When the Perry and Burke families joined forces to open Sweet n Swirly, they shared a vision of promoting a healthier alternative to ice cream. Neither family could have predicted, however, how quickly that vision would catch on.
Today, visitors stream into a trio of cheery, welcoming locations in Kentucky and Indiana, eagerly sidling up to self-serve stations that protrude from walls painted in vibrant pinks and purples. These stations pump out 10 creamy flavors at any given time, including no-sugar-added options and nondairy sorbets.
The ever-changing lineup of flavors runs the gamut from refreshing to decadent. On one side of the spectrum are tart, summery variations such as blueberry, ginger lemonade, and non-dairy sorbet, whereas choices inspired by more traditional desserts include peanut butter and root-beer float. A candy wall proffers toppings such as jellybeans and chocolate sunflower seeds.
Old-World street lamps light a path towards Cricket's Café, a red-brick eatery brimming with Tuscan-inspired decor and the aromas of gourmet café fare. The design for the restaurant started at the owner's table, where she and her husband sketched a layout with indoor and outdoor seating, including three meeting rooms with high-def projectors. Throughout each of these areas, waiters carry plates loaded with breakfast items, sandwiches, and specialty drinks. The café pros can also transport their comestibles to casual office parties or formal debutante balls held in bouncy castles with catering service.
From its humble beginnings as a single orange-juice stand in Los Angeles, Orange Julius has blossomed into a worldwide purveyor of refreshing blended smoothies and fresh fruit drinks. Slurp a large smoothie (a $5.73 value each) in one of more than a dozen flavors, such as pomegranate and berries, a blend of low-fat frozen yogurt and three ruby-hued fruits, or tropical tango, a mix of pineapple, banana, orange sherbet, and tropical fruit juice. Light smoothies each contain 250 or fewer calories, acquiring their sweetness from fresh fruits, a light sprinkling of Splenda, and afternoons spent reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Or hold the ice and sip a namesake large Julius fruit drink (a $4.44 value each) available in the shop’s famous signature orange or 1 of 13 other frothy flavors, perfect for quenching thirst after a long day of stamp licking.
The burger gurus at Paradise Casual Grill dexterously flip and dole out classic American fare. Erect a one-of-a-kind edible monument with the build-your-own burger ($6.99), supplied with a foundation of 100% ground chuck certified Angus beef that has never before been frozen in ice, time, or the name of the law. American, pepper-jack, and swiss cheeses vie for tongues’ favor as optional layers, and the veggie brigade can quilt patties in lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, and jalapeño peppers. Tastefully smudge ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, or barbeque sauce on bun undersides for an additional zing, or acquaint palates with the flavor of summer sun with the grill’s paradise sauce. Each burger arrives with a medium soft drink (a $1 value each) and a regiment of waffle fries that can double as hamster snowshoes. Add bacon, chili, or more cheese to your burger for $1, or substitute onion rings or chili cheese fries for waffle fries for $1.50.
Connected by an asphalt web of highways, state roads, and thoroughfares, blocky yellow signs gleam nonstop, casting a dandelion glow from the words “Waffle House.” The booths at the eateries fill 24 hours each day with the aromas of sizzling pork chops, Jimmy Dean sausage, and endless mugs of coffee. Line cooks brown shredded potatoes on a grill as waiters shout back in a language all their own for hash browns “smothered,” “covered,” or “topped”—served with onions, cheese, or chili, respectively. Angus burgers and steak melts share space on the rippling-hot surface at all times of day, allowing tired drivers to stop for food when they are on a long journey or just listening to an 11-hour drum solo on the radio. The first Waffle House switched on its lights in 1955, and some menu items still bear the names of Waffle House staff of the past, including Bert's chili from Dallas and Alice's iced tea.
Black and red patio umbrellas flutter in the wind in Down River Bar & Grill’s enclosed beer garden as staffers ferry foam-topped brews, burgers, pizzas, and other classic American pub fare to each table. Inside, bartenders shake cocktails and pour brews behind the mirror-paneled bar, which reflects patrons as they dance, toast, and practice épée with cocktail swords beneath strings of twinkling lights every day of the week. Live music performances, occasionally with accompanying light shows, join pool tournaments, Wednesday-night karaoke, and special events such as the Down River Bar & Grill Idol singing competition on the eatery’s entertainment roster. The grill also hosts benefits for veterans’ groups, relief funds, and other local causes.