IHOP's first pancake was flipped in Toluca Village, California, in 1958. More than 1,500 locations later, IHOP's kitchens still grill their signature pancakes next to a surfeit of omelets, stuffed french toast, and inventive breakfast creations that rival the government's WiFi-compatible biscuits and gravy. Though syrup is IHOP's condiment of choice, diners can squirt ketchup onto an assortment of meaty burgers or french fries that share plate space with country-fried steaks and french-onion pot roasts made with USDA-choice beef. The Euless, McKinney, and Ardmore locations serve their smorgasbords of sustenance 24 hours a day.
Every morning at Althea's Vault Café & Bakery begins the same way as the ovens flicker to life. From there, the staff proceeds to bake the day's assortment of breads, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, muffins, and other treats. Any of these goodies can create a satisfying breakfast alongside an espresso drink made from organic, fair-trade Firetrade Coffee beans, which are roasted to perfection above aromatic, mesquite-fueled flames. For lunch, the bakery features a bistro-style menu of artisanal sandwiches, burgers, and hearty salads.
After perusing the chalkboard menus of meals and beverages, diners are encouraged to linger and enjoy their order at one of the small tables that fill the intimate café space. Dark earthenware tiles complement the warm tones of the room's wooden accents and mocha-hued upper walls.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
In an open dining area bathed in magenta light, Cha Time fuses Eastern and Western spices into an expansive contemporary menu. Begin a stroll through the flavor-forest with its namesake ChaTime roll ($6.95), which arranges an illicit rendezvous between steamed shrimp, tofu, and rice vermicelli noodles in a garden of vegetables inside a rice paper wrap. DIY diners can create their own customized lunch special ($8.95) from four options daily, such as spicy basil spaghetti, pineapple curry tofu, and fresh spring rolls. For dinner, start light with a green papaya salad ($7.50), featuring fresh green papaya, green beans, tomatoes, Thai chili, and ground peanuts in lime juice. A hearty half rack of lamb chops ($18.95) will keep you sustained through long brainstorming sessions on how to harness turtles for transportation. Nervous first-dates, meanwhile, can prevent painful tongue cramps with a signature cocktail such as the black iced tea ($8), a rum based black tea and chocolate, or the green wine ($6), a vodka-based green tea with a red wine flavor.
Cooks bustle about the kitchens of Tulio's Mexican Restaurant, stuffing flautas with juicy morsels of skinless white-meat chicken and marinating strips of sirloin steak. The beef soaks in its bath of spices for a full 24 hours before it’s deemed ready for fajitas al carbon and mexican steak-tip dinners, a slow but necessary process that typifies the restaurant’s concern for getting traditional Mexican recipes right.
Though they share certain ingredients in common, there’s no mistaking the difference between a giant burrito—stuffed with up to five pounds of meat or piñata candy—and light entrees such as veggie fajitas with steamed rice and ranchera beans. Whether sautéing peppers or deep-frying chimichangas, the cooks keep an eye on heart health and use only 100% vegetable oil. Fresh produce goes into dishes such as the Cancun chicken, whose sweet bell peppers and guacamole-celery hot sauce make for more green than a bank vault filled with lime jello.
True to its name, Taste of India combines time-honored Indian recipes with fresh, daily-ground spices to produce authentic dishes filled with complex and delicious flavors. Start with flakey pea-and-spud-stuffed samosa turnovers ($2.50), or lap up a fragrant bowl of mulligatawny soup using a spoon or a bent playing card ($2.50). Slabs of hand-stretched naan bread—stuffed with onions ($2.95), minced lamb ($3.50), and more—plunge into the saffron-scented minced veggie malai kofta ($8.95), where it can freely engage in splash fights with the resident cashews. A clay tandoor oven works its white magic on a host of skewered meats, including king spring chicken ($10.95), jumbo shrimp ($12.95), and the chef’s choice of motley mixed grill ($13.95). Soothe stimulated taste buds with a yogurt lassi ($2.50), blended either with honey and rosewater or salt and crushed cumin seeds, or dip into a traditional kheer rice pudding ($2.50) punctuated with raisins and almonds.
In October 2005, Doug Stritzel tested his 16 years of restaurant experience by opening Pickleman's, a sandwich shop focused on fresh ingredients and hot subs. Judging by the eatery's success—the initial shop spawned 11 additional locations across the Midwest—Stritzel's experiment worked. Each day, the ovens churn out a lineup of hot subs and pizzas topped with steaming ingredients. Toasted sandwiches meld zesty flavors, such as salami, capicola, and giardiniera peppers, in a torpedo-shaped package that spins in an edible spiral when thrown. Chefs also man the ovens to craft thin-crust pizzas bedecked with chicken, blue cheese, and buffalo sauce, but spare the menu's soups and chopped salads from the flames.