Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs grill every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% 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. The chefs then sandwich each slab in an artisan bun and turn it into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market. This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the chefs do, from blending handspun Häagen-Dazs 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 to 160 restaurants in five years, 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.
On average, it takes one year to invent a sandwich that meets the standards of Jason's Deli—countless combinations of breads and filling won't ever leave the test kitchen. Those that do follow a strict set of rules: no artificial trans fat, no high-fructose corn syrup, and flavors that come from freshness rather than additives. The results can be bitten into at hundreds of locations across America. At each, difficult choices abound between reubens and spicy-ranchero chicken wraps, or between a turkey club and a New Orleans-inspired muffaletta, spread with a family-recipe olive mix. Even those who don't want a sandwich still have to make tough decisions when they approach the salad bar brimming with organic fixings.
Despite the difficulties of selection, Jason's Deli prioritizes convenience. Its stores have organized a list of gluten-sensitive selections as well as healthy kids' meals, which come with sides of organic carrots or apples as opposed to other restaurants' deep-fried lard balls. The company also advocates for emotional health as fervently as it does nutrition—its Leadership Institute hosts workshops for employees on topics ranging from conflict resolution to finances to ethics.
Pizza enthusiasts have long been divided by a contentious debate: thick or thin crust? Rather than miss out on either kind of crust by picking sides, the cooks at WhichWay Pizza knead a crust that falls somewhere in between. These pizza bases are pleasantly chewy, but still thin enough to be picked up and eaten without a fork and knife, unlike famous styles such as the Chicago deep-dish crust or the Atlantis fish-crust. On top of a WhichWay Pizza crust might rest one of 10 specialty pie combinations, including the jalapeño and buffalo chicken Firecracker and the playfully named Kids, topped only with the pizzeria’s seven-cheese blend. Crusts can also be customized with combinations diners select from the pizzeria’s six sauces and 18 ingredients such as Ranchapeno sauce and pepperoncini. For dessert, the versatile crusts might transform into apple-streusel- or cherry-flavored treats, which, like regular pizzas, emerge from the oven piping hot in fewer than four minutes, roughly the same time it takes tomatoes and sausages to melt into a meat sauce.
A popular Texas-based restaurant, Fuzzy's Taco Shop makes its Colorado debut, providing new Tex-Mex tastes with a bountiful menu straight from the South. Baja-style tacos top the menu as the restaurant's specialty and brim with cilantro, cheese, garlic sauce, feta, and a choice of fish, chicken, or pork ($1.99 each). A jumbo burrito plump with grilled- or tempura-shrimp stuffing bursts with garlic sauce and guacamole ($5.99), and breakfast favorites such as the huevos rancheros sate late-risers with savory, eggy flavors ($5.99). Diners dive into their eats perched in bright-red booths surrounded by primary-color-splashed walls, forming an environment as bright and fun as a bonfire of old toys.
Plenty of college students study business. They study business, though, they don't start one of their own. UW students Jason and Rob, however, didn't sit around waiting for graduation. In the middle of an early 1990s night, they surveyed the phone book and agreed that they were tired of the sub-par pizza available to them. Boldly, they started making pies of their own. No business plan. No product testing. Jason and Rob took their pizza to the people, and a business was born.
Today, they're out of college and their Falbo Bros Pizzeria serves its inventive twists on New York-style thin crust, Chicago-style deep dish, and stuffed pizzas in 13 locations across three states. Fresh batches of hand-rolled dough don gourmet toppings such as giardiniera, artichoke hearts, and meatballs. The Falbo kitchens toss specialty pizzas such as the Zeus, whose black olives, spinach, feta cheese, and pepperoncini are baked with the heat of a lightning bolt. Chefs also bake meatball subs and top salads of artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, and grilled chicken with piquant blue cheese dressing. At Falbo's Fort Collins outpost, taps pour local beers from New Belgium and Odell in a seasonal beer garden, and cans of soda offer an alternative fizzy refreshment.