Since 1994, Wingstop's franchise locations—more than 600 currently operating or in the works—have cooked up and served more than 2 billion wings, and amassed a considerable following. Whether regular or boneless, these modern-day game-day staples come in one of the shop's 10 signature flavors: Louisiana rub and hickory-smoked barbecue have a classic spicy kick, whereas tanginess prevails in the lemon pepper, Hawaiian, and teriyaki.
Because the wings are always made to order, they derive their heat from their seasonings and their recent stay inside the fryer, rather than from heat lamps or tiny, individual Snuggies. The same amount of care goes into the Wingstop's housemade sides, which range from fries that are cut daily at each shop to the bourbon baked beans. Even the honey mustard, blue cheese, and ranch dipping sauces are mixed onsite.
The staff at the original location of Pleasure Pizza has spent more than 35 years perfecting their recipes, and they've passed the proverbial pizza torch to a new downtown Santa Cruz location. The restaurant also serves beer and wine along with sandwiches and salads, which chefs craft with an eye to locally sourced ingredients. And, of course, they have pizza?18 different kinds, each hand-crafted with homemade crust, daily.
Like clockwork, the dining room lights begin to flicker and the servers suddenly disappear. Music begins playing and diners are soon treated to a five-minute performance?complete with a choreographed dance number, a series of flames erupting from the grill tops, and a jaw-dropping display of dexterity from the eatery's internationally recognized pizza-spinning competitors. This happens every Friday and Saturday night at Kianti's Pizza & Pasta Bar, and it's exactly the sort of vibrant, festive atmosphere that owners Kelly Kissee and Tracy Parks-Barber wanted to create when they founded the restaurant in 2004.
Applause-inducing entertainment aside, the main goal of the servers and the chefs is to treat their guests to family-style Italian cooking and routine high fives. Diners can customize their own personal pizzas by adding as many as 30 different toppings?including everything from italian sausage and garlic to mushrooms and almonds?before the chefs bake each pie to an oven-crisped golden brown. Additionally, the menu features hearty sub sandwiches, pasta dishes smothered with garlic cream sauce, and hand-formed meatballs.
Husband-and-wife owners Joe and Georgette Hammana developed a knack for restauranteering while working in the family restaurant in Beirut, Lebanon. After immigrating to the United States, the duo opened Joe’s Pizza & Subs, which serves New York–style pizza pies and more than 50 sandwiches and burgers. The menu, which contains many of Georgette’s original recipes and grade-school report cards, offers something for everyone, from specialty pizzas to vegan and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Redwood Pizzeria bakes up a savory menu of circle-centric eats, all crafted with organic pizza toppings, sauce, and dough. Edible architects can draft their own slices with a wealth of formidable pizza materials, including meaty toppings and locally sourced produce, and those drawing an artistic blank can opt for Redwood's savory specialty pies, such as the Greek, which dons a delectable dusting of feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts ($11.99/small). For less Euclidean cravings, Redwood boasts an eclectic assortment of hot baked dishes, including nachos ($7+), calzones ($9+), and organic vegetarian lasagna, which lets tired tongues make tasty base camp on layers of noodles, spinach, red onions, and zucchini before their ascent to its cheesy summit ($12). A selection of beers and local wines is also on hand to equip throats for lengthy conversations on the philosophical conundrums of beet canning.
Santa Cruz Pizza Company's devoted discus artistes rise each morning to stir their secret-recipe sauce, craft their made-from-scratch dough, and then unite them to build an assorted menu of sumptuous pies. Regale ravenous tongue buds with the salami, pepperoni, sausage, and canadian bacon symphony that tops the meat combo pizza ($17.97 for an 11" pie), or aim lower on the food chain with the mushroom, artichoke, pesto sauce, and garlic ensemble that headlines the Garden Pesto Delight ($14.75 for an 11” pie). All large pies can be ordered in take-and-bake form ($3 off the menu price), granting oven enthusiasts and those plagued by spontaneous cheese cravings a greater amount of pizza autonomy. Chicago deep-dish and gluten-free options sate cravings for alternative crusts, and items such as the philly cheesesteak ($7.50) and the tuna sandwich ($6.50) raise the oft-overlooked banner for noncircular comestibles.