Founded in 1954 by James McLamore and David Edgerton, Burger King rapidly expanded from humble beginnings as a lone burger joint to more than 12,400 locations across 79 countries today, making it the second-largest fast-food-hamburger chain in the world. Its signature burger—the Whopper sandwich—consists of flame-broiled, quarter-pound beef patties crowned with a miniature fedora and a fully customizable array of toppings such as tomatoes, onions, and dill pickles. Focused on continual improvement, the chain recently reinvented the fries that accompany each value meal, outfitting the spud slices with a thicker cut of potato for a fluffier texture on the inside and crispier golden-brown exterior. A spread of decadent desserts including dutch apple pie and Hershey pie keeps sweet teeth from elongating into fangs, and made-to-order breakfast sandwiches clasp eggs, american cheese, and bacon, sausage, or ham between two halves of a flaky croissant to round out the speedy menu.
Across nearly three-fourths of the United States, AMF Bowling Co. reverberates year-round as families, friends, and competitors send bowling balls in search of upright pins careening down slick lanes. The company first established itself as an industry leader in 1946, the same year the sport introduced automated pinspotters.
Today, more than 20 million bowlers annually make AMF their battleground for wars against pins. As the largest owner and and operator of bowling centers in the US, AMF locations offer high-tech scoring technology, a classic design, and a menu stocked with American-inspired classics such as wings, pizzas, burgers, and beer.
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.
The idea that you can only get good Cajun food in Louisiana has been challenged. The chefs at J. Gumbo's craft classic creole and Cajun dishes, balancing heat and spice with skill. Homestyle gumbo begins with a deep brown roux and, like viewing The Big Easy both forward and backward, takes about four hours to complete. Crawfish ?touff?e teems with the plump shellfish while jambalaya is made creole style with shredded chicken and sausage. Chefs pile these into bowls atop a bed of rice, and diners who can't decide can opt for two or even three options in one bowl.
The eatery itself is intimate and casual. On the walls hang New Orleans?inspired art, such as a crawfish wearing a chef hat and Mardi Gras masks and beads. Diners are also welcome to scrawl their names in between the art, and they often write messages commemorating their visit or love letters to the chef written in French.
In the 1930s in Springfield, Illinois, an innovative chef lavished two slices of texas toast with meat, french fries, and cheese sauce. An immediate hit, the savory open-faced treat—christened the horseshoe—has since galloped from diner to diner, moseying to H2 Horseshoe House with help from the restaurant’s founder, a Springfield native. Today H2 reinvents the classic sandwich with more than 10 variations, from buffalo chicken to portobello mushroom. Waiters ferry horseshoes, salads, and desserts onto a sunny patio, or to indoor tables where sports on flat-screen televisions glint off the dining room’s sleek chrome accents. H2 also invites patrons into a hookah lounge, accented with fuchsia walls and hanging lanterns, to sample plumes of peach and mojito-scented smoke, available in tobacco and tobacco-free varieties.
The chefs at Wild Agave Mexican Grill like to do things differently. For instance, they don't just serve Mexican cuisine, they craft Mexican fusion with an emphasis on culinary artistry. Though their menu holds the foundations of traditional Mexican fare such as tacos and burritos, they raise the bar with crab cakes, habenero-grilled shrimp, and two different cuts of steak. To put a new spin on classic roast chicken, they stuff chicken breasts with red peppers, baby spinach, and crunchy bacon bits, then drizzle the entree in mole sauce. Even their sides?such as seasonal fruit, baked sweet potatoes, and Mexican zucchini?exhibit a twist on the traditional offerings. Some things, of course, don't need to be altered, including their salt-rimmed glasses of margaritas, which pair perfectly with all the dishes.