When Shakespeare imagined a den of witches, he saw them gathered around boiling pots, cackling and talking, casting raw morsels into their cauldrons from the ends of long, sharp sticks. Time revealed his vision to belong to something far less sinister: the bard simply foresaw the fondue restaurant. Today, hundreds of people gather at The Melting Pot’s more than 140 North American locations to cast romantic spells over one another as they share sweets, breads, vegetables, and meats doused in liquid chocolate, melted cheese, or flavored oil. They all wield double-pronged spears—or fondue forks—to suspend the tasty morsels of their choice in the ambrosial liquids before them, which are cleverly heated by stovetops built into each and every table in The Melting Pot's restaurants. The chefs prepare most platters in sizes best shared by two, making the venue ideal for date nights or reunions with twins who left 10 years ago to study the art of fondue.
At The Melting Pot of Baton Rouge, staffers use the restaurant to invest in their community as well. They host charity events, school fundraisers, and even run a program to reward straight-A students with a free fondue dinner.
When Mike Kantrow founded his original sandwich shop in 1979, he thought the name Byron's looked too boring. So, as he explains on his restaurant's website, he scratched the s and added a z to the end, giving birth to both a local legend with the Big Byronz sandwich and a local controversy over how to pronounce "Byronz." "If you want clarification on how to say it," Mike explains, "don't ask me."
So while regulars may fight over phonetics, few argue over the flavors infused in Bistro Byronz's southern-styled bistro cuisine. Hearty entrees anchor both the lunch and dinner menus, inviting diners to dig into the roasted potatoes that flank a French-cut pork chop marinated in Abita root beer. Comfort dishes soothe the soul, such as tender pot roast that wades in creole gravy and the signature Byronz sandwich with three types of meat, cheeses, dressing, and black olives.
Cafe Delphi Greek and Lebanese Restaurant's proprietor, Mir Hassan, and expert chefs take taste buds on culinary tours of the cradle of humanity with an extensive menu of delicious Mediterranean delights. Paying homage to the ancient Greek tradition of filling up on breadsticks, appetizers prelude Near Eastern feastings with tantalizing dishes such as the fried-cheese or grilled-eggplant musaka. On main plates, Mediterranean samplers unite cabbage rolls, kibbeh, and a choice of chicken shawarma or gyros with meat tastefully dressed in a cape of grape leaves. In addition to tasty terrestrial meats, tongues swoon over sea specialties and vegetable entrees such as the Delphi’s fish topped with special pasta sauce and served with hummus and rice, or the vegetarian plate, a tasty mélange of hummus, musaka, spinach pie, and feta salad.
The stir-fry cooks at China Garden Buffet welcome hearty appetites seven days a week with entrees and expansive smorgasbords that showcase regional Cantonese, Sichuan, Peking, and Hunan dishes. All-you-can-eat buffets abound, brimming with spicy mongolian barbecue grilled before chopstick-wielders' eyes and separated into lunch ($6.99) and dinner ($8.99) modalities like a proper matron's wig collection. The Four Seasons ($8.75) packs healthy vegetables and light brown gravy into the crevices left untouched by chicken, shrimp, beef, and pork, and the Tung Ting shrimp ($8.95) flaunts succulent prawns floundering alongside vegetables and egg-white sauce. Most meals come with either white or fried rice, which may be thrown at a newly married couple to celebrate their union and mutual love of grains.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop’s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M’s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
Flames soar from the surface of griddles built into the middle of Ginza Sushi & Japanese Steakhouse's tables, as chefs drum out a steady rhythm against the heated metal surfaces with their knives. Beneath the flashy blade-work, delicious proteins – such as filet mignon, scallops, grouper, and chicken – soaked in Japanese style sauces divide into bite-sized cubes of flavor. Meanwhile, sushi chefs perform equally deft, if less often observed, tricks with their knives, dicing rolled conglomerations of rice, seaweed, and raw fish into even morsels. They prepare such treats at the super dragon roll, featuring snow crab and avocado topped with barbecued eel, or the cherry blossom roll, with tempura shellfish beneath a blanket of lobster salad. Mixologists wash the seameats down with concoctions of their own, brewed to order at the full bar.