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.
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.
Situated near the shore at Port Aransas, the hospitable gourmands at Pelican's Landing serve up a blend of fresh seafood and steaks, including a special seafood option—diners can bring in their own catch for the chef to fry up and serve in a bed of market rice, mango salsa, and steamed broccoli ($10 for up to 12 oz./person). For a meal without a DIY portion, delve into the standard menu for appetizer fare such as the spicy twice-baked potato ($5). Specialties of the house include doors and a roof, as well as entrees such as the saucy hickory-barbecue danish ribs and fries ($22), a jumbo lump-crab-cake burger, topped with a hearty dollop of jalapeno tarter sauce ($15), and USDA-Prime rib eye, served in a 16-ounce slab grilled to order ($36). A slice of Pelican's key lime pie closes the meal with a fusion flourish, housing its fruity cargo within a pecan pie crust ($8).
Serving fresh and speedy pies across America for more than 50 years, Little Caesars now sates appetites worldwide. Select from 12 toppings to design a sumptuous, made-to-order 14-inch original crust ($5.99 with one topping; $1.30 for each additional topping), or plumb the savory strata of a large cheese deep-dish ($7). Little Caesars' large Hot-N-Ready pizzas ($5) are available to drop-in patrons posthaste, eliminating stress caused by unexpected and hungry houseguests. And, after tasting italian cheese bread ($3.99) and Caesar wings with barbecue or buffalo sauce ($4.99), tone-deaf taste buds find themselves serenading incisors with John Fogerty lyrics.
The owners and chefs at Santa Fe Cattle rely on old family recipes that demand steaks are aged and cut in-house, rolls are baked fresh each day, and signature sauces are mixed onsite. These touches transform the menu’s casual, regional eats into dishes worthy of John Wayne’s personal dressing-room buffet. Steaks, fajitas, and sliders are plated next to housemade sides of cole slaw, Santa Fe taters, and of course, a bucket of peanuts—which guests shuck directly onto the floor. The peanut shells add character to each one of the restaurant’s 20 locations, which evoke old-west saloons with touches such as brick walls draped in horse saddles and weathered wooden floors.
A white neon marquee burns an alligator into the night air, pointing the way toward Frilly's Seafood Bayou Kitchen in Denton. For more than a decade, this dim brick eatery has been an outlet for Cajun culture and cooking, which the kitchen describes as a swamp version of Creole cuisine notable for its creamy, full-flavored sauces. The alligator on the sign is not a red herring, as you can order it fried from the menu along with frog's legs and pickles, two other fried delicacies served in papered plastic baskets with Cajun mayo or bourbon sauce.
Gulf Coast seafood is the main event and is proudly on display in the crawfish trio and the house special, blackened catfish st. charles, which is topped with crawfish and crabmeat in an herb butter sauce. Po boys arrive on a hoagie roll rather than french bread, and entrees of fresh grouper or chicken and andouille jambalaya are spooned over dirty rice and can be washed down with gallon pitchers of iced tea. Aware that Cajun meals are social happenings, the catering staff can whip up a seasonal crawfish boil if your event falls within several weeks of the creature's Mardi Gras celebration. Live local acts, including Joe Tucker, create a multisensory immersion for diners.
After years devising his ideal pizzeria, David Davydd Miller dispensed his first slices in 1984 to patrons in College Station, Texas. Back then Dave recruited the help of a flourmill and cannery to generate customized blends of his crust and sauce formulas. These days, within DoubleDave's Pizzaworks restaurants' 30 Texas and Oklahoma locations, chefs concoct Dave's signature honey whole-wheat crust daily from hand-tossed dough along with batches of sauce made from scratch with Escalon tomatoes. Those ingredients join hand-cut veggies and meats from Tyson and Burke to collectively form a delectable disk that proves once and for all that pie can be divided evenly. Along with half a dozen specialty pizzas, DoubleDave's Pizzaworks appeases palates with signature pepperoni rolls, sandwiches, and Dave's favorite dish, the philly-cheesesteak stromboli.