More than 50 years go, Mike Ilitch was poised for major-league glory. An up-and-coming shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, his baseball finesse was blossoming when an injury derailed his sports career. But although the wound stunted his athletic aspirations, it steered him toward a new path, and on May 8, 1959, he and his wife opened the first Little Caesars location, a then-unheard-of carry-out-only joint. The career shift and novel technique eventually proved triumphant. Today, the pizzeria's iconic, toga-clad mascot adorns storefronts on five continents. In each shop, staffers forge the signature Hot-N-Ready pizza, a freshly baked pizza designed for instant pickup, and warm, garlicky Crazy bread. With a storied half century under their belt, Mike Ilitch and his family strive to give back, supporting local organizations and creating their own charitable programs.
Though they spend much of their time mixing ingredients and dialing in oven temperatures, the team at Mary's Cakes and Pastries has also perfected the art of building cars, football stadiums, and mandolins. The designs are all custom cakes decorated with layers of fondant and buttercream icing to bring customers’ ideas to life. In addition to their edible sculptures, the kitchen crew bakes fresh cookies and pastries each day and fires up lunch specialties such as stuffed croissants and turkey gumbo.
The Diner Restaurant Group dishes up its home-style menu with quick, friendly service in classic-diner style. Patrons can treat themselves and a loved one, coworker, or imaginary friend to a feast for two that will pique their hunger teeth and activate dormant burger glands at the base of their skulls so that their jaws unhinge a little. Duos get two of the eatery's boeuf de résistance—a fresh ground-chuck burger loaded with lettuce, tomato, butter pickles, special sauce, and the choice of american, swiss, or pepper-jack cheese, all layered on a freshly-baked bun and served along with fresh-cut fries (a $13.98 value). Two sides of coleslaw (a $2.98 value) and two Coca-Colas (a $3.38 value) round out the meal.
Selected as the Best Restaurant in Tuscaloosa in 2010 by TuscaloosaRestaurant.com, Opus pairs its creative dinner menu with knowledgeable service in a modern, chic setting. Employing a variety of cooking styles and distinctive ingredients, the chefs turn out innovative plates such as tempura eggplant fries ($8) and red-pepper bisque with cauliflower and brie ($7). An artful display of wild-berry-glazed short ribs ($24) or a trio of sea bass, baked lobster mac 'n' cheese, and tiger shrimp ($36) extinguishes hunger, and freshly prepared apple bread pudding ($7) or vanilla-bean crème brûlée ($8) finish feasts. Crystal chandeliers and white tablecloths foster an elegant space for games of chess waged with the oysters du jour on the black-and-white checked floor ($10). Opus is open for dinner Tuesday–Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
There’s no shortage of renowned oyster establishments in the South. But TripSmarter.com pegged Wintzell’s Oyster House as its #1 destination for the specialty. “Fried, stewed, or nude,” they come served in every way imaginable at Wintzell’s—oysters are, unsurprisingly so, the trademark dish. And they’ve been the trademark dish since the eatery’s flagship location opened in 1938.
Regional seafood favorites also dominate the menu, from low-country boils to Cajun seafood fettuccine and bacon-wrapped shrimp. While the original location became something of a landmark in historic Mobile, the restaurant has since expanded to multiple locations. Each one, though, retains the original’s decorative signature: several dozen whimsical signs on the walls. The website even features some of their slogans: “Never kick a man when he is down—he may get up.”