When even the most inexperienced chef visits Dinners Done Right's spacious kitchen, she can whip up 12 meals in two hours; gourmet ones—from apricot-glazed pork roast to chicken fajitas. It all sounds a bit unrealistic, until you consider the hefty head start visitors have on the typical from-scratch cook, who typically only has scratch. The building blocks for each of their meals await—freshly pre-cut and prepped—at stations throughout the company's kitchen. With the assistance of a hostess, easy-to-follow instructions, and all the necessary kitchen tools, visitors simply combine the ingredients into freezer-ready containers, first seasoning them to taste with a host of spices and herbs. When customers get home, they can freeze their handiwork for a future quick and easy meal or bake, grill, or slow-cook it to impress dinner guests on the spot.
Most new visitors find The Buttered Biscuit by word of mouth, since locals find the down-home cooking worth talking about. Featured on Check Please Northwest, diners are drawn into the cozy and unpretentious dining room by the promise of all-day breakfast, which has been praised as a local favorite. Try their chicken fried steak served with biscuits and country gravy, or the cinnamon-roll french toast?sliced rounds that are battered and pan-fried?all of which can be paired with mugs of hot cocoa topped with a mountain of whipped cream. If the idea of eating breakfast for dinner is a little too much to handle, try a pineapple burger, fish and chips, fettuccine alfredo, or meatloaf sandwich with a glass of wine or beer.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milk Shake, and Best Drive-Thru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through their program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
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 1,150 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options, such as the pepperoni pretzel and eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs, slicing it into bite-size nuggets, or using it to build historically accurate Austrian villages. 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.
Athens Pizza & Pasta is still going strong after 34 years. In 2013, its pizza was voted Best Pizza by readers of the Auburn Reporter. And although the praise for the eatery's pies are warranted?whether it's the Athens Special with three types of meat or the Spartan Special with feta cheese and black olives?the kitchen staff doesn't only toss together pizzas. They also make foot-long grinders, baked pastas, and hearty salads. In fact, the menu also includes barbecue chicken, spareribs, and other BBQ offerings.
At Frankie's Pizza, Italian–style gourmet pies begin with house-made dough prepared daily, topped with fresh cheese and a colorful array of veggies and meats. Cooks sprinkle on cilantro and pile on unique ingredients including pepperoncini and mild italian link sausage, accented with sauces in flavors such as zesty pesto ranch. Frankie's Pizza caters to patrons' individual dietary needs with gluten-free crusts, and provides optional sunbeams for customers who photosynthesize.