Using recipes transported from her grandmother's rural kitchen, Baked by Betsy owner Betsy D'Attomo whips up fresh, homemade sweet breads and muffins, cakes and cupcakes, pies, cookies, and more. Like Ray Romano–shaped ice sculptures, Betsy's famous butter melts, bite-size cookies drizzled with powdered-sugar icing ($4 for a dozen), thaw when under the heat of a human tongue.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
The menu at Illusion Bar Grill Cafe reads like a culinary map of Europe. Inside the relaxing lounge space, guests can start their journey in Italy by digging into paninis bursting with fresh veggies and savory meats. Next, it's on to Greece with a plate of hummus and Greek fries arranged in the shape of Dionysus giving the shaka sign. Pierogis transport diners further north in the continent, where bottles and drafts of Polish, Russian, and German beer complement the potato-stuffed dumplings. Finally, homemade tiramisu and an Espresso martini whisk taste buds back to the country where their journey began.
If customers arrive at Mrs. A’s Cupcakes & Cookies at the right time, they may meet the owner’s 5-year-old grandson, who greets them with a hello and an eager recitation of his favorite cupcakes. Mrs. A runs her namesake bakery along with her two youngest daughters, making it a true family-operated business. Each morning, they arrive bright and early to bake the day’s goods from scratch using fresh ingredients.
Although the bakers also make cookies and donuts, cupcakes are their specialty. Varieties change daily based on seasonal and available ingredients, such as the apple- pies and pumpkin- cream- cheese cupcakes they whip up in the fall. One mainstay, the red- velvet cupcake, is crafted using traditional Depression-era techniques, adding a smidge of cocoa to the batter and shredded stock certificates to the frosting. Other offerings echo the family’s Filipino heritage, such as the ube cupcake, made from purple yam, and the made-to-order buko- pandan cupcake, created from coconut meat, condensed milk, and the fragrant extract of pandan leaves.
The sweets at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory taste all the sweeter after witnessing the hard and delicate work that goes into their creation. During engaging visits, staffers entertain guests by hand-dipping crisp apples into burbling vats of caramel or fashioning silky bricks of fudge atop traditional marble slabs. They don't just tease the eyes, though. They also treat tongues to free samples, and even lead chocolate-tasting classes in which they provide mint- and sea-salt-infused samples of chocolate from around the world.
In addition to tastings, chocolate-making classes encourage customer participation, with instructors offering up the fresh ingredients stored on site to students who wish to learn the fine art of chocolate making. During these classes, they walk guests through the delicate process of making clusters infused with nuts or fruit, or melting milk or dark chocolate to fill a mold.