In Los Angeles, we get ads for Sonic constantly. On every channel. Problem is, there aren’t many around. At least, it seems like a problem when you work out of a home office and lunch is your day’s big non-cyberspace adventure. Because Sonic looks so damn good on TV, with all kinds of new stuff that other places don’t have, and a bold claim that you can put anything on your burger, including Tater Tots.
The fantasy fades a little in the desert sun of Joshua Tree, where I’ve been spending my post-Superbowl hangover and where they do, indeed, have a Sonic. The first thing you notice about the place is there isn’t really anywhere to sit – you’re supposed to enjoy the slow, slow service by people in roller skates who bring the bag of food to your car.
Look, I’m sure back in the ’50s, when it was so cool just to have a car that you did everything in it, from seeing movies to having sex, that eating fast food in a car seemed super-peachy-keen. Today, I just look at all the trash that has collected by my feet and go, “Really? More of this?” The same thing some of you say every time I post one of these reviews, basically. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to get out of my vehicle and sit down on a hard, slippery plastic bench to eat my cheap junk food. Sometimes while reading a newspaper, though the LA Times’ recent price raise to six quarters prices it out of the casual pocket-change price point of which I was so enamored.
Bottom line here: if you get your food and it has no ketchup in the bag, it means you have to buzz the menu board again, then wait for another roller-skate person to come out, ask you what you what, hear your complaint and then go get it. In and Out has a fucking ketchup pump. If it wasn’t obvious before which one is better, it should be abundantly clear now.
So no “eating in” was going to be done by me at Sonic this time. Drive thru for the (dubious) win. The menu wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped – I guess all the unique items I’ve seen on so many TV spots are transitory, but most of what they actually have is standard burger and chicken sandwich options. Chili cheese Tater Tots were mandatory, and tasty. The breakfast menu is all day, though, so this afforded me the chance to taste one of their signature items – the Super Sonic Breakfast Burrito. Ingredients: “A medley of savory sausage, fluffy scrambled eggs, melty cheddar cheese, golden tots, diced onions, ripe tomatoes and spicy jalape?os all wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla.”
Notice anything missing? Nope, not bacon or ham. I don’t like either of those.
What’s missing is sauce. Of any kind. And if that didn’t occur to you, it will when you bite down and discover that many of the ingredients have dried out. You can’t tell by looking, incidentally, because contrary to the marketing images, this is a burrito folded closed at both ends (a tactic that allows them to give you less filling).
Fortunately, it does come with packets of something called Salsa de Sonic, which states on the outside that it’s “the quickest way to a breakfast burrito’s heart,” which is funny because the breakfast burrito itself is the quickest way clogs find their way to a human heart if given half a chance. I like this so-called salsa – it’s spicy and very sour. And with it, the burrito basically turns out okay except for one thing – too many jalapenos. Mine were all stuffed at the bottom and full of seeds, making it a literal pain to finish.
Fortunately, a most unique beverage was at hand – my watermelon Diet Coke. In what we could consider a preemptive strike at those futuristic Coke dispensers that’ll put any flavor into any soda, Sonic offers an insane variety of flavor shots, from coconut to blue Powerade. Me, I’ve always been a fan of fake watermelon. Not real watermelon – too many seeds and some nasty sourness towards the rind. But the fake kind, like watermelon flavor Nerds candy, which this is closer too.
I’m sorry to say it doesn’t really bond with the Diet Coke. And I’ll mix anything with Diet Coke – at film festivals, there’s usually one type of booze that’s free, and one year it was a horrible concoction called Leblon that’s like the bastard near-stillborn child of rum and tequila. I mixed it with Diet Coke, repeatedly, and lived.
But watermelon syrup gets Sprite next time. Or vodka.