Within a cozy tearoom atmosphere where chandeliers hang from the ceiling and paintings adorn the bright-yellow walls, the Wonderful World of Cooking’s chefs pair hearty entrees and salads with pours of signature flavored teas. Rather than serving tiny finger foods that must be absorbed through finger pores, chefs whip up sizable helpings of beef stroganoff, texas chili with homemade bread, and sugar-free pretzel salads fresh daily. In between sips from a glass of flavored hot tea or a bottomless crystal glass of the restaurant’s signature apricot iced tea, guests can satiate their sweet teeth with slices of homemade pies and cakes.
Jon and Carmen Pei spent years traveling the globe, visiting cafés from New York to Taiwan in search of the perfect rendition of their treasured childhood treat: bubble tea. After organizing all their recipes, tips, and ideas, the couple opened their own shop, where they whip up their own blend of innovative bubble teas, smoothies, and frozen hot chocolate.
Upon entering their colorful, brightly lit shop, guests are often greeted by Jon and Carmen themselves, who dole out free samples to first-timers, greet return customers by name, and tussle the toupees of visiting congressmen. The duo and their staff of baristas fold premium tea leaves and freshly cooked tapioca boba balls imported from Taiwan into fruity drinks. They also chop up fresh fruit for smoothies every day at the shop. Customers are invited to order from a menu of specialty drinks or choose from a variety of flavors, fruits, and mix-ins to design their own concoction. They can even add a large selection of popping boba balls, which burst in the mouth with every sip. And during chilly winter months, the baristas pour hot bubble tea.
Guests sip on beverages and nibble on snacks—such as decadent belgian waffles or crunchy Pocky sticks—out among the tabletops of the lively seating area. Some play video games on wide-screen computers and televisions, whereas others engage in more traditional games such Connect Four or competitions to fit the most straws up their nostrils.
A firm believer that cupcakes should delight both the palate and the eyes, seasoned confectioner Melanie founded her eponymous bakery as a means of putting her passion for crafting sweets into practice. Melanie used to only whip up treats for her family and friends, but now extends her talents to sate the sweet teeth of her customers with cupcakes in such decadent flavors as PB & J, strawberry lemonade, and banana pudding. Melanie also infuses spirits into cupcakes such as rum and coke, eggnog cream, and mimosa, none of which come with cocktail umbrellas that hinder quick consumption.
At HelloYo Frozen Yogurt's colorful shop, customers become dessert artisans. A white- and pink-tiled wall of pumps displays the on-tap flavors, inviting them to swirl as much natural, creamy yogurt as they’d like. Then, patrons can scoop their own candy and fresh-fruit toppings to finish off their sundae. A staff member then weighs each creation to determine its price and its weight class, just in case it would like to enlist in the shop’s underground yogurt wrestling club.
Yo Pop Etc. pops its corn daily to assure quality, freshness, and a constant popping soundtrack for passing break-dancers. From a batch of glossy, sweet caramel ($2.60 a bag) to a Crayola-esque handful of candied popcorn ($3.25), the selection accommodates any palate. Debaters of the intense argument to go savory or sweet will find married bliss in every bite of Yo Pop's chocolate-covered popcorn varieties ($3.95). Or, surprise a cinema buff with a thoughtful assembly of film-time treats, including butter and cheddar-cheese popcorn, candy bars, hot-dog and burger candies, and more ($48.50).