When he cofounded his first sandwich shop in 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca planned to use his profits to pay his way through medical school. But the combination of quality ingredients and friendly service at the shop—then called Pete's Subway—proved so popular that nine years later, he and his partner found themselves in charge of 16 locations across Connecticut, and Fred left behind his doctoring plans for a career in business.
Today, Subway restaurants number over 34,000 around the world—almost as many shops as there are sightings of Elvis buying cold cuts. At each location, staffers pile sliced ham, marinara-slathered meatballs, and other fillings into halved loaves of bread before customizing handhelds with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and other healthy toppings plucked from chilled containers behind the counter. Salads free crisp veggies from bread's overprotective embrace, and crunchy baked chips or apple slices accompany entrees to tables. Subway's website also facilitates health-conscious eating by listing each item's nutrition information and fastest mile time online.
Sid Fanarof, inspired by the artists around him, sought to do something creative in the kitchen. ZPizza, which started in Laguna Beach and now has locations across the globe, fills with bustling chefs experimenting with ingredients traditionally associated with Indian, Californian, and Mexican cuisine. A parade of organic vegetables and skim-milk mozzarella from Wisconsin leads into the eateries, and organic wheat flour bakes over open flame to a crisp finish. “If you don’t hear the crunch, it’s not a ZPizza,” Fanarof says of the crusts on his website.
Chefs first slather the crusts with sweet basil pesto, roasted-garlic sauce, or organic tomato sauce. Their hands flutter across, sprinkling on fistfuls of toppings such as MSG-free pepperoni, additive-free sausage, three types of mushrooms, roasted eggplant, and pine nuts. Vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts allow everyone to enjoy the pizzas except for those trying to hide the fact that they superglued their mouths closed.
Tower Grille was created with an atmosphere that invites diners to linger over their burgers, pastas, and salads in open-air patio seating or in front of ample TVs equipped with a variety of sports packages. The comfortable atmosphere and hearty meals earned Danville Weekly's readers' choice award for best burger, take-out, and place for business lunches in 2009. The dishes of comfort food include classic deli fare such as reuben and french-dip sandwiches alongside bistro items such as penne pasta with fresh vegetables and farmers'-market-inspired salads that toss together greens and anything from marcona almonds to gold beets. Diners can also dig into pizzas topped with a choice of 19 toppings along with draft brews and specialty cocktails that chase meals down to the stomach's secure holding cell. Ten HD televisions show sports games, and live entertainment abounds, including regular live-music performances and weekly beer-pong tournaments.
Los Panchos crafts delicious Mexican cuisine from fresh ingredients and traditional recipes, filling its menu with more than 75 south-of-the-border standouts. Rather than calming grumbling tummies by taking a nap in a life raft as it gently sways away from the shore, guests may stuff them with burritos brimming with refried beans, guacamole, and a choice of chicken, beef, or pork ($8.50). Juicy pork carnitas can fill soft tacos ($3.25 each), enchiladas ($3.50 each), or deep-fried chimichangas ($5.75), or erupt from cheesy mountains of nachos ($8.50). Like a traffic light, chili verde’s sauce comes in a choice of green or red ($9.25), letting diners barrel into spiciness or pause to savor a mild chili flavor with each meaty bite.
For decades, Father Nature's Shed has filled denizens with griddle favorites and other comfort-inducing comestibles in a quaint, country setting. Breakfast specialties such as the eggs benedict ($9.50) or cinnamon-raisin french toast ($6.50) rouse hunger from the depths of early-morning sleep. The T.J. breakfast croissant creates a gravitational pull around a tower of american cheese, ham, sliced tomato, avocado, and scrambled eggs to attract orbiting moons of potatoes, hash browns, or fresh fruit ($8.50). At lunchtime, diners can indulge on a bevy of belly-fillers, ranging from artichoke and spinach frittata ($9.90) to pastas paired with garlic french bread. A huddled mass of sandwiches and burgers awaits the tender hug of hands, such as the 9-ounce Diablo burger slathered in special seasoning, mustard, and mayonnaise ($10.90).