Monday, August 22, 2011

Sonic Drive-In To Open In Uptown?

A view of the proposed Sonic at Wilson & Kenmore looking NW
A reader writes in:
"My neighbor just got back from a meeting with Sonic Drive-In folks and they want to open one of the first Chicago Sonic's in Uptown! Alderman Cappleman is very intent on getting community input, especially from neighbors in the Truman Square area. They are looking at the vacant lot at Wilson and Kenmore that is just to the west of McDonald's. The renderings look very modern and more urban than any Sonic I've ever seen. They plan to have a 24 hour drive-thru, standard Sonic drive-in spaces served by carhops on the eastern side of the lot, and a small dine-in area that will be open in nice weather, but closed off in bad weather with pull-down windows. They even plan to have a fireplace and flat panel TVs and Wi-Fi inside. The main concern from neighbors seems to be safety and the people from Sonic Corporate said there would be a security guard on site and the security cameras could be tied into the Chicago Police camera system. They seem willing to adjust the layout to address any loitering or crime concerns. As with anything, there are neighbors who aren't thrilled with the location and wonder why this can't be put where the vacant Pollo Loco sits at Wilson and Sheridan. Apparently the owner of the lot has guaranteed rent from Pollo Loco's lease agreement for the next seven years and has no real incentive to let anything else open there. It sounds like Ald. Cappleman would rather have it on the Pollo Loco site but that all depends on what can be worked out with the lot's owner. Good news all around."
A view of the proposed Sonic looking NE


  1. What a wonderful opportunity for Uptown. I know there are those who scoff at fast food chains opening in the neighborhood, but I think it would be a great opportunity. When the first chick-fil-a opened downtown, people waited in line for it...and I think it would be the same for the first Sonic.

    I, for one, am very excited.

  2. i'd love to have a sonic burger in the hood but i'd sure hate to be a carhop in such a high crime area. put it where the old funeral home was on broadway north of foster. wilson is a lost cause around there.

  3. It would be the anti-mcdonalds.
    Sorry but that is not a nice mcdonalds there. Atleast this would balance it out and it would be somewhere cool to go to on Wilson. I have been wondering when a SOnic would open around here, I love their commercials and am curious about them.

    I think it would be another natural positive loitering place without having to schedule it! Which is really the way for Uptown to become safe.

    I like it better than the corner site where EL Pollo was. Hopefully a big building goes there.

  4. Wilson is not a lost cause. No way.
    Why would someone believe that?
    It certainly a tough nut to crack, but not a lost cause.

  5. jaydub is probably from andersonville or edgewater just jealous b/c he wants a sonic!!

    sonic WILL succeed there. wilson WILL get better. believe me, BIG changes this year.

  6. no you're right. it's a lovely area. let's all meet there at midnight when it opens.

  7. Sonic is really pretty good for fast food and yes, I would love to have one in Edgewater. Lucky Uptown:)

  8. Oh my dear god that I don't believe in this would be amazing!!!

  9. don't worry jaydub, we'll be there. you can go north of foster ;)

  10. It sounds great. Good chili dogs late=nite.

    But.....and this is a fair question.......what happens if the Sonic burger doesn't sell well (Winter happens) enough and they close shop in a couple years?

    Would it would be an unfeasible/ unleased suburban-style drive-thru on Wilson. A former Sonic would be tough to find a tenant for.

    About as tough as a former Burger king/Pollo Loco......if the owner is so inclined anyways.....

    Of course that would NEVER happen.....

  11. PB, you beat me to it. Sonic has great cherry limeades; it's my go-to road trip drink.

  12. Yes please! The positive loitering group would probably take shifts to keep this open and safe. Meg got it righ - LOVE IT!!

  13. Great, even more fast food garbage floating around Truman Square (and I live here)....NOT a fan of the idea as of right now...

  14. A business where there is none is always good.

    As for it being a fast food joint, I for one don't object to fast food. I do find it unfortunate that this type of hideous suburban style developement got built in the first place and is probably here to stay.

    We've all seen the great buildings that once were all over Uptown via historical photos posted on this blog, it's a shame so many were razed city wide for strip malls and parking lots, with Uptown being hit particularly hard. Still hoping Maryville avoids the same fate.

  15. My concern is that the 4600 and 4700 blocks of Kenmore, Winthrop, and even Leland could wind up with a marked increase in auto traffic, especially after concerts at the Riv/Aragon unless the only entrance/exit is from Wilson -- which would create even more congestion along Wilson.

    I think the old Polo Loco is the more appropriate location.

  16. I find the old Pollo Loco location even worse, that site deserves a proper urban development with decent density. This kind of development does bad things to urban environments and belongs in the '70s. It will be a dark day for Uptown if all the cheap commercial property available post crash is developed in the same way that helped kill this neighborhood in the first place.

  17. There will always be detractors, especially here in Uptown. I can't wait to see this come to fruition, it would be a great edition to the hood and all of chicago.

  18. I'm surprised this has so much enthusiastic support. It looks like something out of suburban strip mall parking lot. In my opnion the hassles (littering, loitering, late-night puke fests, the general stink of greasy food, traffic)that come with fast food joints out weigh any sort of benefit.

  19. new2uptown - sonic isn't your ordinary fast food place. they have an excellent rep for maintaining a clean and friendly premises.

  20. All new businesses are welcome.

    I'm not big on Sonic...BUT, any time a national chain only has a small presence in an area, customers will definitely come from out-of-the-neighborhood to eat...which is always good.

    Bring it!

  21. @New2Uptown

    The more I think about it, the more I agree.

  22. I'm originally from Texas, and I really miss Sonic... This is GREAT news!

  23. And to the people that still say... "It's a lost cause"... Things are getting better in every part of Uptown all the time. You probably think Target still isn't coming!

  24. Any new well run business is a great plus, let's not discourage any new jobs, taxes and variety for our neighborhood.

  25. @new2uptown

    "..In my opnion the hassles (littering, loitering, late-night puke fests, the general stink of greasy food, traffic)that come with fast food joints out weigh any sort of benefit."

    This isn't wrigleyville. I'll trade greasy food smells and puking kids for gunshots and female brawls (in front of McDonald's yesterday at 6pm) any day!! What Uptown have you all (New2uptown, Alek, Jaydub, Jon) been living in? We will take what we can get right about now, and a Sonic is a step above what most of us thought or expected to get.

  26. I find the attitude that Sonic is so much better than a McDonalds kind of funny.

    Anyways, my concern has never been that it's a fast food joint, my concern is that sprawling car oriented suburban development is bad for Uptown. You can look around the neighborhood and notice that everywhere you find strip malls or fast food joints with large parking lots, you find trouble spots.

    It also discourages walkability and the kind of vibrant commercial stretches that attract people to neighborhoods. Even when you get a great business into one of these developments (La Ciudad for example) the first thing people will complain about is the crap ambiance created by the suburban development.

    All that said a business is better than no business and for this blighted stretch of Broadway, it's probably the best we can do. I just hope Uptown will demand something better/more urban if and when development comes to some of the more prime parcels.

  27. I’m shocked by all of the negative comments about Sonic coming to the hood. That area is overrun by unsavory characters at all hours of the day and night. We need to do anything we can to attract more law abiding citizens who spend money instead of begging for it.

    @new2uptown – are you serious? Have you made it to this stretch of Wilson? There’s already a ton of loitering, litter, 24 hour puke fests and traffic. It’s been like that for years. We need to encourage businesses to come to the area and help combat the problem. If you see late night bar hoppers looking for fast food as a negative, I think it’s time you pack up and move to the burbs.

  28. Hmmm...late-night bar hoppers looking for early-morning sustenance...I'VE GOT IT! BRING WEINER CIRCLE UP HERE!

  29. Wow, it seems I've struck a nerve. Sorry folks, that was just my opinion. "Bad Brad" if "There’s already a ton of loitering, litter, 24 hour puke fests and traffic" how is Sonic going to help that? Do you think they will work to keep their lot clean? Will they have someone help manage traffic during rush hour? Do you think they be able effectively to deal with the loitering (likely their main daytime customer base)?

    I'm all for business in Uptown, but I hope people realize that, although times have been cruddy (to say the least), we can do better than fast food.

    p.s. "Bad Brad" I get my drunk food at local taco joints (Rokitos and El Palmar). If you’re so into fast food, why don’t you move to the suburbs – Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Sonic and Taco Bell abound.

  30. Since you asked...

    I suspect the target consumer for Sonic is, well, the Target customer. This is what one gets when a Target, or WalMart for that matter moves into the neighborhood. Cars will be coming off the Drive at Wilson to go to Target. They'll see Sonic and stop to drop a few dollars. The suburbification had already begun; this is just its continuation.

  31. We actually had a fast food place that was well-run, didn't have loiterers or panhandlers, and added greatly to the streetscaping with beautiful landscaping. Yes, El Pollo Loco, right across from Hell McDonalds.

    It was a pleasure to see how well the property was kept and how well managed it was.

    EPL withdrew almost entirely from the Chicago and other markets, so it wasn't necessarily that Uptown couldn't support it.

    If Sonic could keep its property and safety similar to that of El Pollo Loco, I'd be delighted to see them come to our community. I live very close to the proposed site, and would rather see them at the former EPL site rather than the parking lot on an otherwise residential street (Kenmore).

  32. "I suspect the target consumer for Sonic is, well, the Target customer. This is what one gets when a Target, or WalMart for that matter moves into the neighborhood. Cars will be coming off the Drive at Wilson to go to Target. They'll see Sonic and stop to drop a few dollars. The suburbification had already begun; this is just its continuation."

    Target did urban development right or at least close to right, it was TOD with all the parking underground. It's streetside pressence could have been better.

  33. I thik Chitownphilly is the closest to getting it right.
    Hopefully this is going to be like how Checkers was at Halsted and Addison. A good place to go late at night for well nongangbangers.

    Will it be a permanent fixture?
    Who knows? In General is Sonic better than Mcdonalds? I dont know.
    But Im sure it will be better than THAT Mcdonalds.

  34. All the moaning and groaning about "suburban-style fast-food development"....

    Would those of you doing the moaning and groaning please finish your class assignment: compare and contrast the style, footprint, architecture, layout, and street presence of the Uptown Target store with the last Target store you visited in a suburban strip mall.

    Done? Good. Now your NEXT assignment is to compare and contrast the same variables, this time with the renderings of the proposed Uptown Sonic...with one at a suburban location--say, for example, the one in Lebanon, Tennessee here:,+LEBANON,+TN+37090&ll=36.174812,-86.302199&spn=0.000017,0.018883&t=h&z=16&vpsrc=0&layer=c&cbll=36.174914,-86.302164&panoid=mBfo_UUQqn8cAjFRPeWvNA&cbp=12,249.71,,0,0 Please pull up the street view, move around, and do your assignment.

    Once you have completed your homework, please report your findings here. I think the rest of the readers will be interested in what you have to say THEN.

  35. Sonic is a well run business and the light and traffic it would bring is welcome. Shine more light, please!!

    McDonalds may even be enticed to up their game and remodel it's older store in response.

    Yes, my glass IS half full. Why do you ask?? ;-D

  36. Bear,

    Please mark my assignment I for incomplete.

    1) It's summertime, and I'm not used to being assigned work. Also, I am usually quite lazy.

    2) Your location is sub-sub-suburban. Almost rural, really. From Google maps, that 'suburb' in Tenessee - what is it a suburb of? Pacucah Kentucky? I saw two national forests, Cape Girardeau Mo, and Knoxville, TN, and still had no idea what the adjacent 'urban' was supposed to be?

    3) Perhaps you chose that 'next exit off the interstate location' because you were unable to find any actual suburban locations on Bing or Google.

    It ain't easy, I'll admit. I tried:

    a) Country Club Hills, on 167th, next to the Applebees, because well, 'suburban' is Latin for 'next to Applebees' but of course the maps don't yet show its existence.

    b) Cal City has one on a River Oaks Mall outlot, but by strict suburban statute, it was built two weeks ago, and does not appear on aerial photographs.

    c) I tried a search on 'Naperville' since that is the Latin translation for 'Next to Applebees and Auto Tire Store Adjacent' No luck, nearest is in Aurora, by the McDonalds and Auto Tire Place, but again, not on the map.

    You sent us on a fool's errand!

    BTW the sidewalk in the "NE view" Sonic rendering is about 8 inches

    I'm all for this development, and most others, but it very definitely suburban.

  37. @Anonymous: Thank you--the "I" at least marks some effort (and I don't see any "moaning and groaning" comments from you, unless you're using multiple ID's in here). Obviously, Sonic is a Southern chain making its first moves north--the locations are so recent around here that they don't show up on Google Streetview or Bing. The link I provided is for one I've recently eaten at--and it is no different from the OTHER most recent one I've experienced in Franklin Park.

    I can tell you that the rendering for the proposed Uptown Sonic is equally unique in comparison to their cookie-cutter restaurants as the Wilson Yard Target is, compared to the Target in, say, Calumet City, or any of the Loop McDonald's are different from their average locations (like the one in New Buffalo, Michigan). I suspect that most of the grumbling is coming from the idea of a national chain opening a location in the neighborhood, not from a car-oriented (aka, "suburban-style") restaurant trying to adapt itself to enter an urban northern market. I'm not sure that there would be as much grumbling if it was Super Dawg moving in instead of Sonic....

  38. Much that is proposed never comes to pass.......

  39. This is a horrible location for another drive-through restaurant. It ruins the streetscape and makes it more difficult to walk, live or spend time in the immediate area. A restaurant is fine, but Uptown deserves better than this level of design.

  40. Anonymous said...
    'suburban' is Latin for 'next to Applebees'

    That. Is. Hilarious.

    bear60640 said...
    I suspect that most of the grumbling is coming from the idea of a national chain opening a location in the neighborhood, not from a car-oriented (aka, "suburban-style") restaurant trying to adapt itself to enter an urban northern market.

    Perhaps for some. I'd love a Chipotles or Corner Bakery or POTBELLY!! near Truman Square, but as I posted yesterday, I’m mostly concerned about the potential for increased traffic/congestion through my little neighborhood area.

    Plus, the ”24 hour drive-thru, standard Sonic drive-in spaces served by carhops” just doesn't sound like much of an adaption to the “pedestrian-friendly” Uptown so many us have repeatedly said we want to nurture here.

    That said, I'm grateful that Mr. Cappleman is asking for feedback. Here's mine.

  41. Once Sonic starts the dollar menu to compete with McDonalds we are in trouble. Sonic is a "higher class" fast food place.

    Like previously commented, this would be a unique chain to enter Uptown. That means that numerous people (including those that grew up with Sonic's, and who saw the commercials even though there were no Sonic's within reasonable driving range) would want to at very least try it out.

    Is there going to be traffic....yes. Will there be pedestrian issues...yes. We live in the city, it comes with the territory. I can't comprehend the idea that a new business actually wants to come to Uptown and there is so much animosity.

  42. This location couldn't be worse! There will now be 5 pull in/out locations from the stop sign to the light on Wilson.
    Between this and the jay walkers no one will ever be able to make it to LSD.
    These pictures also fail to draw in the loiterers, the hookers and shopping carts in the car hop lanes.
    Sonic is just preying on those in the neighborhood that live off of junk.
    If anything at least build in the pollo loco location. That is one big eye sore.

  43. I don't think this is good choice for the area. Not only can I already see the restaurant being a hang-out for bums, lowlifes, etc., but it only encourages poor food choices for already economically strapped people living in the area.