Cinderella?s glass slippers have nothing on the boots that traverse Helga's German Restaurant and Deli?s bar every night. Filled with 2 liters of Hofbrau Oktoberfest, Warsteiner Pils, or any of the other German beers on tap, these boots find their perfect match in the hands of guests who shout ?Prost!? before tearing into soft pretzels baked in the Bavarian tradition.
Founded by a mother and daughter in 1989, Helga?s began as a four-table restaurant whose modest size seemed sometimes at odds with the giant pretzels and boot-size beers. However, the restaurant continued to grow and earn fans, many of who traversed the Rockies to sample its faithful interpretations of bratwurst, schnitzel, and other Rhineland staples. Though much of the menu remains the same as in those early days, the restaurant itself has expanded to resemble a lively German pub in the midst of Oktoberfest. When they aren?t molding sides of sauerkraut into tiny models of German soccer star Michael Ballack, guests can play beer pong for prizes, watch the national team on 50-inch televisions, or dance to live music played by the house band on the second and last Friday night of each month.
Kathmandu Kitchen, named after the capital city and urban center of Nepal, is a hub for South Asian cuisine in a town nearly halfway around the world. The chefs aim to help guests discover new favorite dishes, from familiar-but-different chicken wings, charbroiled after being marinated in Nepali spices, to distinctly indian stews such as dal mahkani, a rich blend of black lentils, ginger, garlic, and herbs. Lamb, chicken, shrimp, and fish also play important roles on the menu, available doused in curry, stewed in spiced cashew gravy, or baked in a clay oven until tender, smoky, and hot enough to melt the smirk off of a snowman’s face.
For diners who are unfamiliar with the cuisines of Nepal and India, the friendly servers take pride in explaining dishes and offering recommendations. To further enhance the eating-out experience, Kathmandu Kitchen occasionally hosts live musical events.
At Salento Restaurant, his second BYOB venture, chef Davide Faenza draws on his roots in the region of Puglia, on the heel of the Italian boot, to fill a menu of authentic Italian fare. Home to “some of the finest raw ingredients in Italy,” according to a 2007 Philadelphia Weekly review, Puglia is known for its fresh seafood and simple pasta dishes. At Salento, servers carry in homemade gnocchi, sautéed fish filets, and other entrees that do justice to this tradition. After popping the last golden raisin from a balsamic-glazed chicken breast, guests can admire the dining room's glowing chandeliers, blue velvet curtains, and enormous mirror reflecting hungry pizza-delivery boys peeking in the front windows.
Hot Dog on a Stick Founder Dave Barham opened his first Hot Dog on a Stick in Santa Monica in 1946, and the company has since burgeoned into an employee-owned franchise that's more than 100 eateries strong and spans 11 states. Best known for a 100% turkey hot dog dunked in corn-bread batter made from Dave's mother's recipe and cooked in soy oil, Hot Dog on a Stick also pioneered the dipping and be-sticking of mild american and spicy jalapeño jack cheese. Smiling employees in red-, white-, and blue-striped uniforms with, as Dave put it, "a splash of lemonade," hand over cherry, lime, sugar-free, or original lemonade that they make fresh every two hours by squeezing Ventura County lemons until they cry.
For 30 years, Cakes by Karen has graced gatherings with handmade cupcakes, tortes, and cakes culled from a tasty arsenal of flavors, fillings, and icings. The colorful, creative desserts pair with a variety of occasions, from multitiered wedding cakes decked out with elegant floral designs and smooth icing to fondant-capped tortes in the shape of powdered wigs for Presidents' Day. In addition to baking eye-catching treats, Cakes by Karen furnishes partiers and newlyweds with limousine packages replete with champagne, deluxe stereo systems, and luxurious stretch-limo transportation.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs grill every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Angus beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. The chefs then sandwich each slab in an artisan bun and turn it into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market. This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the chefs do, from blending handspun Häagen-Dazs shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded to 160 restaurants in five years, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.