Ladies and gentlemen, allow us to serve you a new treat. We call it Grilled. Each week, A Hamburger Today will sit down with a notable burger lover and run him or her through the grinder. The result, we hope, is a meaty blend of fun and information. I'm proud to say that this, the inaugural installment of Grilled, features my very own sister. She's the general manager of Sonic Drive-In No. 3454 in Spring Hill, Kansas. Without further ado, let's get Grillin' ... Ed.
How long have you worked at Sonic and in what capacities? This June marked my ten-year anniversary. I started when I was 15; it was my first part-time job. I began as a carhop to earn extra money and continued carhopping throughout college. After graduating, I carhopped while looking for a job using my degree. Nothing suited me or even came close to what I enjoyed doing, which was Sonic.
When I moved to Arizona, I transferred to a store there. They saw what a super Sonic employee I was and asked me to try management. In less than a year, I was promoted from regular employee to assistant manager, to contract manager. At that point, I was ready to become a general manager. I returned to Kansas, where my original boss, who now supervises my store, offered me a location to manage. Now here I am, general manager of a Sonic Drive-In.
How often do you eat burgers? This may sound gross, but probably at least three or four times a week. [Um, that's nothing in AHT-World. Ed. ]
Where did you eat your most recent one? At work, Sonic, of course!
Cheese: American, cheddar, other? American. I'm picky.
Ketchup or mustard? Heinz 57 Ketchup or NOTHING.
Sesame seed or plain? Plain as plain can be.
And how would you like that done, miss? Slightly pink, medium.
Would you do us the favor of describing your perfect burger? Price and ingredients are no object. I may be small, but I like giant burgers. Slap another patty on there, and make it a double! A thick, juicy hamburger, with a slice of American cheese below the patty, a slice of American cheese on top. I eat my burgers with ketchup, but instead of putting the ketchup on the burger, I dip the burger in the ketchup. That's it, nothing else. Like I said, I'm a picky eater.
What topping or condiment, in your opinion, should never grace a burger? I'm not a burger snob. Whatever makes you and your stomach happy. And if you're one of my customers, ask and ye shall receive!
What's the most unusual burger you've ever eaten? (Or most unusual burger experience you've had?) Picky is as picky doesno strange burgers for me, but Sonic comes up with some unique burgers. There was the popular Island Fire Burger with spicy habanero sauce and pepper Jack cheese. Right now we're featuring the Spicy Southwest SuperSonic Cheeseburger with creamy chipotle sauce and pepper Jack cheese, topped with crunchy breaded jalepeño strips. [I've been intrigued by the commercials for this one. Breaded pepper strips ... mmm. Ed.]
At Sonic, you started off as carhop. Did you ever wear rollerskates? I sure did and sometimes still do! They had to coax me at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was nearly impossible to get me outta those things! When I worked in Arizona, I was a certified trainer, meaning I was paid to travel and open new stores, training employees to be skating carhops. You could say that's my specialty!
Does Sonic bring the food to your car on trays that clip to the vehicle window? If so, how do you signal to the carhop that you're done eating? Sonic does still use the "red curb trays" that hook onto your vehicle's window. If the customer desires, the carhop will place the tray on the window for them. It's not a frequent request, but one we will fill. Customers are encouraged to press the red speaker button if they are in need of anything, but we also have our "Smile Tray" (a courtesy-type deal with extra condiments and such), which circles the building in the hands of a smiling carhop every ten minutes. Many times, customer requests are filled by that carhop.
What's the most overrated burger in your city? Most underrated? I know that Town Topic supposedly has great hamburgers, though I've never eaten there. It's always packed, no matter what time of day it is. Fred P. Ott's gets quite a few votes, but I'm not a big fan; the ambiance fizzles rather than sizzles.
BURGER JOINTS REFERENCED
Sonic Drive-In: Various locations nationwide; sonicdrivein.com
Town Topic: Two locations2021 Broadway, Kansas City MO; and 1900 Baltimore Ave., Kansas City MO
Fred P. Ott's: 1111 Main St., Kansas City MO; fredpotts.com
Other Grilled interviews [AHT archives]
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.