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 Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. As the shop’s reputation grew, 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 and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies, and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real show-stoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
From Yogurtology’s self-serve frozen-yogurt stations, customers dispense frozen treats in fun flavors such as strawberry milkshake, red velvet cake, PB&J, chocolate macaroon, and flan. Sugar-conscious patrons can even find several flavors with no added sugars. Using their choice of fro-yo as a base, customers can create a personalized treat by combining multiple flavors or dispensing a single flavor in the shape of their monogram. The last leg of the yogurt-treat creation process happens at the toppings bar, where customers find a selection of hand-cut candy bars and fruit that is sliced throughout the day to ensure freshness.
Considering Juan and Alvaro Gorrin studied medicine and business, and went on to forge careers in real estate and banking, it's probably surprising to many that they found their ultimate success in a totally unrelated field: baking. The Gorrins, who were born in Spain but moved to Venezuela in their youth, found there was a demand for European-inspired baked goods in South America. They developed the Don Pan brand in Venezuela in 1982, and eventually relocated to Miami, where they opened their first North American bakery in 1995.
Today, their menu maintains distinctly Spanish and South American accents. A bounty of pastries includes guava danish and tres leches, as well as brazo gitano, a sponge cake rolled with chocolate or cream that's popular in both Spain and Venezuela, as well as the section of Canada that uses cake as currency. There are also plenty of savory menu items, including cachapas—corn pancakes served with meat or cheese—and Venezuelan-style tamales bursting with pork, beef, chicken, and veggies.
Founded by a husband-and-wife duo, Qachbal's Chocolatier draws on family recipes to whip up cupcakes, fudge, coffee, and sweet confections fresh on-site daily. Vanilla-bean cupcakes wear a crown of vanilla buttercream icing adorned with white-chocolate embellishments, which create an alabaster dessert more appetizing than a picket fence covered in whipped cream. Each bite of a chocolate-truffle cupcake unveils rivers of its eponymous filling, protected from a downpour of sprinkles by an umbrella of rich, dark ganache. Atop every sweet treat's summit, a rich chocolate slice pokes out from a delicate dollop of buttercream icing. All orders must be made two days prior to pickup, and customers can have their cakes custom decorated for birthdays, holidays, or daylight-savings transition days upon request. Qachbal's Chocolatier delivers to the downtown Tampa area and Tampa General Hospital for an additional charge.
One taste of the 24 rotating flavors of premium homemade gelato—including reliable standards of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and stracciatella, along with a bevy of other possibilities—and you will understand why public-service announcements insist that eating gelato is like tasting ice cream for the first time, every time. Unlike the black-market gelato dealers littering the streets with heaps of dishonorable fake frozens, the staff at Swirls uses the top-of-the-line Carpigiani equipment to make authentic, all-natural gelato with techniques learned from world-renowned gelato expert Luciano Ferrari. For an even-lighter frozen treat, the homemade soft-serve frozen yogurt is 98% fat free, and the sorbetto is fruitastically fresh.
La'Berry Frozen Yogurt Cafe has a sleek, self-service design to create a space all its own. Inside its green and purple confines, it houses 18 do-it-yourself dispensers that churn out swirls of frozen yogurt. Starting with recipes based on Dannon nonfat yogurt, La'Berry makes most of its froyo fresh in-house daily. Flavors such as milk chocolate, peanut butter, cake batter, cookies & cream, mango, and taro mix lay the groundwork for more than 80 toppings that include waffle cone pieces, blueberries, and tapioca pearls poached from free-range Candy Land oysters. Patrons can drizzle hot fudge or strawberry syrup over their desserts and still rest easy knowing that the treats contain fewer calories and more active cultures than ice cream. Alternatively, Chloe's Fruit Soft Serve—a dairy-, fat-, and gluten-free treat—tempts sweet tooths with but three ingredients: fresh fruit, filtered water, and a touch of organic cane sugar. Under the same roof, La'Berry Bistro caters to savory tastes with paninis, salads, sandwiches, and wraps.