The Survival Race’s 5-kilometer track challenges racers to navigate a gauntlet of mud-laden terrain. Staggered waves of up to 300 runners each conquer military-style obstacles, wade through murky water, and slide through muddy trenches before reaching the finish line to celebrate at a shindig awash with delicious eats and smitten swamp monsters. Afterward, a Facebook album aids online nostalgia by showcasing dirt-caked athletes and their marshy feats.
Villari's Lakeside sits on the shores of Sun Valley Lake, near rustling willows and a quaint gazebo—but its menu seems to think its on the Sicilian coast. Crabmeat fills martini glasses and stuffs jumbo shrimp. Lobster tails wear coats of lemon and butter. Even the Filet Sinatra's 10-ounce filet mignon comes topped with shrimp. The creator of these feasts, Jose Zhinin, brings the Mediterranean to the US, but doesn't stop there. His yearly rotating entrees trek throughout mainland Italy as well, touching everything from chicken parmigiana to build-your-own pasta plates, mixing the traditional with the modern.
Likewise, the restaurant itself combines Old-World elegance with contemporary style. Like the halls of the coolest medieval kings, the two-tiered dining room easily hosts both sumptuous banquets and DJ-driven dance parties. But parties find their home most often at the outdoor tiki bar, whose thatched roof and glowing lanterns cast the lake in a tropical light.
The chefs at Big John’s Cheesesteaks & More grill up Philly favorites alongside American and Italian-American fare. They place 100% beef and chicken steaks on fresh-baked buns, topping them with cheeses such as mozzarella, provolone, or cheese whiz. Added toppings of bacon, pepperoni, and mushrooms melt right into customers' gooey cheese of choice. Pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and hoagies, and salads of thai-chili chicken or goat cheese, walnuts, and craisins round out the menu, and a free pickle bar displays more than 13 varieties of pickles that, like people, get wrinkly when soaked in vinegar.
The chefs at Muscle Maker Grill put a healthy spin on flavorful dishes inspired by Italian, Asian, American, and Southwestern cuisines. The chain was founded in 1995 by Rod Silva, a fitness enthusiast who grew weary of fast-food eateries that bogged customers down with unhealthy morsels and toys sculpted from butter. What began as a smoothie stand has expanded into a successful franchise that slings pastas, burgers, salads, and Tex-Mex–style wraps, and proudly displays the calorie content and relationship status of each dish on the menu.