When he cofounded his first sandwich shop in 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca planned to use his profits to pay his way through medical school. But the combination of quality ingredients and friendly service at the shop—then called Pete's Subway—proved so popular that nine years later, he and his partner found themselves in charge of 16 locations across Connecticut, and Fred left behind his doctoring plans for a career in business.
Today, Subway boasts more than 34,000 locations around the world—almost as many shops as there are sightings of Elvis buying cold cuts. At each location, staffers pile sliced ham, marinara-slathered meatballs, and other fillings into halved loaves of bread before customizing handhelds with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and other healthy toppings plucked from chilled containers behind the counter. Salads free crisp veggies from bread's overprotective embrace, and crunchy baked chips or apple slices accompany entrees to tables. Subway’s website also facilitates health-conscious eating by listing each item's nutritional information and fastest mile time online.
Taste buds do the talking when it comes to making a burger, chicken sandwich, or grilled cheese at Cheeburger Cheeburger. That’s because customers, rather than cooks, design what's for dinner. After selecting a base—whether an all-natural Angus burger, a chicken patty, a veggie patty, or a type of cheese—customers deck it with their choice of 29 complimentary toppings such as roasted red peppers, steak sauce, and chopped garlic.
Customers can also build their own salad or garden diorama with a choice of 24 salad fixings. Freshly gilded fries and onion rings round out entrees. For dessert, cooks blend Edy’s Grand ice cream with syrup and candies to create 1 of 1,258,000 possible shake flavor combinations. Thanks to its neon color scheme and oldies music, the restaurant brims with a vintage ambiance.
At Samurai Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, the chefs set out to create a fully engaging dining experience for guests, relying on showmanship and knife skills in addition to interesting flavor combinations. Surrounded by rich earth tones and in front of patrons' very eyes, they man gas-heated hibachi grills and juggle platefuls of steak, seafood, and vegetables into flashes of fire. Across the room, the sushi chefs avoid open flames and high-wattage light bulbs entirely as they roll a number of traditional and contemporary maki, filling each one with delicate cuts of fish and piquant dabs of sauce. Amid the bustle of flashing knives, sputtering grill tops, and standing ovations, flat-screen TVs also keep guests entertained at the restaurant's fully stocked bar.
A waiter, hands full of fresh avocado, peppers, and tomatoes, approaches the table. He expertly slices and stirs the ingredients in a lava-stone bowl with the nimble precision of a seasoned chef. Along with whipping up fresh guacamole prepared tableside, Santo Coyote cooks also grill sizzling fajitas, bake spicy seafood specialties, and roll freshly made tortillas that have been lauded by the Arkansas Times at two locations, with one recently opened on Pleasant Ridge Road. Meanwhile, bartenders blend their staggering selection of more than 100 tequilas into specialty margaritas beneath the metal sun sculptures that adorn the walls.
Inside the historical Mathis Building, a Spanish Mission?style structure completed in 1929 on the eve of the stock-market crash, the air of Cellar 220 fills with aromas from throughout the globe. Cellar 220 serves a menu of fresh and healthy cuisine anointed with regional flair, combining traditional dishes such as Roma tomato and mozzarella flatbread with balsamic drizzle with items such as salt and pepper pork with asparagus and creamed cabbage with bacon or fettuccine alfredo with blackened chicken. Throughout the menu, the chefs rely on local, seasonal ingredients, ensuring that every inventive dish bears a wholesome freshness and an Arkansas accent.
Great Wraps eschews unhealthy oils and deep fryers in its menu of wraps and subs grilled to a crisp golden brown, earning praise from such publications as Arkansas Times. Fillings of thinly sliced steak and pepper-jack cheese are layered onto ciabatta and hoagie loaves, and juicy grilled chicken is enclosed in spinach, flour, or honey-wheat tortillas. Six different spices—including chili cheese and peppercorn ranch—can be sprinkled onto the eatery's fries with reckless abandon, and diners can rest assured knowing none of the Idaho-sourced taters contain any trans fats or passports to Canada beneath their crispy exteriors.