After spending years working for Dominos Pizza, Vince Schmuhl decided that he could do a better job of preparing and delivering quality pies to people's homes. He challenged the nationwide chain's dominance in the region by founding the first Blackjack Pizza on June 29, 1983.
Although delivering oven-fresh pies within 30 minutes was still a major goal for Schmuhl, he emphasized the importance of quality ingredients using sauce made from freshly packed tomatoes as well as hand-tossed dough that never sees the inside of a freezer or cryogenic chamber. This dedication to quality and speedy service allowed Blackjack Pizza to not only survive, but also thrive over the decades. The chain now includes more than 40 stores operating in four different states.
In addition to offering seven signature pies, Blackjack Pizza also allows customers to build their own order from crust to toppings. A choice of up to four savory, tangy, and piquant sauces form the base, topped with any of the 3 available cheeses, 7 meats, and 10 freshly diced vegetables. Regardless of the toppings, Blackjack Pizza respects the potential danger of food allergies by ensuring that none of its pies ever contain traces of MSG, peanuts, or peanut oil.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs grill every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Angus beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. The chefs then sandwich each slab in an artisan bun and turn it into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market. This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the chefs do, from blending handspun Häagen-Dazs shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded to 160 restaurants in five years, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
"The freshest pizza you'll ever eat." That's the motto of Live Basil Pizza, and just one visit turns that seemingly bold claim into a simple statement of truth. The sauce is made from organic San Marzano tomatoes that wouldn't give the time of day to canned tomato paste. The produce is typically sourced from local farmers and lacks that deep-freeze mush of franchise veggies. The meats are all natural, and the cheeses—including shredded mozzarella, aged provolone, goat cheese, and ricotta cheese—are milked from likable cows. And the basil that adorns LBP's picturesque pizza is grown right there in the restaurant.
Like picking a lobster from a tank, patrons can fully observe the freshness of their Neapolitan pie's journey from dough to plate. Hand-tossed and lovingly adorned with organic toppings, they're placed in a hearth oven until the flames have licked them to a perfect crisp, and arrive looking like they were just plucked from a pizza tree.