- ABOUT US
With summer on the horizon, Okie thoughts turn to cool treats on hot nights. Two Oklahoma Today editors celebrate Oklahoma’s most famous drive-through icons.
Published May/June 2017
By Sara Cowan
When I was living in England more than a decade ago, a coworker asked me what I missed most about Oklahoma. To my surprise, I heard myself blurt out, “Sonic!” Apparently, the distinctly American concept of drive-in fast food had a special place in my heart.
Indulging in gluttony within the privacy of your own vehicle is a special kind of escapism. You’re absently, contentedly eating those onion rings while chasing them with a Waffleberry Brownie Master Blast.
What’s so compelling about this Oklahoma chain? For the hurried driver, a quick zip to the local Sonic can prevent day-ruining hunger. Oh, those French toast sticks served with a tiny tub of dipping syrup! Those breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs or Breakfast Toasters on Texas toast! Route 44 sodas at any time! A person could eat every meal for a fortnight at Sonic without ever ordering the same item twice.
Chili cheese tots, mozzarella sticks, Ched ‘R’ Peppers, and coneys—the choices can be overwhelming. New creations appear on the lighted carside menu boards seemingly every month. Bonkers drink flavor combinations like Frozen Blue Raspberry Lemonade are just the tip of the iceberg on the Sonic drink menu: Some genius mathematician decided that there are more than 1.3 million possibilities. My favorite is a mango slush with fresh strawberries added.
Speaking of the drink menu, let us pause for a moment of reverence for Sonic ice. It’s crunchy, comforting, and patented. People even install special copycat ice makers in their homes and call it Sonic ice. It’s not. You can, however, get the real thing by the bag.
Sonic also supports educational causes, contributing to youth-oriented fundraisers and encouraging corporate employees to volunteer in local elementary schools. But by far, the largest impact Sonic has made on American culture has been to create a place for small-town teenagers to congregate. Imagine a small town without a Sonic. Where would all the young people hang out? The lyrics to John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane” just as easily could apply to Sonic as Tastee Freez. It’s an evocative, consistent, and ubiquitous component of the coming-of-age process for every Oklahoman.
Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores
By Megan Rossman
Braum’s is among the more cheerful words entrenched in Oklahomans’ vernacular. Never used in connection with anything foreboding or scandalous, the name is a harbinger of delicious things to come. Braum’s food is hefty, the ingredients identifiable, the ice cream and frozen yogurt tiers above bland soft-serve. Now in its legacy stage, Braum’s doesn’t have anything to prove. Its decades-old commercials are a case in point. That familiar, hazy trifecta of hypnotically rotating sundaes reinforces the accompanying lullaby: “Only Braum’s gives you so much more.” With the exception of a stint with actor Jim Varney in the mid-’80s, Braum’s doesn’t script heart-warming or humorous commercials to shape its image, because it knows hunger and omnipresence conquer all.
To call Braum’s an institution is both redundant and understated. It’s like describing outer space as foreign. This chain is an earthbound galaxy uniting people from all walks of life. Ask a group of Oklahoma expats what they miss about the state, and someone will inevitably and understandably pine for Braum’s, which has 128 locations in Oklahoma alone. An old-fashioned banana split and a chicken filet sandwich are reasonable demands that don’t even require a visitor to vacate a vehicle. Need a bacon-wrapped steak, family-sized lasagna, or even a car sun shade bearing the company’s confectionary insignia? The Fresh Market caters to convenience-oriented desires without the super center shuffle. And all store locations are within a three hundred-mile radius of the Braum’s Family Farm in Tuttle, so it’s some of the freshest dairy you can get in these parts without a cow at your disposal.
A few years ago, I met some Italian men at a party who had voyaged across the Atlantic to drive Route 66. When they asked where they should stop for authentic Oklahoma food, I told them they should probably go to Braum’s. I don’t know if they took my advice, but I like to picture them in a convertible on the Mother Road, a bag of burgers between them, milkshakes hoisted to the sky, rejoicing in the newfound glory of Oklahoma’s fast food empire.