More than 50 years go, Mike Ilitch was poised for major-league glory. An up-and-coming shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, his baseball finesse was blossoming when an injury derailed his sports career. But although the wound stunted his athletic aspirations, it steered him toward a new path, and on May 8, 1959, he and his wife opened the first Little Caesars location, a then-unheard-of carry-out-only joint. The career shift and novel technique eventually proved triumphant. Today, the pizzeria's iconic, toga-clad mascot adorns storefronts on five continents. In each shop, staffers forge the signature Hot-N-Ready pizza, a freshly baked pizza designed for instant pickup, and warm, garlicky Crazy bread. With a storied half century under their belt, Mike Ilitch and his family strive to give back, supporting local organizations and creating their own charitable programs.
At Blind Mule, cooks infuse the flavors of the South into their casual menu of burgers and bar fare. They infuse extra smokiness into Cajun classics such as shrimp and grits and red beans and rice with the addition of Conecuh sausage, and they jazz up sandwiches with flavorful flourishes such as blackening spice and house-made sauces. A sudsy selection of domestic, imported, and intergalactic brews is also available to temper the spiciness of their Southern specialties.
Blind Mule also boasts an upstairs stage that hosts live blues, folk, and fusion melodies on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. As guests' toes tap, they can bask in the eye-catching splendor of the venue's vintage music memorabilia and local art, which Mobile Bay magazine described in its list of great destinations for a night on the town.
Nestled in the heart of historic midtown Mobile, Ashland Midtown Pub catches the eyes of passersby with its pleasant open-air patio before ensnaring them with the irresistible wafting aromas of cheesy breadsticks, roasted garlic, and freshly baked pizzas and calzones. Once inside, guests perch upon cushy barstools, surrounded by colorful canvases and plates of piping-hot lasagna or fillets of ahi tuna and flaky blackened grouper. Diners polish off feasts of po’ boys or basil-and-bacon-crowned pizzas with frosty draft brews at the rustic, knotty-pine bartop. As they sup on meals of upscale pizzeria cuisine, patrons dance to the tunes of live musicians or enjoy the interior's fresh, clean air thanks to the pub's no-smoking and no-rudimentary-steam-engine policies.
Tempting taste buds for more than 30 years, Godfather's Pizza crafts mouthwatering pies composed of 100% fresh mozzarella, an array of robust meats and veggies, and three varieties of baked crust. Like frisbees, Godfather's pizzas ($8.99–$15.99 for one topping; additional charges for two or more toppings) are ideally suited for enjoying indoors or at the park and are even more satisfying for teeth than they are for hands. Each delicious disk can be made with original, thin, or golden—extra warm and buttery—crust and comes smothered in the eater's choice of eclectic toppings, including beef, mushrooms, jalapeño peppers, and anchovies.
The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to 100 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location's being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, grilled and deli-style hoagies are assembled and calzones and pizzas baked in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 100 microbrewed and imported beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's, Abita, and Dogfish Head are also featured in regular beer events.
Tucked behind Leinkauf Elementary School, La Pizzeria has been lauded by Press-Register food editor David Holloway as "one of the best-kept secrets" in town. He praises owner Todd Henson's balance between Italian classics—pastas with housemade sauces and calzones among them—and creative menu contributions. A list of character-inspired gourmet pizzas includes the garlic-infused Bela Lugosi and the Sherlock Holmes, a mystery order whose toppings are chosen by the chef and cooked beneath a carefully aimed magnifying glass. Strewn with white tablecloths and still-life paintings, the low-lit interior features one private table, where Henson wagers "we've had a hundred proposals of marriage … over the years."