Maybe it was the commercials I would see all the time on ESPN. There they were, those cheerful young food servers in their brightly-colored uniforms telling me about thousands of drink combinations and swirled dairy treats. It all sounded so good, so tempting, so inviting.
There was no denying it: I had become obsessed with SONIC, America’s Drive-In!
For most of the country, this would not be much of an issue. Heck, got a craving for SONIC? Just drive to your local place and bon appetit! (Can one use the term ‘bon appetit’ for fast food?) But here in New Jersey, there was a major obstacle to overcome in order to soothe the SONIC obsession:
Not a one. Nary a SONIC. Sans SONIC. SONICsville – Population: 0.
‘How could this be?!?!?’ I said. Jersey has pretty much any national fast food joint you could think of…where’s our SONIC? How could we not have SONIC? I want a SONIC! We have to find a SONIC when we travel! I want tater tots! I want those cool drinks! I want I want I want!
(In an effort to provide full disclosure, I did in fact map out a number of SONIC locations when we took a road trip down to Charleston SC and Savannah GA. I’m not kidding. We ended up not hitting one the whole trip.)
Needless to say, Lisa didn’t exactly share my feeling on the subject. She usually responded to my SONIC madness with a roll of the eyes and a smirk-filled ‘you’re a dork’. And she was probably right, but it was too late for me. I was already heading down the dark tunnel and there was no turning back.
And then, suddenly, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. A SONIC was going to be built in New Jersey (hooray!) and it was going to be built in…Waretown (double hooray!). The location was going to be a mere five minutes from my house! Un. Believe. Able.
I now had to deal with the wait. I would periodically drive along Route 9 in Waretown, keeping up on the progress. The old garden center got razed, the parking lot and foundation took shape, ‘Coming Soon’ signs were hung…
And then, something happened. A lightning bolt of reason hit my noggin. I was searching online for information on when the new SONIC was going to open, when I stumbled upon this: a MySpace site for SONIC in New Jersey. I started reading the posts on there, and how people were so excited (like me) and couldn’t wait to try it (like me) and were fully willing to drive hundreds of miles to get there (like…whoa, wait a minute…)
A new question suddenly popped into my mind: What cult have I decided to join this week?
It was then that I realized that, hey, SONIC can wait a little while. And when the place finally opened in the Fall of 2007, I didn’t rush out to be Customer Numero Uno. But many people did. In fact, in the first week of operation, you could actually pass by and see a LOT FULL sign blocking the entrance. I mean, it’s just fast food…right?
Soon it was Christmas, and I still had not gone to SONIC. But Santa must have been listening, because in my stocking on Christmas Day was a $25 gift card to…heehee…SONIC.
I love Lisa.
And so, on a cold January afternoon, Julian and I took the five minute trip over to Waretown and joined the millions who have already eaten at America’s Drive-In!
Well, OK, here’s the deal:
* The burgers are better than Mickey D’s; more like BK without the flame-broiling.
* The tater tots are a happy thing, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and every fast food place should give you the option of having tater tots over fries.
* The drink combinations are fun to do; I mean, this is America…if I want to have chocolate in my Dr Pepper, I should have that right! And many of the fruit drinks do have real fruit in them.
* Having said all that, it really is just fast food. Let’s not confuse this with fine dining.
We have gone to SONIC a few more times since. Even Lisa has gone, so I have finally infected her with it as well. Thankfully, I am out of obsession mode.
If you live in Jersey and haven’t tried SONIC yet, don’t worry: more are on their way. One is being built in Millville (Cumberland County), another is going up in Howell (Monmouth County), and another has been approved to be built in Middle Twp (Cape May County). And if and when you do go, do yourself a favor: don’t even think of ordering french fries. Get the tater tots; you’ll thank me later.
UPDATE (March 2015): How things change. This location closed a few months ago. In the past year, the lot was usually pretty empty. The novelty had clearly worn off, along with the fact that many other SONICs had opened throughout the South Jersey region. But the big question is: have I gotten over my obsession? In a word, yes.