The first IHOP—the dream of founders Al and Jerry Lapin—opened in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, and was originally dubbed the International House of Pancakes. Since then, rapid expansion has led to myriad milestones across the company's colorful history, from introducing its modern IHOP acronym in 1973 to its 1,000th restaurant opening in Layton, Utah, in 2001.
Today, the company stands strong with around 1,500 locations across North and Central America, each one an enthusiastic dispenser of pancakes, french toast, and tables constructed entirely out of bacon. Though IHOP is known as a bastion of breakfast, it also stays open during the day and into the evening, delivering lunch and dinner as well.
Gill's Ranch House Bar & Grill will never be accused of being pretentious. For starters, its large wooden facade looks like an old-fashion saloon, its executive chef is named Doc Holliday, and its adjoining open-air bar is fittingly called the "Lucky G Corral". As you might imagine, most of the food comes from the grill, including slow-cooked brisket, sausage, ribs, and burgers, though there's also Tex Mex food such as nachos and quesadillas.
When Food Network celebrity chef Guy Fieri roams the country in search of down-home eats on his show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, he follows his gut. Rarely, though, does he stumble upon a “culinary compound.” But such was the case when he and his film crew visited Texas Pride Barbecue, where “It’s all about Texas,” as owner Tony Talanco told the San Antonio Express-News.
The haven of Texas-style barbecue juts out from the tall grasses, mesquite trees, and barbecue-sauce waterfalls that fill the surrounding fields. As an old filling station, Tony’s restaurant not only greets guests with the smoky scents of slow-cooked brisket, ribs, and sausage, but also with waves of nostalgia surging from antique gas pumps, jukeboxes, farm equipment, and artifacts from the 1920s through ‘60s that Tony has salvaged. In the kitchen, Tony and his cooks lavish time on their two most popular items: the brisket and the homemade barbecue sauces. After dry rubbing the brisket with seasoning, they cook it for 12 hours in a pit fueled by mesquite wood. This smoky flavor comes to life when dipped in hot or regular sauce, both of which begin with onions caramelizing in bacon fat.
Texas Pride Barbecue continues celebrating its state heritage with live music and special events that include a Bike Night and a fish fry. Such activities may have been part of the reason the San Antonio Express-News declared Texas Pride Barbecue its “Best Place to Take Out-of-Town Guests”—one of many awards the eatery has racked up.
After two decades in the Air Force, technical sergeant Ken Lee traded his airplane wings for chicken wings and finally opened his own restaurant, boasting two locations. And in May 2012, Mama Lee's received a televised makeover from the Food Network's Restaurant: Impossible crew. No detail was neglected. Celebrity chef Robert Irvine and his team renovated the facility and the decor floor to ceiling, replaced individual pots and dishes, and hung frying-pan flowers on the walls. They also revived the menu, which still proudly showcases classic favorites such as fried chicken, catfish, and mac ‘n’ cheese, as well as homemade desserts, such as peach cobbler freshly picked from a cobbler tree.
At Rockets Feed, chefs top quarter-pound burgers and all-beef hot dogs with creative ingredient combinations—the Fiesta dog comes with bacon, sour cream, and jalapeños while the restaurant’s signature Rocket burger and Rocket dog are finished off with pastrami meat, chili, and pickles. They also prepare deli sandwiches on flaky croissants or ciabatta rolls. All meals include a side, drink, and high-five from the chef and can be enjoyed inside the dining room or on a sunny, outdoor patio.