Tiled floors, a stool-lined counter, and a jukebox pumping out tunes from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s all combine to drive home the vintage, midcentury vibe of The Original Mike's Diner. The menu echoes this theme with its selection of down-home comfort foods that range from slow-cooked yankee pot roast and housemade meatloaf with gravy to the charbroiled Big Bopper burger with bacon, onion rings, and barbecue sauce. Regardless of the time of day, the chefs cobble together platters with iconic breakfast staples, including housemade corned-beef hash with eggs and stacks of hotcakes with decaffeinated orange juice.
The grill masters at Cheese Steak Shop build culinary care packages of tri-tip sirloin and tender chicken breast, bedecked with classic and creative Philly-style toppings. The classic Philly nestles a bevy of steak or chicken alongside grilled onion and hot or sweet peppers, while the deluxe upgrades the sandwich mainstay with pizza sauce, mushrooms, and provolone. Customize carbo-delivery systems with bacon, barbecue sauce, onion rings, lettuce, salsa, and flame decals, all served on a soft italian roll. Customers can use their Groupon in one visit or get a punch card good for the remainder of their Phillies and drinks for future sandwich sojourns.
When Jim Knudson bit into his first taco during dinner at a friend's house in 1949, he knew he had tasted something special. He added the item?which many diners were pronouncing "tay-co"?to the menu at his restaurant in Grass Valley, California. Determined to introduce the food to as many people as possible, Jim and his wife, Margaret, converted a 16-foot trailer into a kitchen on wheels. They adopted the nickname Jim had earned from one of his longtime customers and drove up to Lake Tahoe, where Jimboy's Tacos found its first permanent home.
Locals, tourists, and even members of the Rat Pack flocked to the tiny taco stand for the uniquely seasoned, parmesan-dusted ground-beef taco, the anchor of a growing menu. The family eventually relocated to Roseville, California, where they set up a small taco stand and began branching out to other locations in and around Sacramento.
Today, Jim Knudson?s daughter Karen, the current president of the company, carries on the legacy of taco obsession at more than 40 locations in northern California and Nevada. Guests who arrive early for breakfast might glimpse the cooks slowly simmering beans, mashing avocados into guacamole, and preparing their signature ground beef with trans-fat-free oil. In addition to classic corn-tortilla tacos, the menu holds the mega-size flour-tortilla El Gordo, golden-fried taquitos, and even a taco burger that fuses Mexican and American culinary traditions.
Some people define comfort food as a favorite dish that Mom or Grandma used to make. Others associate comfort with foods that are traditionally eaten during happy times—such as Thanksgiving or John Philip Sousa's birthday. Savory Fried Chicken invites diners to explore comfort food of the Filipino persuasion. The eatery's cooks prepare Filipino-style chicken, which is either grilled or unbattered, fried, and served with gravy. Sides of pork lumpia rolls and pancit noodles complete plates.
Seated under banners displaying the colors of Mexico's flag, diners at Pepe's Taqueria dig into authentic dishes such as homemade tamales, lengua tacos, and carnitas tostadas. A salsa bar with three different offerings allows guests to decide the spice level of their dish, such as mild or Donny Osmond hot. Sombreros and colorful wall hangings surround guests as they sip on bottled beers, Mexican sodas, and horchata.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified 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. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun 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 from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, 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.