Though the family-owned eatery traces its roots back nearly 60 years, its signature attraction spans a comparatively brief 30 minutes. The 18 Wheeler Challenge pits customers against the shop’s 2-pound bacon cheeseburger, half a pound of fries, and a large milkshake—they get half an hour to make it vanish. So far, only two have emerged from the challenge victorious—and one was a T-Rex—but either way participants walk away with a t-shirt. Though the pantheon of victors in the challenge is limited, countless patrons have successfully enjoyed the 18 Wheeler's menu siblings.
Since the Mudd family purchased Wheeler’s Handout, not much has changed. Their signature housemade burgers cost a bit more than $0.30 now, but the recipes and family’s commitment to service has been carried on with the work of Kathi, a member of the third generation who leads the staff. She and her team cook the family recipes for gourmet burgers and hot dogs, handmaking corn dogs, chili cheese fries, and milkshakes, malts, and floats.
At locations in more than a dozen states, U-Swirl delivers more than 40 flavors of frozen yogurt packed with live and active cultures and designed in low-fat, non-fat, and sugar-free varieties. Self-serve machines line the shop’s lime green walls, ready for customers to dispense heaping swirls of old favorites, such as cookie & cream and fruit sorbet, or seasonal innovations, including eggnog in the winter and fireworks in the summer. Next, patrons head to the toppings bar and crown their frozen treats with as much fresh fruit, cereal, and candy as they can handle before weighing cups and paying by the ounce.
Papa John's has been popping out perfectly personalized pies 'round the clock for more than 25 years, arranging a lineup of specialty pizzas and sides on a munificent menu. Patrons can bedeck dough disks with carnivorous confetti such as spicy italian sausage, bacon, and unlimited invisible meats; or build a basic hawaiian with ham and pineapple. Omnivores can record results from a grilled-chicken-and-green-pepper experiment on a napkin spreadsheet; veggie traditionalists can plant tongues on the savory flavors of artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. Like a popular club or an especially bangin’ fireplace store, Papa John's stays open late, making it an opportune place to stock up for impromptu pajama jams and uncontrollable sleep-feasting.
The chefs at La Belle Vie fuse gourmet European cuisine with northwest flair. Dinner begins with a sampling of hors d'oeuvres such as heirloom-tomato-encrusted bruschetta ($7), or an assortment of gourmet cheeses ($11) served alongside a baguette and a list of ransom demands to send to the moon. Entree selections include slow-cooked, smoky bison ribs ($24), slathered in bourbon-barbecue sauce with accompaniments of vegetables, fingerling potatoes, couscous, or fettuccini. Culinary artistes toss the chicken picatta ($16) in fettuccini with tomatoes, capers, and white-wine sauce, while they roast the moroccan chicken tagine ($21) in seasonings such as saffron, ginger, nutmeg, honey, and almonds. Although not included in the price of this Groupon, diners can glean wine-pairing suggestions from the menu, the serving staff, or from sentient napkins.
Founded by ice-cream enthusiasts Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone Creamery has grown to more than 1,400 locations across North America. Each day, the shop's scoopers mix up fresh batches of ice cream and sorbet, which are served by the scoop, piled high in sundaes, and blended into shakes. After customers choose their desired flavor, staffers toss the chilly sustenance upon a slab of frozen granite and fold in a smorgasbord of candy and nuts to achieve the ideal ice-cream-to-add-in ratio. Customers can dream up their own creations or opt for a signature masterpiece, sampling one of more than 11.5 million possible flavor combinations, which still await a brave conqueror to unlock them all. To accommodate sweets cravings at celebrations, staff members also dish out pre-made treats, such as ice-cream cakes and baked goods.
Though James and Laura Heiberg count chef Ryan Lancaster among their good friends, that wasn't why they hired him to man the griddles at John Doe’s Grill. Instead, the brother-sister team of restaurateurs recognized that Chef Ryan's experience as head chef at The Dish and Square would help him infuse plates of casual pub fare with surprising twists. Ingredients such as rosemary au jus, sun-dried tomatoes, and homemade red hot sauce bedeck John Doe's traditional sandwiches and burgers, which nestle into diner-style red plastic baskets lined with checkered paper. Three large-screen high-definition TVs broadcast sports games in keeping with the laid-back vibe, and a game room invites patrons to shoot darts and billiards between sips of beer or rounds of hot potato with sizzling-hot quesadillas.