For more than 40 years, Rich & Charlie’s menu of sandwiches, burgers, pizza, and classic Italian pasta, seafood, and chicken has fostered higher states of romantic consciousness and the ability to communicate with meatballs. Bid hunger adieu with a baker’s dozen of toasted ravioli pieces ($9.99) or cheese garlic bread ($4.29), then scarf a serving of Rich & Charlie’s famous salad with pimentos, red onions, artichoke hearts, and a generous dose of secret salad dressing ($4.39). Lunch specials include eggplant parmigiano drenched with meat sauce and molten Italian cheese ($7.99). During dinner, weigh the spheres on a classic Italian meatball sandwich ($7.59), or calculate the exact circumference of a deluxe pizza topped with sausage, pepperoni, and a slew of health-restoring vegetables ($13.49/small, $15.69/large). After rescuing a plate of fettuccine alfredo ($10.99) from a cheesy mortality, sample the rich ice-creaminess of peanut-butter friazo ($4.49), topped with chocolate sauce, peanut mousse, Reese’s peanut-butter cups, and a signed page from George Washington Carver’s recipe book.
So established is Circle K Midwest that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for—fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.
After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Fresh Café, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including sandwiches, fruit cups, and fresh-cut vegetables. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with premium coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.
There are dartboards and pool tables aplenty inside J.P's, a down-to-earth sports bar with a model pub menu. Chase your game with a sourdough BLT or a thin-crust pizza with five kinds of meat. Or, pig out on pork wings and a big plate of nachos supreme. Chicken sandwiches get their own category here; you'll find six varieties, including grilled chicken, grilled blackened chicken, and you know what, I could really go for some grilled chicken. If the weather's fair, head outside to the beer garden for the alfresco version of J.P's.
When founders J. Kim Tucci, Joseph A. Fresta, and John P. Ferrara first opened The Pasta House Co. in 1974, they wanted to elevate pasta to an art form. “Some artists sculpt, some paint, and some sketch,” they write on the restaurant’s website. “But, at The Pasta House Co., we create authentic Italian culinary delights.” A few of the locations even have giant, exhibition kitchens so you can watch as pizzas, pastas, and entrees come to life.
Naturally, The Pasta House Co.’s menu revolves around the Italian staple from which it gets its name. There are more than 25 varieties of pasta to choose from, including linguine with chicken livers and the signature lasagna, plus weekday specials such as stuffed manicotti. Meanwhile, the mangia bene menu—which translates to “eat well” in Italian—showcases the more wholesome side of Italian eating, with dishes low in fat and calories that won’t peer pressure you to break curfew.
Romance is in the air at Cafe Palermo, and not just because it's owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Nick and Julie Nicoletti. In homage to Sicilian caf?s, antique leaded-glass panels accent the room, and green fronds of ivy and other live plants drift from the walls. Diners order from a menu of classic Italian dishes made from family recipes, most cooked to order by the Nicolettis themselves. In a nod to local tastes, they stuff some dishes with creamy provel cheese instead of plating them on Blues hockey pucks. Cheesecakes handcrafted by Julie provide a sweet finish or can be ordered whole to take home. The romantic atmosphere extends onto the patio, where a fountain bubbles and herbs and flowers lend their scents to the breeze.
La Casona Mexican Restaurant invites visitors to feasts of Mexican food and much-loved mainstays of American party fare. Guests kick off meals with plates of spicy chicken wings or fried tilapia bites before tucking in to plates of carne asada burritos or nachos topped with chicken or steak. Margaritas and Mexican beers help wash it all down. On Thursday nights, La Casona hosts karaoke and gives away free drinks for anyone who can out-sing the wizard that conjures the lyrics.