I don’t know what it is about SONIC. It’s not their prices (not bad, by the way). It’s not their amusing commercials. It’s certainly not their food. Perhaps it’s that SONIC fills the void left by A&W, an American institution that — like the drive-in theater — has largely become a dwindling relic of two generations past.
But I loves me some SONIC.
For years, the closest SONIC was in Anaheim, about 90 miles north on I-5. It was just far enough away to never be a sole reason for a jaunt to the OC, but close enough that we (San Diegans) would see their commercials. A couple years ago, Santee (east of San Diego by a few minutes) got their own SONIC, and by all accounts it’s the most popular thing in that town. Sorry to break the news, Kragen Auto Parts.
I remember having a fish sandwich at the Anaheim SONIC so I drove out to Santee to sample theirs. Thing is, they don’t have it. WHAT? I guess it’s a “specialty” menu item that isn’t universally offered at every drive-in. Well, crap — that’s ONE wasted trip to Santee. But as luck would have it, a couple weeks later I found myself driving to Phoenix and I spotted a SONIC billboard in Yuma, AZ. Camera in hand, low on fuel (both car and my stomach) and making good time, I took the opportunity.
My sandwich experience was fairly mundane, made exciting only by the 20oz. of Cherry Limeade that promised to quench my thirst. The first thing about the sandwich is that it must’ve been fried to order, because A) it took nearly 10 minutes to arrive at the drive-thru window, and B) it was insanely hot. In fact, I popped over to a Circle K, filled up the tank and by time I returned to the sandwich, it was still almost too hot to eat.
And here’s my review: yep, it’s a $2.99 fish sandwich all right.
I wish it was more exciting than that. The fish was good, the tomato was fine (this is high praise from me considering I’m not a person that consumes tomatoes on a regular basis) the bun was soft and the tartar sauce was typical. But that’s what you get at SONIC — average food, awesome drinks and a little bit of modernized mid-20th century nostalgia. Sadly, I did their drive-thru… not even experiencing their rollerskating carhops.
Since I’m reluctant to go back to Yuma for some further research, I jumped online. Like Church’s Chicken, SONIC seems to hide its fish sandwich from its main menu. It was only after downloading SONIC’s full menu .pdf that I found it (under “SNACKS AND SIDES,” which speaks to the gluttony of Americans. “I’ll have a triple SONIC cheeseburger with a side of fish sandwich”). At 650 calories — double that of a Church’s fish sandwich — it’s hardly a “side.”
I guess it’s just as well; if their burgers and fish sandwiches matched the flavor of their drinks and shakes, I’d be road-trippin’ to Santee far too often. Maybe even justifying more road trips to AZ.
Our Man Horn