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.
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.
EggCetera Cafe's resident chefs wield eggs sourced fresh from local Mussman's Back Acres farm alongside trans-fat-free oils and freshly ground coffee beans to craft a menu of savory American breakfast and lunch dishes. Morning-time munching begins with the lox benedict, a tower of hollandaise-drizzled smoked salmon, capers, and two poached eggs atop an english muffin ($9.95). Breakfast burritos harboring scrambled eggs and chorizo ($6.95) roust late-slumbering appetites to pick up the slack left by late-slumbering milkmen. For lunch, diners can furnish fists with po boy sandwiches ($7.95), which fill the gap between two halves of a french roll with morsels of chopped steak and mozzarella; culinary wizards also conjure a rotating slate of homemade soups.
OMG…It’s Gluten Free fills gluten-averse bellies with a menu of sweet baked goods and savory meals, catering to the allergen-sensitive by ensuring each product is 100% free of gluten and peanut products. Diners share 10-inch pizzas ($9.75), covering doughscapes with toppings such as spinach and sausage ($2 each), and single servings of lasagna ($7.05) expertly mimic the taste and alluring scent of their glutenous cousins. Settle into a seat and peel apart a glaze-drenched cinnamon roll ($2.25), or tote a bouquet of corn dogs ($2.50) to feed friends at baseball games and dole out as weapons in fencing duels. OMG…It’s Gluten Free began when founder Julie Scianna, recently diagnosed with celiac disease, embarked on a quest to replace her dietary staples with gluten-free analogues, expanding her venture into the bakery and café as well as numerous grocery stores.
For more than 25 years, the family of arctic artisans at Zarlengo's Italian Ice has infused real fruit and carefully selected ingredients into more than 50 varieties of temperature-defying delicacies, each carefully forged on-site and collectively voted Best Ice Cream in the Chicago Area by Chicago Sun-Times readers. Guests may commission miniature igloos in seasonal flavors such as pumpkin gelato or apple-cinnamon Italian ice (medium $3.25), or they can unite flavors such as mango, chocolate, and strawberry Italian ice with soft serve ice cream in an arctic cooler (medium $4.29). Natural ingredients such as fresh tangerines and bananas come together in real fruit slushes (medium $4.29) to enjoy a refreshing reprieve from their day jobs as still-life models, and hand-dipped novelties such as the Zar bar accommodate busy patrons with 10 varieties of chocolate-ensconced portability ($1.89).