advice for a SONIC first-timer

i was talking to the grumbler the other day and he asked me an interesting question: i'm going to SONIC for the first time, what should i order?

backing up a step, before you do anything you should consider signing up for their online propaganda arm (SONIC cruisers) and getting their mobile TXT notifications.  either of those may shoot you some kind of a discount for your first visit.  neither of them are outrageously spammy in their approach to the public.

on your first SONIC visit, i'd recommend going to a stall and getting a carhop for your adventure (as opposed to going through the drive-thru).  do a slow drag around the place to find the spot with the best view ... this gives you a chance to sort of take the SONIC experience all-in and keeps you from having to drive with a drink in your hand/lap/spilling across your passenger seat.  the only downside of doing this is it jacks your total outlay up because you need to tip your carhop.

if you're feeling nerdcore cool, call SONIC FM as you pull in (1-866-766-4236 / 1-866-SONICFM) and you can hear your song while you partake.  be sure to tell the DJ it's your first time at a SONIC.  (you might want to try telling that to your order taker as well, they might throw you a freebie.)

keeping my SONIC prejudices in mind, the stand-out at SONIC, for sure, are the drinks.  my recommendation would be to get something with fresh fruit in it: a limeade; a strawberry, lemon-berry or lime slush; or a (caloric heavy-weight) fruit smoothie.  absolutely you should go during happy hour (2:00 - 4:00PM most places) and get it half price (smoothies don't get happy hour rates).

a good poor-man's second in the drink world is to do a mix-and-match on the fountain.  i've heard of people ordering things like coke and dr. pepper slushes (i've experimented a bit with this myself) ... the 'net has several people who talk about mountain blast and ocean water mixes ... slushes with cranberry juice, apple juice and orange juice are all a nice twist ...  if you demand low-cal, a cherry limeade is probably an excellent choice.

the only SONIC food that i think is worth its weight in taste -- but not in caloric-hit, unfortunately -- are the tater tots.  the burgers are dull and hint of having been both cows and sponges at one point in their life.  SONIC dogs aren't kosher, which causes me to dismiss them out-of-hand.  {4/6/11 addition: the new SONIC dogs are very good.  if they still have them when you read this, and like a good dog, you can't go wrong in ordering one ... stay away from the foot longs, go with one of the place-named wieners.}

having said all this, there is another possibility, and that is you could order a wacky pack.  yes, it's a kids' meal, but you get a little bit of everything for a low-low price.  three bucks and change ($1.50 on wednesday in vegas) gets you a main, a side, and a drink (the kids' size slush isn't available any other way).  the problem here is that there aren't any healthy -or particularly good tasting- food choices for the main course: chicken strips, corn dog, grilled cheese or jr. burger.  it's the taste bud equivalent of having to choose from the last four kids for your soccer team in sixth grade gym class.  my pick of this runt litter is the chicken strips -- they're not bad when slathered with a little bit of SONIC's perfectly-acceptable BBQ sauce (you have to ask for a side of sauce).

ignoring taste and nutrition to focus on calories only, you could go as low-cal as chicken strips, apple strips (hold the caramel sauce) and diet dr. pepper (380 calories total); or as grand as a grilled cheese, fries and a watermelon slush (790 calories total).

the soft-serve (real) ice cream at SONIC is extremely good.  consider saving room for a dish or cone.  if you want to load up, have a blast.

oh yes, and don't forget to have fun too.

if you've read this posting, and then gone on to visit a SONIC for the first time, please leave a comment ... i'd like to hear about your experience.

{an aside, SONIC has an excellent nutrition calculator online ... definitely worth playing around with if you're into that kind of thing ... while you're at it, you can have a look-see at my SONIC tricks, tips and gimmicks page -- you might glean something else to stimulate your frontal lobe.}

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PLEASE don't drink your slush as you type.