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 Caesar's location, a then-unheard-of carryout-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 pie designed for instant pick-up, 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 its own charitable programs.
Papa Murphy’s, the highest-ranking pizza chain in the 2010 Zagat Fast-Food Survey, serves up a tasty menu of handmade take 'n’ bake pizzas made from dough, cheese, meat, and veggies that are freshly prepared every day. After customers choose their pie, Papa Murphy's slice-slingers build the pizza in-store and package it for customers to bake at home in the oven, in a pottery kiln, or over a pile of burning cookbooks. Customers can select any family-sized signature pizza, including the Cowboy piled with pepperoni, italian sausage, mushrooms, and black olives, or the gourmet vegetarian, which bears an herbivorous cornucopia including spinach, zucchini, artichoke hearts, and more. A pound of cookie dough speckled with Hershey's chocolate chips blossoms into crisp melty discs in the oven, which can be munched on after dinner or tossed at neighborhood kids attempting to steal leftover pizza slices.
Built in 1939, Commodore Hotel & Café has been charming visitors for more than seven decades with high ceilings, crown moldings, and elegant décor. The front lobby's chandeliers reflect their light in a spacious mirror above a crackling fireplace, around which red armchairs huddle to warm their feet. Heavy wooden armoires, plush chairs, and elegant décor typify standard rooms. The jacuzzi king room's sumptuous gold bedspread invites travelers to springboard off plush oriental throw rugs into the spacious sleeper, and elegant white trim accents a deep floral print and exposed brick. The business center outfits office-minded guests with a fax, printer, and computer, and WiFi allows travelers to chronicle their stylish lodgings on the company blog. Travelers can also make pit stops at the adjacent café to munch on breakfast, eclectic lunch offerings, and elegant dinners (not included with today's Groupon) or feed ravenous ears during live music events.
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 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop’s reputation grew, and 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, peanut butter with M&M’s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
Vittone’s slings dough by the disk and noodles by the nest to Decatur and Huntsville-area residents, serenading Alabamian taste buds with traditional Italian fare. Hone dairy origami skills with a gooey cheese calzone ($4.58) or exact ocular revenge on the moon with a lunar eye-hitting pizza pie, such as the Benzina, mounded with meaty pepperoni, italian sausage, bacon, ham, hamburger, and shredded cheeses ($8.03 for a small or $17.22 for a large). The eternally changing dessert menu silences the shrieks of banshee sweet teeth, and garlic breadsticks ($2.30) provide the perfect weaponry for pretend sword fights.