So established is Circle K that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for—fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.
After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Café, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including Ball Park hot dogs. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with Premium Coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.
While the walls’ crimson mosaic tiles glitter in the sunlight that filters in through large windows, CherryBerry’s guests pump out rotating flavors of frozen yogurt and lounge on puffy, mod-style furniture. With each creamy bite, it becomes more evident that the yogurt was made from all-natural ingredients: the strawberry contains tiny chunks of fruit, and the chocolate’s rich flavor could never have come from a powdered mix.
With more than 50 fruit, nut, and candy options overflowing from its bins and canisters, the topping bar plays home to fresh berries and healthful granola as well as candy-coated chocolates and sprinkles. Like a tag-team dance-off at the U.N., the yogurt itself features four types of live and active cultures, all of which aid in digestion. Low-fat, fat-free, and gluten-free flavors abound, as do sorbet options with no dairy and Splenda-sweetened yogurts with no added sugar.
Attempts to sip a cupcake up a straw rarely succeed, but the staff of The Cupcake Lounge encourages customers to try with their Cherry Limeade cupcake. The confection is made of a lime-infused cake base topped with whipped cherry frosting and comes garnished with a lime slice and a tiny straw.
This drink-inspired treat is one of only 10 cupcake flavors the shop stocks daily. The rest of the menu is a rotation of funkier flavors, including a banana cupcake with a Hershey’s Kiss hidden inside and crowned with peanut-butter frosting. For further sweet treats, diners can nibble at an array of cookies or sip espresso creations infused with amaretto, hazelnut, and other flavors. The bakery also caters to sweet teeth with classes that teach students how to adorn a cake without just stacking another cake on top of it.
Tin ceilings hover above the weathered plaster and brick walls of Two Olives Café, whose rustic, old-world character is bolstered by exposed ventilation pipes that run the length of the room. The founder of the café, Tricia Henderson, designed the room to reflect the history of the area, mounting black-and-white photographs to offer guests a more explicit glimpse into the past.
In the kitchen, fresh chicken salad is laced with apples, grapes, and almonds, giving it a sweet, tart crunch that makes it the most popular sandwich on the menu and the expected winner of next year's prom court. Ham, salami, and olive salad stack the muffaletta sandwich, and housemade chipotle dressing adds a subtle smokiness to the otherwise classic caesar salad.
At Harry Bear's, chefs hand-shape Black Angus beef into thick burgers, grill them to order, and slather them with homemade hickory sauce. For dessert, they dunk plump peach slices into the deep fryer, and then sprinkle the crispy crescents with cinnamon and sugar. Harry Bear?s matches these quintessentially American dishes with an equally patriotic dining room?blue walls sport stenciled stars, as well as vintage Coca Cola signs, teddy bears, and a collection of baseball memorabilia. Dining companions can also turn their attention toward flat-screen TVs if games of napkin peekaboo lose their appeal.
The dairy aficionados at Rusty's Frozen Custard create icy, slowly churned goodies crafted so thick that customers are even encouraged to turn their treats upside down to fully appreciate their density. Luscious custards coat tongues in classic flavors of vanilla or strawberry, and when dunked into fountain drinks, create bubbly floats. Sundaes and shakes, meanwhile, can be outfitted with more than 35 toppings, including Oreo pieces, Nerds, or M&M's. Rusty’s crew also excels at making specialty drinks, such as lattes and low-fat smoothies, which can be enjoyed while relaxing on outdoor seating.