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 Caesar's location, a then-unheard-of carryout-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 pie designed for instant pick-up, 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 its own charitable programs.
The culinary construction crew at Papa Murphy’s, the highest-ranking pizza chain in the 2010 Zagat Fast-Food Survey, builds a tasty menu of customizable Take 'N' Bake pizzas that patrons can heat up in the comforts of their own homes. Visitors watch as the chefs assemble thin- and stuffed-crust pizzas in-store using fresh dough, one of four sauces, shredded cheese, and up to 24 toppings. The pizza artisans then package the handmade creations for customers to bring home and cook in kitchen ovens, on backyard grills, or over an overheated car engine. Papa Murphy's collection of comestibles complements circular meals with sides of bread, salad, and chocolate-chip-cookie-dough dessert.:m]]
Zen Beri's nonfat, low-fat, and no-sugar-added frozen yogurt—in flavors such as cheesecake, dark chocolate, and blueberry tart—brims with certified live active cultures. Its self-serve machines bestow gobs of these sweet treats, as well as dairy-free sorbets, on bowls. Guests can then heap on more than 50 toppings, such as candies, fruits, and nuts, to customize their dessert creations. Staff members also skillfully craft tempting sundaes, smoothies, and coffee drinks from Zen Beri's signature frozen-treats menu, or a gourmet cupcake prepared daily in more than 10 flavors. They can also tightly pack quarts of take-home treats so that guests can indulge their sweet tooths during Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory marathons.
Recognized by Maxim as one of the best bars in the country to watch a big game, Sam’s All American Sports Grill consistently climbs to the tops of rankings. In fact, Zagat featured the grill on its Sports Bar Food Tour, and Bleacher Report affirms that Sam’s will “certainly enhance any game-day experience.” Inside, 16 beers on tap fill glasses, while friendly staffers serve burgers and handcrafted pizzas, pirouetting between tables with the finesse of a running back on roller skates. As diners kick back beneath the glow of mounted high-definition TVs, Sam’s team of chefs work hard behind the scenes, making soups, sauces, and dressings from scratch daily.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine?s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop?s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M?s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
Gleaning her baking skills from her mother and grandmother, Gigi's Cupcakes' eponymous owner opened her first cupcake hub in 2008, drawing upon her entrepreneurial spirit and gift for crafting beautifully topped cupcakes. The franchised cupcakery now has 50 locations, each of which churns out 12 daily-rotating flavors that are made fresh every morning. The shop's selection of more than 40 flavors includes Canadian Maple, Southern Comfort, and Champagne—a bubbly-flavored base topped with an edible pearl. Patrons can pick out sweet treats from the daily selection or preorder them at least one day in advance online, by phone, or via singing telegram.