On street corners from Texas to North Carolina, Johnny Brusco's Pizza serves up piping-hot slices of New York, and that's not whistling Dixie. It's not even kazooing Yankee. The franchise boasts a lineage that stretches back to 1965, when pie-smith Johnny Pace opened up his pizzeria just outside of Syracuse. Though the menu stays true to Johnny's classic style, today's crust-tossers aren't afraid to switch things up in modern style. Gluten-watchers can dig into a flour-free variant of the crust, and their specialties include such daring choices as a cream cheese pizza, a Philly-esque steak and cheese, and a zesty gourmet pie with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, and artichokes. Outside of the round stuff, diners might select a summery strawberry-pecan salad, a classic plate of bruschetta with pesto, mozzarella, and marinara sauce, and a finger-licking dessert of cinna-knots.
Known for growing cotton and soybeans, many farms in the South known now nurture a new crop—catfish. Converting their fields to ponds, farmers raise the whiskered fish on an all-grain diet to develop meat with a clean, slightly sweet taste and reduced cholesterol. Every filet at Jumpin' Catfish Restaurant comes from this stock, which the chefs prepare in various ways: breaded and fried in the Southern tradition, marinated in lemon and pepper, or dusted with cajun spices, like the mayor of New Orleans after their morning bath. They then pair the plump, juicy filets with sides such as hushpuppies and white beans with ham.
The chefs extend their culinary skills to other seafood as well, from Norwegian salmon to Alaskan snow-crab legs. They also work with wild game such as quail and frog legs, and prepare Southern fare, such as fried chicken.
Zonkers enchants youngsters and guardians alike with its gargantuan indoor amusement park and arcade. Rides abound, including the Python Pit roller coaster and the Banana Squadron—a fleet of small, controllable planes in the shape of bananas, just like Pan Am’s aircraft in the 1970s. The bustling activity center makes a fun destination for field trips and birthday parties.
The first IHOP—the dream of founders Al and Jerry Lapin—opened in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, and was originally dubbed the International House of Pancakes. Since then, rapid expansion has led to myriad milestones across the company's colorful history, from introducing its modern IHOP acronym in 1973 to its 1,000th restaurant opening in Layton, Utah, in 2001.
Today, the company stands strong with around 1,500 locations across North and Central America, each one an enthusiastic dispenser of pancakes, french toast, and tables constructed entirely out of bacon. Though IHOP is known as a bastion of breakfast, it also stays open during the day and into the evening, delivering lunch and dinner as well.
Pho 2's chefs send taste buds on a tour of Southeast Asia charted by a menu of family recipes hailing from Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Diners can start meals by sharing fresh spring rolls, ladling cups of spicy tom yum soup, or conducting blindfolded taste tests with papaya salad prepared either Thai-style or Laos-style. A rainbow of red, green, and yellow curries decorates tables alongside noodle dishes such as pad thai. Vietnamese coffee and thai iced tea sweeten palates, and, on weekends, Pho 2's chefs re-create authentic Southeast Asian desserts.
Burgers reign supreme at Ott's. Peruse the extensive menu for specialty selections such as a hickory burger or a Texas burger (topped with chili, cheddar, and onion bud), both of which are available in 1/3- and 1/2-pound sizes ($7.99 for 1/3 pound, $9.69 for 1/2 pound). "Ott" dogs, prepared with Black Angus beef, offer an upscale take on the ballpark classic. Try the original Ott with lettuce, tomato, and pepper relish ($6.29) or the Spanish Flyer with chili, nacho cheese, and scallions ($7.29). If you'd like to keep your meal as light at a globetrotting eccentric's hot air balloon, opt for a garden salad with eggs, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheddar, scallions, and bacon ($6.59). Sandwiches and barbecue bites round out the menu.