This is what Salem is going crazy over. It was late afternoon, I was in the area, had a couple of minutes for lunch and the line for the drive thru was only three cars deep. Since my last experience denied me the chance to try a burger, I forked over the five bucks or so for the Sonic cheeseburger and tater tots. I decided not to eat in my car and took the sandwich back to work to eat at a table like a civilized human being. The burger looked like and tasted like a typical fast food chain burger. Dried out patty, soggy shredded lettuce and covered in mayo, which I asked them not to put on my sandwich. The service was quick which led me to believe this cheeseburger was made before I got in line. Actually, I'm not complaining about that. I wish these fast food places would have some hamburgers ready to go right after you order. Remember how the fast food joints used to have the burger stack behind the counter. The cashier would just reach back grab your mac, scoop up some fries and you were on your way. Now they make you wait so you think that they are actually cooking something in the kitchen. If you look carefully, some places will just pull the heated patty out of what looks like a small box tray in the back, drop it on a bun and call it "fresh." If you dared to special order your burger without mayo you were penalized by having to wait off to the side while the next batch gets cooked. In the drive thru, special orders could cause a traffic jam. So, they would have you pull into a parking space and idle until a guy would come out with your lunch. Everyone else in your party got it the worst. Their food would sit in the bag getting cold while your burger was being made. I know this well because my brother would always order a mac without cheese. But back to Sonic, it's over now, I've eaten there, nothing special, I will move on now to more important food reviews.
The Meltdown 5/18/08
Like a lot of people in this town we fell for the hype. We thought the long lines meant the food must be special. Roller skating servers and drive in ordering, it's so different, it was something we just had to put ourselves through. Never again. Sonic Drive In on Lancaster is no different than any other fast food chain in this town as far as food goes(I'm making this claim not having eaten a hamburger, more on that later.) And, because they have complicated the way that you receive your food, the service is even worse than your average cookie cutter burger franchise. I don't know where to begin, so I'll just give you a chronological account of my Sonic experience.
We happened to be on Lancaster this night and we were in the mode of rewarding our children for some hard work that they had done earlier in the day. It looked like some spaces in the carports were open, so we pulled into the parking lot only to be directed off to the side where a line of cars sat in wait for access to the restaurant. I'm not big on lines and at this point, I suggested to my family "how about we head over to Baja Fresh?" With more yes votes than no, I looked to see how I could drive out of the line. There's no escape. On one side you have a row of cars, the other is a strip mall. To make a move, other than inching forward and idling, it would take a twenty point turn. We waited patiently, burning $3.80 a gallon gas until the line opened up and let four or five cars through at once. We drove into a carport but had the choice of several open spaces. Why did they have us wait? Immediately, as I turned to look at the menu a server comes up with a tray of prepackaged dips and condiments and asks if I'd like any with my meal. I said I hadn't ordered yet, but worried I wouldn't see her again, I said "sure." She handed me a handful of ketchups, fry sauces and a few other random containers that I now had to store in my car while we figured out what to eat. We all decided to order hamburgers, press the order button, and waited five minutes for the drive thru guy to respond. Halfway through ordering the guy says, "Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot to mention we are no longer serving hamburgers tonight." Something happened to their grill/fryer forcing us to order corn dogs for the kids and extra long chili cheese dogs for the adults. Into this situation for a half hour now and having an unreasonable amount of ketchup packages piled up in the drink holder, we were very patient. That's when the I heard the first call from the back seat come in, "I have to go to the bathroom." There were some odd things about the bathroom. First of all, no toilet seat covers. Next the soap dispensers are mounted about five and a half feet up the wall, way to high for young kids to reach. And the strangest thing of all, the auto towel dispenser, you know the kind you have to wave your hand in front of to work, it was dispensing towels an inch at a time. The paper towel pictured here was pulled off after two hand waves. My wife made the point that maybe Sonic is environmentally friendly, trying to save some trees. Somehow I don't think that's the case. We're all parked in our SUV's, some idling with air conditioners blaring, a mountain of condiments that I'll never use spilling over in my car and individually wrapped entrees and sides covering their fryer cooked foods. I'm afraid cutting back on my bathroom hygiene is not going to be enough to stop global warming.
Back in the car and back to waiting, we got another visit from the condiment gal. I wanted to hand her back some of the ketchup or maybe the honey mustard dressing, instead, I politely said no and continued waiting for the food. It took a long while to get the food, I didn't stop watch it but I would bet anywhere between 20-30 minutes. And of course they got the order wrong. Popcorn chicken instead of tots and no chili dogs. The hot dogs were brought out immediately but the taters took some time. Overall the food was nothing special. The chili cheese dog was about the same as Wienerschnitzel and the tots were on par with Ore Ida. Then, in the middle of our meal, the lights go out. The Sonic sign goes dim and they put up a message saying closed till Tuesday. Apparently something happened with the grill and they are unable to serve the public. What a mess, I'm glad I got this review over with.
220 LANCASTER DRIVE SE
SALEM, OR 97301