In 1997, Shahram Pouranfour, his wife Gita, and their sons Farzan and Arman opened up the first Fishery Station in south Louisville, dishing up familiar favorites such as oysters, catfish, and coleslaw. Like season two of Twin Peaks, the menu became more adventurous and fascinating as time went on, expanding with exotic samples of alligator tail, shark, and frog legs. Shahram adds a cosmopolitan flair to the selection of fried chicken and fish with mediterranean gyros, baklava, and falafel, as well as a special Iranian spread (kashk e bademjan) made with mashed eggplant, whey, caramelized onions, and mint sautéed with garlic.
Every day at all of El Nopal’s locations, cooks whip up fresh batches of salsa, chips, and beans. The sauces and sides accent chicken or beef chimichangas, handmade tamales, and nachos smothered in cheese. All El Nopal locations offer complimentary chips and salsa with every meal, and some locations have outdoor seating areas. Performances by live bands at select locations serve as a pleasant distraction from meals, unlike a judge with highfalutin ideas about not eating in court.
In 1978, brothers Eugene and John Jetts lent their name to the sign above their pizza shop in Sterling Heights, Michigan. In the more than 30 years that followed, they’ve lost one of the Ts but gained more than 200 franchises across the country. Jet’s Pizza churns out signature pies in hearty deep-dish form. The eight-corner deep-dish style lets each member of a dining octet enjoy a slice of corner crust without fearing the paper cuts inherent in triangle slices. After loading pizzas with heaps of meats and veggies, guests have the liberty of flavorizing their crust for free, choosing from eight options such as garlic, sesame seed, Cajun, or poppy seed. To augment pies, Jet's chefs whip up triple-cheese turbo sticks filled with mozzarella, cheddar, and romano as well as regular and boneless wings draped in hot or sweet sauces.
From its humble beginnings as a single orange-juice stand in Los Angeles, Orange Julius has blossomed into a worldwide purveyor of refreshing blended smoothies and fresh fruit drinks. Slurp a large smoothie (a $5.73 value each) in one of more than a dozen flavors, such as pomegranate and berries, a blend of low-fat frozen yogurt and three ruby-hued fruits, or tropical tango, a mix of pineapple, banana, orange sherbet, and tropical fruit juice. Light smoothies each contain 250 or fewer calories, acquiring their sweetness from fresh fruits, a light sprinkling of Splenda, and afternoons spent reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Or hold the ice and sip a namesake large Julius fruit drink (a $4.44 value each) available in the shop’s famous signature orange or 1 of 13 other frothy flavors, perfect for quenching thirst after a long day of stamp licking.
Pregame with spinach artichoke dip (4.99) or a hearty helping of fried pickle chips, hand-breaded dills fried to a crisp and served with peppercorn ranch dressing or a Cajun horseradish dip ($3.99). Most of the thin-crust pizzas, salads, chicken, steaks, pastas, burgers, and sandwiches on Aspen's menu cost less than $10. Flavorful meaty dishes include a chili-rubbed pork tenderloin trio (three pork medallions wrapped in bacon and grilled and bathed in honey lime dressing, $9.99) and Hawaiian-style grilled chicken topped with a fresh grilled pineapple ($7.99). Aspen Creek's pan-seared salmon ($10.99) is hand cut, superbly seasoned, honey-glazed, and totally unable to travel upstream in search of superior gold prospecting.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop’s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M’s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
The chefs at El Rincon Cuban Restaurant & Bar treat diners to the tastes of Havana with a menu of authentic Cuban cuisine. Before entrees take the stage, an appetizer of papas rellenas warms taste buds with its orbs of breaded, fried mashed potatoes, each filled with seasoned ground beef, much like most asteroids. Diners can quell lunchtime belly rumblings with the chuleta natural, seasoned grilled-pork-tenderloin steak served with yuca with mojo sauce. Inside the fricassee de pollo, a bone-in quarter chicken simmers in potatoes and a white-wine-and-creole sauce, and the grilled sandwich cubano culls together ham, roasted pork, and cheese. Live musicians belt out festive tunes on weekends, and staff members lay out tarps for late-night salsa dancing or impromptu slip 'n' slide competitions.