Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
BGR The Burger Joint?s burgers start with high-quality ingredients?most importantly, all-natural beef from grain-fed cattle, free to run in the fields and given zero hormones, fillers, or antibiotics. The prime beef is dry-aged, blended, and ground fresh to form patties that are grilled over an open flame, and then placed atop buttery, locally made brioche buns delivered fresh each day. The menu focuses on the Triple D burger topped with an over easy egg, apple wood smoked bacon, grilled jalapeno and cheddar cheese. For nonbeef eaters, the menu's selection of burgers also includes turkey and veggie varieties, as well as The Greek, a seasoned lamb patty topped with tzatziki and feta. Burgers are also available in a lettuce wrap or on a salad in a healthy salad bowl.
Diners can request all of BGR The Burger Joint's freshly made fries?from thick-cut yukon gold potatoes to asparagus fries?be topped with parmesan, rosemary, roasted garlic, or a tiny tiara. The staff hand-spins shakes with Gifford's or Breyers ice cream to create extra-thick treats for finishing off meals, and some shops curate their own selection of bottled vintage sodas and offer beer and wine.
The Melting Pot transforms date nights and friendly outings into rich, sensory experiences by gathering diners around communal pots of fondue and adorning their tables with sumptuous four-course feasts of cheese, salad, chocolate, and steakhouse fare. Bubbling pots of emmentaler, lager-laced cheddar, and creamy fontina quell urges to engage in skewer swordfights as guests eagerly dip and slather slices of crisp granny-smith apples or crusts of artisanal bread. Creamy peppercorn ranch and decadent burgundy-shallot vinaigrette drape plates of crispy salad greens and roma tomatoes before servers parade out the pièce de résistance—fresh shrimp, sesame-crusted ahi, and succulent slices of filet mignon that bathe in roiling pools of coq au vin and bourguignonne. As a tasty digestif, dessert-savvy diners coat brownies, marshmallows, and unlucky car keys in cauldrons of milk, dark, and white chocolate.
Potomac Pizza?s chefs toss and stretch fluffy, nonfat, and cholesterol-free dough into pizzas lauded by the Washington Post for ?returning pizza to its good name? in a world of national chains. The DC-area pizzerias create each pie with freshly-made sauce and a selection of 24 toppings, such as grilled chicken, eggplant, feta cheese, and Canadian bacon. Potomac Pizza?s kitchens also whip up calzones, and other Italian specialties such as lasagna and veal parmesan, served in Potomac?s dining rooms or nestled into boxes for takeout and delivery orders.
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 restaurants number over 34,000 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 nutrition information and fastest mile time online.
History is built into The Flaming Pit Restaurant & Piano Lounge building—literally. The historic building was constructed back in the 19th century before it transitioned into a tavern in the 1940s and an Italian restaurant in the late 1970s. Now, the landmark eatery—nestled on the "The Great Road," which travels from the tobacco port of Georgetown through Montgomery county—plays host to lively piano-bar acts every night of the week (7:30 p.m.–11 p.m.) as diners sing along while enjoying upscale homestyle cuisine. Savory meats, such as roasted prime rib and filet mignon, and seafood platters, such as Alaskan king-crab legs and Australian lobster are accompanied by housemade bread and a tossed salad while desserts are baked fresh in the restaurant's onsite bakery instead of over a backyard tire fire.
Even though The Flaming Pit building has a colorful past, it doesn’t show its age because most of the building is new. Still, diners can easily be taken back to the building’s past by gazing at the stone fireplaces, barroom arches, and second-story windows, which double as time-machine portals.