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.
Denise Ward grew up nourished by soul food that her mother skillfully prepared. After learning to prepare the same recipes herself, she dreamed of sharing them with other people. That’s why she and her husband, Perry, opened a soul food café in 1985, naming it Niecies Restaurant. In 2006, they expanded to a second location.
In the early hours, cooks grill pork chops for breakfast sandwiches and prepare signature plates such as the Sunrise Breakfast, which The Pitch asserts, “may be the best way to start any morning.” Later in the day, plates of fried catfish and barbecue brisket share table space with bowls of beef stew more comforting to stomachs than teddy bears eaten whole. Homespun desserts such as peach cobbler sweeten palates.
The food gets served in a comfy diner-style setting. Thickly padded booths line two long rows of front windows, and diner stools prop up guests at the counter—in case they want to reenact scenes from their favorite road-trip movie, such as Ben-Hur. Floral wallpaper hangs cozily over wood-trim wainscoting, and plates of pancakes can be seen on the shelf between the kitchen and the dining area for that fleeting instant before servers whisk them off to tables.
While Butterfly Kisses Baking's staff avidly serves its local customers by decorating cakes, cupcakes, and cookies, the people they most proudly cater to are military troops. The shop allocates 20% of its profits to providing care packages for servicemen and women abroad. They build those funds by enticing customers with the sweetness packed into their various treats, which include peppermint-bark cupcakes, lemon sugar cookies, and cake pops themed after the flavors of cereal, cookies, and candy bars. Bakers are on hand to help clients create custom desserts including themed cakes that might light up a child’s face on his birthday or fondant scenes so real you’d consider buying a time share there.
Diamond Bowl, a refreshing fusion of bowling alley and robust restaurant, serves as a hangout for pin-battering rollers hungry for lane-thundering action and thirsty for food. Games ($5) on Diamond’s eight lanes keep hook-happy fingers limber, and shoes ($3) safeguard feet from toe-stomping sore losers. Follow up your fourth turkey with tangible foodstuffs from Diamond's full menu, such as the blackened-salmon sandwich on a kaiser roll ($7.99), the well-rounded bowling burger ($7.49), or the crispy chicken-tender salad ($8.99). Serious contenders can take a break from finger calisthenics to enroll in one of Diamond Bowl's leagues, and casual players can pair their match play with drinks from Diamond’s fully stocked bar, or they can watch a less phalange-intensive sport on one of nine crystalline HD TVs. Hourly games are also available.
The resident butchers at Curt's Famous Meats serve up award-winning steaks, burgers, and homemade sausage in a 64-year-old, full-service butcher shop and deli. Meat mavens skillfully slice up choice rib-eye steaks ($13.99/lb.), Kansas City strips ($13.99/lb.), and T-bones ($12.99/lb.) that are juicier than water-cooler gossip about fresh peaches. Groupon holders can also sample sliced slab back bacon ($5.99/lb.) or stack sesame buns with 8-ounce filet burgers ($5 each). Curt's Famous Meats' enthusiastic, predominantly female staff welcomes customers' questions about how to choose the best cut, how to achieve a perfect medium rare, or how to gently demote baked potatoes to side dishes.
From its humble beginnings in Kankakee, Illinois, in 1938, Dairy Queen has grown from a delicious experiment in soft-serve ice cream to a household name with more than 5,900 restaurants around the world. The shop's signature frozen delights are built upon a frosty foundation of creamy chocolate or vanilla soft serve, which swirls idyllically into cones, cups, overturned top hats, sundaes, Peanut Buster parfaits, and the chain's iconic Blizzard treats, blended with crumbled candy and other mix-ins. Ice-cream cakes cleverly conceal a surprise filling of fudge and chocolate crunch between layers of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, providing sweet, sliceable sustenance for birthday parties and other special occasions.
Fruit rules the roost on the other side of the slushy emporium, where Orange Julius blends its signature frothy drinks crafted from fruit juice, ice, and a "magic” powdered sweetener that explains why they disappear from most customers’ cups minutes after the first delicious sip. Real fruit purée forms the basis for the shop's smoothies, which also come in diet-friendly light versions that boast 150 calories or fewer.