By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Mar 20, 2009 at 11:36 AM Photography: Whitney Teska

Sonic, a hamburger / frozen treat chain that calls itself "American’s Drive-In," has 3,400 drive-ins in 32 states, but it opened its very first Milwaukee franchise on Feb. 24. The Oklahoma-based eatery is in the midst of a Midwest expansion and plans to open 20 restaurants in metropolitan Milwaukee and 10 in the Madison area.

Sonic commercials ran locally before the drive-in opened to introduce the concept, and the early marketing effort might have inspired Sonic mania in Milwaukee. When the drive-in fired up the grills last month, consumers came out in droves to check out the newest burger on the block, and eager customers waited up to two hours for a spot in the 20-stall drive-in.

This week, about a month after the restaurant opened, Sonic is still booming. We attempted to visit on a Saturday night, but decided a 1 1/2 hour wait wouldn’t work with two hungry kids in the backseat. We returned on a weekday, just after the lunch rush, and waited for 10 minutes.

The Sonic menu features burgers, extra-long "Coney-style" hot dogs, toasted sandwiches, wraps and popcorn chicken. Snacks and sides include mozzarella sticks, onion rings and Sonic's signature tater tots. Breakfast is served all day, starting at 6 a.m., and options include breakfast burritos, French toast sticks, and egg and sausage sandwiches. Sonic features a kids’ menu, too.

Sonic’s fountain drink menu boasts slushes, smoothies and seven types of lime-aid. Dessert choices include cones, shakes, malts and Sonic specialties like the Sonic Blast, which is Sonic’s version of Dairy Queen’s Blizzard. (In general, Sonic's ice cream treats taste very much like DQ's.)

Sonic has a drive-thru, but the drive-up offers a signature Sonic experience. Carhops on roller skates deliver the food, and eating in the car reminds of old school A&W Root Beer Stands.

But is Sonic worth the wait?

For us, it wasn’t. To begin with, the waiting process is annoying and slightly confusing. Sonic employees direct traffic to a "staging area" that loops behind a nearby strip mall where customers wait for stall spots. We appreciated the upbeat attitudes of the parking lot workers and that they handed out paper menus so we were ready to order when we pulled into the stall.

We ordered a SuperSonic cheeseburger medium meal ($5.99), a chicken wrap medium meal ($5.59), popcorn chicken ($3.99) and a kids’ grilled cheese meal ($2.99.) Medium meals come with the sandwich, a medium fries or tater tots and a medium beverage. We chose the tots.

The Sonic burger is closer to a Big Mac than to a Culver’s burger, but it’s larger and fresher tasting than the Mac. However, in our opinion, it’s not as satisfying as a Culver’s burger, and doesn’t compare to a Kopp’s burger.

The chicken wrap was a disappointment. The chicken pieces were too large and the tortilla stuck to the foil so it fell a part when we tried to unwrap the meal. Also, the kids’ grilled cheese wasn’t toasted enough -- the bread was too thick and chewy and the cheese wasn't melted.

The tots, however, were deep fried to perfection and the limeade was excellent. We tried strawberry, apple and low-calorie cherry limeade, and found two of the three refreshing and unique. The apple limeade was so-so, tasting like a mix of limeade and cheap apple juice.

Our main complaint about our Sonic experience was that it was just too messy. This wouldn’t be as much as an issue for adult diners, but when trying to eat in the car with kids, it’s difficult, especially in an average-size car. SUV or minivan drivers might have an easier time of it.

The food is delivered window-side in brown paper bags, and we would have liked a tray that hooked to the window. Also, for families, part of the beauty of the dining out experience is not having to clean up, which isn’t the case in a drive-up experience.

Finally, we were disappointed by the use of so many Styrofoam products.

We'll consider returning in the summer time, when the outdoor patio opens. Sonic has some unique menu items -- like the tater tots and limeade -- but the average, fast-food burgers and ice cream didn’t impress us enough to hurry back. The drive-up concept is fun, but only if you don’t have to wait an hour beforehand, and if you don't mind a tot or two smushed on the floor mats.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.