Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine?s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop?s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M?s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
Two decades removed from the opening of their first restaurant, the native Thai owners of Thai House continue to season meats, curries, and seafood with tropical Asian spices and embellish their three locations with hand-whittled teakwood silhouettes. Half-roasted duck and grilled shrimp swim in rice and noodles before catching cool, creamy waves of thai iced tea. Curries cascade over mounds of jasmine or brown rice imported from Thailand, and flotillas of Japanese sushi and sashimi cast their anchors alongside the spicy array of Thai fare. Mesmerizing notes of Thai music pervade the dining room, scoring dinner conversations and sword duels between chopsticks.
This sunlit, primarily New York–inspired eatery is infused with southern hospitality, serving up fresh, savory cuisine ideal for casual lunchers and geographically torn taste buds. Soups rotate daily, starting the week with broccoli and cheese and concluding with Friday's creamy potato ($2.98 for a small, $3.95 for a large). Gold-rushing appetites can hop aboard the California panini, a bread wagon packed full of turkey, spinach, cheddar cheese, and avocado ($4.25 for a half, $6.50 for a whole), and New York–deli purists can pledge allegiance to a Reuben, a trusted committee of corn-beef, sauerkraut, swiss-cheese, and thousand-island-dressing dreams standing firmly on a foundation of pumpernickel ($6.75). Add a side salad, such as the verdant garden salad ($2.95) or the sweet spring salad ($3.95), to grant green Jell-O a natural friend on your personal food pyramid.
When HoneyBaked Ham was just a single shop in Michigan more than 40 years ago, it was run under the careful eye of its founder, Harry J. Hoenselaar. He handpicked every bone-in ham that he was going to sell in stores and carefully cured each in a secret marinade recipe. He then slow-smoked the ham over a custom blend of wood chips. Hoenselaar even built and patented a machine that spiral-cut the meat into almost perfectly even slices and re-creations of M.A.S.H. characters. But what really stuck with people was his glaze—a proprietary recipe that encased each ham with a sweet, crunchy finish.
Though Harry's shop has since grown into a nationally recognized brand with more than 400 stores, that attention to detail hasn’t been lost. His grandchildren now oversee the company, and they have maintained that same process of hand-selecting hams and smoking them for up to 24 hours before they’re spiral-cut and glazed. Many of the stores also have a cafe-style counter, where patrons can pick up fresh sandwiches layered with roast beef, smoked turkey breast, chicken salad, and of course, honey-glazed ham.
More than 40 years ago, Harry J. Hoenselaar chose individual hams, cured them in his secret marinade, and smoked them over hardwood chips before offsetting the earthy flavor with a crisp, sweet glaze. To this day, the staff still makes the signature bone-in hams one at a time and glazes them in the shop. In addition to the eponymous victuals, the ham denizens turn their braising prowess on similarly delightful platter toppers, including turkey, barbecued pork, and 2-pound beef roasts smothered in gravy.
The hammery's kitchens also whip up classic side dishes and desserts, such as the sweet-potato soufflé. For less formal feasting, party trays and packed lunch boxes fuel business meetings, backyard grad parties, and lengthy end-zone celebrations.
In 1964, brothers Leroy and Forrest Raffel banded together to come up with a new restaurant concept. Arby's took off almost immediately on the coattails of its hallmark roast-beef sandwich and the founders’ idea of providing customers with fast, quality food. Over the company's 48-year franchise history, its foundational pièce de résistance of thinly sliced, juicy beef has been served in a many permutations, and continues to be popular today, served at more than 3,500 stores in North America. Today’s menu still ignites appetites with traditional beef sandwiches, plus hot and seasoned curly fries, fresh-chopped salads, and desserts good for richly capping off meals or bribing any bridge trolls on the way home.