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.
When the original Philly Soft Pretzel Factory location had a line out the door, its founders knew they had a hit on their hands. That was in 1998; today, over 100 franchise locations serve their special-recipe soft pretzels. Each chewy treat is hand twisted, baked fresh, and served hot from the oven into the customer's waiting hands, or mouth if they're really hungry. Pretzels can be topped with traditional salt, or spiced up with garlic or sesame seeds, while a selection of dipping sauces ranging from cheddar cheese to sweet chocolate provide layers of dunking flavor. And for those who prefer their baked goods meaty, dough-wrapped dogs and cheesesteak-filled pretzels are available.
Each day, the diligent staff at New York Bagel Cafe' & Deli fill their shop with scents of freshly brewed coffee and warm bagels straight from the oven. Seventeen varieties of the baked circles anchor an all-day breakfast menu, causing tongues to smack in approval of flavors such as plain, asiago cheese, and cinnamon raisin. Additions of meats, eggs, and cheeses transform the bagels into breakfast sandwiches, which complement stacks of pancakes drenched in sweet maple syrup.
Alternatively, customers can sidestep breakfast fare and sink into a selection of salads and deli sandwiches, including turkey melts and cubans. Gooey swiss cheese melts over classic reubens, which pile sauerkraut atop either hot turkey or pastrami. New York Bagel Cafe' & Deli can also cater events or deliver their eats directly to their customers' human-size terrarium.
Some say it takes a village to raise a child. On Smith Island, it takes a village to nurture another type of legacy: Maryland’s official dessert. Known as a Smith Island cake, this delicacy brims with ten layers of goodness and 200 years of history. The story began in the island’s seaside towns, where women baked cakes for their hubbies’ oyster-fishing journeys. To help the treats withstand the waves, they iced them with fudge as sweet and sturdy as a drawbridge made of candy canes. Fast-forward to 2009, at a market 50 miles from Smith Island’s shores. Brian Murphy, a recent graduate of the Wharton School, was shopping for a birthday cake. As he chose a Smith Island cake, he was surprised to learn that no major bakeries call the island home. Though he’d always envisioned himself as a commodities trader, he began to think like an entrepreneur. Before long, he had partnered with the island’s bakers to form Smith Island Baking Company, a business that handcrafts Smith Island cakes and ships them around the world.
The bakery’s signature creation, the chocolate Smith Island cake, teems with thin layers of yellow cake and fudge that National Geographic has deemed “an architectural marvel.” In addition to crunching numbers at the company’s headquarters, Brian loads fresh flour, sugar, and cocoa onto the ferries that connect the island to Maryland’s mainland and the outer rings of Saturn. Under his leadership, the venture has grown to incorporate myriad other confections, from chocolate fudge to all-natural ice cream by Chef Jordan Lloyd.
Home to a vast lineup of dairy-based frozen treats, Bruster's makes its ice creams, yogurts, and waffle cones fresh every day in-store. The menu boasts everything from a turtle sundae ($4.50) to a regular cone ($2.80+) or homemade waffle cone ($3.90) filled with one of the multitudinous ice-cream flavors, such as Monkey Madness––with banana ice cream, buckeyes, and marshmallows––or Chocolate Lover's Trash––chocolate ice cream filled with chocolate chunks, chocolate-covered peanuts, chocolate butter toffee, chocolate krispies, and receipts from visits to the biannual cocoa consortium. Bruster's also offers no-sugar-added options and fat-free ice creams, as well as low-fat yogurts.
The skilled bakers at KoDee Cakes specialize in one-of-a-kind cakes and cupcakes, which they make by hand using fresh ingredients. Bakers make exact replicas of your parents' wedding cake for an anniversary, or cartoon characters made from fondant and flour for when Huckleberry Hound is elected president. The bakers are also happy to accommodate diet requests, including vegan, gluten-free, and fresh fruit options.
But it doesn't stop there at just cakes: they also craft cookies, pies, cobblers, and cupcakes in flavors such as snickerdoodle, almond raspberry, banana foster, death by chocolate, butterscotch, and salted caramel. There's even savory fare available, such as bread fresh from the oven, sandwiches, and specially made dinners such as shrimp and grits.