this time the idea of spending the next two hours in a restaurant wasn’t as appealing. So we went to Sonic. We could have just gone to Burger King, McDonalds (Satan’s place), Hardees or DQ, but no, we at least needed to go to a new place because of our obligation to you, the readers.

The Place:

Sonic is a drive-in, this one in Desoto next to Wal-Mart. Sonic originated in Shawnee, Oklahoma in the 50’s and didn’t really spread out much till the 70’s and 80’s. It is most recognizable for the stalls to park in and the service staff often on roller skates. They serve drive-in fare, burgers, dogs, fries, tots and limeades. If I’d been to one before it was probably the one on Division Street in Springfield, Mo, but that would have been twenty or so years ago. I don't recall ever pulling in, but I know I passed it a lot.

We pulled into a stall near the service entry so as to better survey the goings-on. Music played from cheap outdoor weather-proof speakers, a St. Louis radio station, a show called ‘Motown Saturday Night.’ I’m okay with Motown, though I don’t think I have any on either of my two entire CD’s of ‘lifetime favorites’. As it was it sort of blended in with the traffic noise coming from the highway above us.

The menu/speaker/credit card reader was large and colorful. A simple menu with no more than ten combinations, and a host of sides/alternates/drinks. We were pretty hungry at this point and not too picky.

Angel ordered through the intercom, the voice on the other end read it back perfectly. We sat in the car and I contemplated how the three of us were going to spread out the food/drinks without making a huge mess. It’s a sizable vehicle, a 2005 Chevy Trailblazer, Angel and I in the front, Adam in the back where the dogs normally go. With his seat up and the one beside of him down it looked like he was going to have better luck than we would. Angel suggested sitting outside at one of the several metal-on-metal tables, but there were some loud teenaged girls out there being loud and teenage-ery. So we sat in the SUV, windows down to enjoy the pleasant evening, the aromas wafting over us as only aromas can. The aroma after a while became a smell, then almost an odor. Angel put her finger on it, the combination of vehicle exhaust, sizzling animal fat and deep fryers was perfectly reminiscent of a county fair.

The wait wasn’t very long, a young thick man came out with two trays, balancing himself comfortably on his rollerblades.

The Food:

I opted for #5, a Bacon-Cheese ‘Toaster’ with tots and iced tea.

Adam had the #4, Crispy Chicken Sandwich (with no tomatoes), tots and sweet tea, no ice. (He had said that they put too much ice in their drinks)

Angel took the #2, the Super-Sonic Cheeseburger, tots and Diet Coke. I asked for a sharable order of onion rings as well, recalling that their ads were always going on about their onion rings.

We rattled, tore and folded the various paper bags, passed out the offerings, balanced our drinks precariously in places that weren’t designed for holding drinks. Angel’s was on the steering wheel, mine on the door handle where it was poised so at a moments’ inattentiveness it would dump itself onto my crotch.

My ‘toaster’ was tepid and somewhat limp. The bread, basically thick white bread advertised as ‘Texas toast’ was not right. It had been toasted, but apparently at the lowest possible setting, there were some yellow scorch marks but not many. It was not so crisp, it felt more like stale. It was also room temperature. It was as if they undercooked the toast then let it sit and wait for everything else to get done. It was also about twice the size of the beef patty so the first few bites were nothing but undercooked toast. Once the heart of the sandwich was reached the ketchup overpowered everything else. I opened it up and could find no bacon whatsoever. With this much ketchup though it is doubtful that I would have tasted it anyhow. The tots were not crisp as Adam had remembered them. They were okay at first, until they cooled and turned doughy. Tots need to be overcooked, crispy on the outside or else they take on the consistency of whatever chemical/biological/metaphysical binder they use to make a tot. The tea was uninspired, I hadn’t really expected any better.

Adam mentioned that his chicken was very thin and not really all that crispy. Angel’s burger was, as she put it ‘not great’. Her drink had, as Adam had predicted, too much ice, and she finished it before the food was gone.

The onion rings were hand-made, real onion rings, irregular, imperfect and cooked pretty well. The first few were fine but after a while a sickly sensation came through. The county-fair odor we had detected was in fact cooking oil well past its prime. You gotta’ flush that stuff out of the fryers once in a while or the taste/texture of the food goes off the rails.

Summary:

Blech.

Unsatisfying, poorly prepared, inferior components (meat/bread). It only cost us a couple of dimes over twenty two dollars, and it was fast, but there was simply no significant positives to the experience. Perhaps it was just THIS Sonic, or THIS night, since I can’t imagine a place with such lackluster quality staying in business very long. I suppose if you like to order from and then eat in your car, it’s one of the few options that allow you to park where you order, but I can’t see that as a significant draw. Many times I’ve done the drive-through at Hardees or BK and just parked in the lot and dined.

Honestly I hope this was just a bad night for them, since the menu is really not all that varied and complicated. Nothing was cooked right, the meats were small and lifeless, and the tots, the tots were a terrible disappointment. And that toast! How in the name of all that may or may not be holy do you screw up toast?

We were disappointed; the highest ranking remark was from Adam: “It was (pause) okay.”

Epilogue:
We'll try to do better next week.

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