Mers Optical's locations in Hialeah West is chock-full of designer frames well suited for all manner of face shapes and personal styles. Independent doctors of optometry administer thorough eye exams, passing the results off to lens grinders who churn out single-vision, bifocal, and progressive lenses and fit them into frames from the likes of Lacoste, Ray-Ban, Fendi, and Mr. Potato Head.
Daniel Gonzalez has a wealth of culinary knowledge. After working in a continental restaurant, he managed the argentinean steak house Rinc?n Argentino. He brings that know-how to French Bistro, a casual eatery offering French, continental, and steak-house cuisine. The menu is filled with French dishes, including escargot swimming in garlic butter and chicken normandy drizzled with a rich asparagus sauce. Myriad cuts of steak and seafood meals are available, and other European-influenced dishes dot the menu, such as gnocchi in a red sauce and chicken parmigiana served with an Italian flag as a napkin.
What originally began as a modest shop in the back of a home in Santiago de Cali has morphed into Sandwich Qbano, a sandwich chain with locations across Colombia and Florida. The eatery churns out wraps, salads, and sandwiches such as the italiano, the teriyaki, and the classic cuban.
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.
Ali's Sweet Treats bakes and decorates photo-emblazoned cookies customizable for any occasion. After customers send one high-resolution photo file via email or holographic carrier pigeon, Ali's army of confectionary connoisseurs turn the image into edibles baked with real vanilla and pure butter with no trans fat. Choose to overlay a baby photo, hand-drawn design, or mug shot of Cookie Monster onto 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch round cookies, or 3.5-inch rectangular cookies. Each order is then packaged in a clear cellophane bag and tied with a colorful satin ribbon. Any design can be cropped to the customer's specification, and patrons may choose to add up to three wise words of wisdom to the design for no additional cost.
Chef Zé Carlos Jiménez's whole career is a balancing act. As a child growing up in Cuautia Morelos, Mexico, he spent his afternoons in a de facto apprenticeship in his grandmother's kitchen. He watched her roll handmade tortillas and tinker with spices before finding just the right blend to balance out her homespun dinners. As an adult, Chef Zé Carlos treats his own kitchen as a playground, paying homage to his grandmother's family recipes while fusing traditional Mexican street food and fine dining—a style he calls New Mexican Gourmet Cuisine.
The menu—complete with a touching epigraph to Meche, his grandmother—is a compendium of his attempts to blend the two worlds. On the haute end of the spectrum are dishes like the Nopales salad, brimming with pickled cactus and his own housemade vinagrette. Fish-and-shrimp tacos sprinkled with fresh cilantro hold down the street-food side of the culinary fort. Where the menu shines, though, is somewhere in the middle, with dishes such as the molcajetes—Spanish for "stone mortar." The upscale take on Mexican comfort food blends beef or shrimp in the eponymous stone dish along with the tastebud-tingling flavors of nopales, chorizo, and roasted tomato-tomatillo sauce.