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.
The Wetzel name wasn’t always a source of pride. As a kid, Rick Wetzel grew accustomed to hearing, “Hey Wetzel, you pretzel!” on the playground. But the teasing inspired a quest for the tastiest soft pretzel, one that eventually blossomed into Wetzel’s Pretzels. After years in Nestle’s marketing department, Rick and coworker Bill Phelps channeled Rick’s soft-pretzel recipe into a chain of shops. They make hand-rolled, oven-baked pretzels that sit for only 30 minutes before being sold or chucked, an example that might be in the dictionary under "fresh," if Babe Ruth using his bat as a pool cue weren't already there. And though the buttered and salted Wetzel’s Original still occupies a spot on the menu, a flurry of imaginative flavors fills its other slots, from Sinful Cinnamon to Jalaroni, a cheesy pretzel scattered with pepperoni and jalapeños.
Masala Xpress's cooks forge popular Indian dishes by using regional cooking techniques and the cuisine's signature combinations of herbs and spices. In addition to the vegetarian and vegan options, chefs can blend chicken, lamb, or shrimp into their fragrant sauces, crafting fiery vindaloos as well as creamy tomato-herb masalas. A traditional clay tandoor oven roasts savory kebabs of chicken and lamb until they are tender and evenly seared.
Located on the lower level of the Aurora Mall, the restaurant allows diners to fit a hearty south Asian meal into a busy day of shopping and scrounging for Drummer Boy quarters in the wishing fountain.
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.