In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
For years, Julie Scianna’s celiac disease left her uncomfortable and bloated—until she eliminated gluten. The advice made her feel better almost immediately. However, finding gluten-free food to sustain her new diet proved easier said than done. To solve this problem for fellow celiac sufferers, Julie, in collaboration with Chef Andrew Hebda now makes gluten-free treats widely available through OMG…It’s Gluten Free. The restaurant’s entirely gluten- and peanut-free menu includes café items such as lasagna, pizza, and corn dogs along with bakery classics such as cinnamon rolls and brownies. In addition to the main café in Frankfort, Julie also distributes her gluten-free treats at various locations in eight states.
Sweet Frog?s frozen-yogurt flavors go beyond the norm. In addition to cookies ?n? cream and salty caramel, the lineup of 75 varieties includes maple-bacon donut, cake batter, and dulce de leche. Patrons can sprinkle on toppings such as fresh fruit and candies, then savor their confetti?d confections in the lime-green-and-pink restaurant. Smiling frogs and funky white hanging lamps give the stores an air of fun, but founder Derek Cha is interested in giving more than that to the community; through Sweet Frog, he sponsors children in need and dispatches frog mascots to those who need encouragement.
Paradise Smoothie's blender blades chew up fresh fruits and nutritious additions for a menu that showcases healthful, flavorful smoothies as well as a cascade of blended coffee drinks. Regular fruit-mix smoothies ($3.95) make appealing cocktails of a produce section’s worth of goodies, including pineapple, strawberry, and banana, with inventive additions such as lychee and avocado.
Though Los Angeles Caf? shares its name with a certain West Coast metropolis, the menu of hearty Mexican food seems designed for a Chicagoan's palate.?For more than two decades, owner Marc and his family have been heaping plates with sizzling fajitas, hefty burritos, and generous dollops of fresh guacamole. Visitors to the Mokena or Richton Park locations can complement any dish with a Jarritos soda, Mexican beer, or frosty margarita.
The amphitheater at Fair Oaks Farms doesn?t host agriculture-themed theater productions, or talks by resident farmers and cheese-makers. Instead, it?s the stage for an astonishing real-life drama. Before a giant wall of glass, audience members hold their breath as they watch a dairy cow give birth atop a bed of hay. Its calf enters the world in full view, rising up on its wobbling legs and hearing the sound of dozens of human hearts melting at once for the very first time. It all happens approximately 80 times each day.
The birthing barn anchors the farm's Dairy Adventure tour, giving families and school children a literal window into the world of sustainable dairy farming. At Fair Oaks Farms, the sustainability is as important as the milks and cheeses. As the New York Times recently reported, the farm creates natural gas from livestock waste. This ever-replenished source powers 10 barns, a cheese factory, an ice cream parlor, and everything else at the farm. It even becomes fuel for delivery trucks, which take raw milk to processing plants in three different states.
A lot of the dairy products stay right on the farm, however. At the onsite caf?, staffers serve countless glasses of chocolate milk and plates of grilled cheese sandwiches, the most popular items on the menu. The dining area overlooks the farm's cheese-making and milk-bottling facilities, so diners see exactly where their snack comes from. Fair Oaks Farms also features two brand new facilities, The Market & Bakery and the Farmhouse Restaurant
As for the cafe's produce, it comes directly from the farm's Green Garden Gate, a collection of gardens that sit in the shadow of a 25-foot milk bottle. The oversized container, known as "Udder Heights," is actually a climbing wall complete with belay systems and footholds. It stands at the center of Mooville, an outdoor play area that also contains train rides and a giant jumping pillow for when someone orders a milkshake.