To the head baker of Sweet Eats Bake Shop, gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan desserts should be every bit as flavorsome as their sugar-filled counterparts. She whips ups all her tasty treats from scratch, and instead of relying on chemically derived sugar substitutes, she swaps in organic agave nectar, honey, and fruit juices, and replaces vegetable oil with pumpkin or applesauce. To further refine her wide variety of tasty treats—including cupcakes, moon pies, cookies, and fudge—she mixes in unsalted creamery butter and fresh-fruit purees from local farmers. Her mouthwatering baked goods hit the road in their food truck and can sweeten special occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, or graduations.
Since 1954, dough-sculpting artisans at LaRosa’s have crafted a menu of delectable Italian specialties using heaps of fresh ingredients and a family recipe. An array of tasty pies awaits hungry visitors, from the double pepperoni ($5.99–$14.99) to the buffalo chicken, which entertains a devoted entourage of black olives, tomatoes, and jalapeños ($6.79–$19.99). Customers can also hire toppings for freelance work on pizzas of their own creation ($4.79–$12.99 plus toppings). Shy meats and veggies hide inside calzones, such as the Philly cheesesteak calzone, which provides a toasted cavern of shelter for sirloin, white cheddar, onions, and stray cheese ($5.99). In addition, LaRosa’s boasts a spectrum of hoagys, salads, and pasta and offers a sweet adieu to finished meals with a dessert of Italian crème cake ($4.89) or cinnamon-sugar dippers ($3.99).
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Sandwich lovers at Submarine House share juicy East Coast–style delicacies, slinging out crowd-pleasing ultra-stacked cheesesteaks and toasted deli subs. A staple of the shop, the cheesesteak packs grilled steak with enough protein to beef up Gumby and tops it with melted cheese and a sauce of mayonnaise, vinegar dressing, and hot-pepper relish ($5.59 for an 8"). Extend sandwiches mouthward with upgrades such as extra meat and cheese, mushrooms, or Italian-ized steaks slathered with marinara and pepperoni ($5.79+ for an 8"). Another NYC-inspired lunch, the regular sub slices salami onto a baked Italian bun ($4.99 for an 8"), and fresh deli sandwiches pep up turkey, ham, or veggies with a kick of house-made sauce ($4.99+ for an 8"). A selection of crispy pizzas ($6.79+), spicy wings ($6.99 for 8), and gyros ($5.19+) round out the shop’s sandwich-dominated menu, just as a strobe light rounds out a strong State of the Union speech.
The pit master at World Bar-B-Que works hard slow-cooking Carolina-style pulled pork, Texas brisket, and St. Louis–style pork ribs, imbuing each meat with distinctive barbecue bark and deep, smoky flavors. After the cuts have smoked for 6–15 hours, diners take over with finishing touches, adorning their choice of meats with sauces such as sweet-and-spicy blackberry habanero and classic sides such as potato salad and baked beans. They can also forge everything from smoked and beer-soaked burgers to authentic Cuban sandwiches.
On certain nights, patrons can finish off meaty cuts and showcase their singing chops with open-mic and karaoke sessions. The generous eatery also sets aside one day a week for a "World Invasion"—a chance for local groups, charitable organizations, or extraterrestrial barbecue-reconnaissance parties to take over the restaurant and receive a portion of the evening's sales.
An aviation-themed pizzeria, Christy's Family Pizzeria battles hunger with freshly baked flying dough saucers and a menu that promises squadrons of sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Bite into a 9-inch Butcher Shop specialty pizza ($11.45), stacked with pepperoni and bacon and wrapped in nutritious newspaper, or sample a 9-inc Farmer's Market pizza ($11.45) that saves you the work of growing mushrooms, banana peppers, and baked dough yourself. Oven-born Italian hoagies ($5.25/half) jostle with grill fruits such as cheeseburgers ($4.35) and chopped sirloin ($5.25) for the favor of omnivores hungrily eyeing the menu. Patrons can stay to savor Christy's casual ambiance or hurry home with a specialty pie to share with the ghosts in their refrigerators.
Smashburger isn't just the name?it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.