Rich Hicks and Todd Istre are the masterminds behind many a national food concept—from Rich's southwestern taco at Tin Star to Todd's spicy seafood dishes at Boudreaux's Cajun Kitchen. When the duo joined forces to create Mooyah, however, they cleared the tortillas and crawdads from their mind in order to focus on formulating a quintessential American burger.
Today, within scores of Mooyah locations throughout the nation, chefs bustle behind counters, grilling up burgers in accordance to Todd and Rich's formula. Cooks pile lean-beef, turkey, and veggie patties onto white or wheat buns before loading on cheeses and toppings of bacon, fried onion, and avocado. Meanwhile, freshly cut potatoes simmer in fryers, and blenders whirl with ice-cream shakes. Out in the dining room, tabletops and booths sit atop checkered floors beneath walls of chalkboards, where customers can write messages or draw portraits of what they wished they looked like, could they only grow a beard.
Though the entrees at The Dixie Cafe make the biggest splash across its menu marquee, they're threatened with gastronomical upstaging by the southern-style eatery's 19 sides and scratch-made gravies. The chicken-fried steak, for example, is a tender, hand-breaded fillet that fully blossoms with flavor only after chefs smother it with cream gravy and cheddar cheese. And the Cajun grilled catfish's down-home taste isn't fully developed until it is paired up with bites of turnip greens, fried okra, or a homemade roll. The classic platter meals take advantage of this by pairing an entree with two sides, rolls, and jalapeño cornbread and can be ordered "light" for a portion that's smaller than the regular size and easier to toss in the air and catch in your mouth.
The Purple Cow Restaurant injects the classic ‘50s diner with Technicolor tones of lavender, amethyst, and lilac. Booth and counter seating host guests, and a soda jerk concocts hand-dipped shakes, as well as adult-only shakes made with a shot of amaretto, Irish cream, Kahlua, or responsibility. The restaurant’s menu blends comfort food standards including burgers, reubens, and BLTs with spicy soups and salads, while for dessert, the kitchen team whips up malts, ice cream sodas, and sundaes. Polly the Purple cow, the eatery’s mascot, frequently stops by to greet customers and make sure the store’s iconic purple vanilla ice cream is the correct shade of periwinkle.
San Francisco Bread Co. supplies customers with two things: a menu of comforting café fare, and a place to study, work, or write emails with wireless Internet access. Visitors may find themselves breathing deeply to relish the scent of brewing gourmet coffees intermingling with the aroma of freshly baked breads stacked in deli sandwiches and paninis. Every morning, fresh pastries, such as apple turnovers, danishes, or muffin tops, complement breakfast sandwiches borne on bagels or croissants. Slices of dessert from The Cheesecake Factory satisfy dairy cravings.
Harry Hoenselaar owes his success to sheer perseverance. After leaving his small Midwestern hometown for Detroit, he was hired as a salesman for the HoneyBaked Ham & Cafe Company. Relying on his knack for slicing ham on the bone, he found success at the company, but he was hungry for more. One night in 1936, he began toying with the idea for a machine that could uniformly slice bone-in ham. The next day, he devised a primitive prototype with a tire jack, pie tin, washing-machine motor, knife, and a pinch of magical elf dust. Over the next eight years, he worked to perfect his invention?building and testing variations?and filed for multiple patents, but time after time, he was rejected.
Discouraged, he took a job to support his family and set his dream aside?until 1957. The widow of his former employer rang him to offer HoneyBaked Ham & Cafe Company to him for $500. He seized the opportunity, and the first HoneyBaked Ham & Cafe Company store opened its doors in October of that year. After enjoying years of incredible success, Harry passed away in 1974?but his legacy and the business still flourish thanks to his children and grandchildren. The seed of his idea led to more than 400 retail locations sprouting up across the nation, their dedicated staffs slicing up tender, honey-baked ham while serving sandwiches and sides.
Cupcake Gallery’s pastry chefs whip up more than 30 varieties of cupcakes in flavors such as salted caramel, raspberry, and mocha. A german chocolate cake recipe—passed down through the founders’ family for more than a century—fills both cupcakes and traditional cakes, which the bakers elaborately frost to resemble cartoon characters, musical instruments, and favorite Whig Party leaders. In addition to serving smoothies and house-roasted coffee, the kitchen crew also assembles take-and-bake casseroles such as the cheesy chicken potato and Seafood Spectacular. Behind the counter, they concoct house smoothies in flavors such as banana split and piña colada and mix whole cupcakes into their signature cupcake milk shakes to create tempting combinations such as peanut butter and chocolate.