Before teaming up in 1953, Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins were seasoned business owners with their own ice-cream shops. The words “unusual varieties” shone high above each shop, signaling their respective owners’ passion for anything but an ordinary dessert experience. When the two got together, it was natural that they’d adopt the theme of “31 flavors,” one for each day of the month. Since then, Baskin Robbins has introduced more than 1,000 flavors and opened shops with more than 5,800 franchise owners worldwide. Even their little pink tasting spoon has become a staple as a way to make flavor browsing an event by allowing guests to try specialties without paying cash or chicken-based trade for the privilege.
Within its naturally lit brick confines, Bluestem Bistro handcrafts its menu of soups, breads, and pastries from scratch without the malevolent influence of preservatives. Local products are meshed and melded to produce sandwiches and wraps ($6.59–$6.89) such as the turkey on focaccia smeared with red-pepper aioli ($6.89), which longs to be raised to the mouth in a salute of gastronomic gratitude. Salads ($6.49–$6.99) and specialty dishes such as spinach lasagna ($6.59) pair freely with a lineup of coffees, teas, and fresh fruit smoothies (nonalcoholic drinks $1.35–$4.80).
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
Vista Drive In's vintage eatery has plied patrons with a menu of juicy burgers, hearty sandwiches, and tasty milkshakes for more than four decades. Diners sharpen their tongue's pickax and maneuver their way through the Triburger's three quarter-pound patties slathered in pickles and onions before feasting on a heaping portion of french fries ($7.39). Two slices of swiss cheese smother thinly sliced steak and a smorgasbord of peppers and onions in the philly cheesesteak sandwich ($6.69), and salads employ a bevy of veggies, cheese, and spicy chicken ($5.69). Nineteen flavors of Cyclones, an ice-cream shake that comes in flavors such as butterfinger, snickers, and caramel ($3.69), chase down bites and refresh mouths that have recently wandered through the desert. Past Vista Drive In's neon sign, visitors enter the recently remodeled, retro-style dining room, which boasts tile floors and signature orange hues.
At The Topeka Juice Garden, newly opened in March of 2013, juicing specialists extract the essences of organic fruits and vegetables using equipment that preserves their healthful enzymes. Patrons can sip on menu concoctions such as the Green Machine, which contains spinach, bananas, almond milk, and dates, or customize their beverage with boosters such as probiotics and chlorophyll. In addition to juices and Blendies, the shop sells raw soups and pies, salads, and housemade ice cream that's crafted from fruit. Certified nutrition counselors conduct lectures onsite and share tips on healthy living.