Filling their kitchens with the freshest ingredients, the bakers of Branya's Bakery craft made-from-scratch treats, for casual consumption or custom order. The cake reigns supreme in this confectionary, adding its moist texture to cupcakes and specialty cakes that can be decorated with sculpted fondant or powdered sugar buttresses. These desserts can be topped with a variety of frostings and injected with fillings including fresh fruit, buttercream, or custard, allowing every bite to blend a trio of complementary flavors.
In addition to traditional baked goods, the bakery offers a line of made without gluten goodies crafted from rice flour rather than wheat flour. The line includes bread, muffins, doughnuts, cakes, and chocolate chip and butter cookies as well as soup, jelly, and jam.
Expanding beyond party-ready sweets, the pastry chefs also create hearty breakfast offerings with their in-store selection of biscuits and gravy, danishes, almond-filled bear claws, and muffins, with toppings of streusel or a light layer of frosting adding a touch of sweetness. During the lunchtime hours, a range of flavorful, homemade soups fill the shop with their aromatic scents, allowing guests to mix savory and sweet like the food pyramid during its rebellious teen years.
When Debbi Fields opened the first Mrs. Fields in 1977, it wasn’t all sunshine and cookies. Between her lack of business experience and the unorthodox business model—selling only cookies—not many people believed in her. More than 30 years and a global franchise later, it’s safe to say the doubters are eating their words, at least when they're not busy stuffing their faces with one of Debbi's signature semisweet chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin and walnut cookies.
The wild popularity of Mrs. Fields's cookies can be attributed to the richness of their basic ingredients: real butter, whole eggs, and special blends of chocolate. Classic flavors include chewy fudge, peanut butter, and white chocolate macadamia, and seasonal flavors complement the lineup throughout the year. Select varieties can also be made into cookie cakes of various sizes and shapes that add a delicious twist to any celebration or milk-truck spill.
Two Brothers Bakery satisfies sweet teeth with adorable, all-natural treats baked four days a week. Ever since their first bite-sized batch, the family-owned stand has stood by a simple credo: “If we can’t pronounce it, we don’t put it in our food.” Though this philosophy precludes chemicals, preservatives, and the savory pulp of French dictionaries, it ensures that fresh and local ingredients burst from each ruffled cupcake holder. Regular flavors include a classic combination of vanilla cake and buttercream, a royal red velvet garnished with a crown of cream-cheese frosting, and a carrot cake baked with the choicest of earth candies. Two Brothers Bakery supplements their classic array of flavors with cheesecake cuppies that remap the boundaries of decadence as taste buds plot a course through mountains of whipped cream.
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.
Though its Cantonese and Mandarin cuisine reflects some of China's oldest culinary traditions, Dragon Inn's Chicago Heights location also nurtures an evolving menu that includes sushi. Specialties include the 9-ounce hong kong porterhouse steak and the crispy duck. Accompanying housemade sauces are customized to guests' tastes, adding flavor to entrees and egg rolls that are folded by hand and filled with pork, shrimp, and vegetables.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.