In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers' market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,500 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options, such as the Pepperoni Pretzel and eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs or slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including Frozen Lemonade Mixers.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. They also reach out to local communities through fundraising opportunities.
Back in 1994, the proprietors of Phillippi's traveled to Arnold, PA, to buy a 70-year-old secret pizza recipe from a mysterious couple known as Lefty and Mooney. Today, this exclusive formula is used with housemade dough and fresh, housemade sauce to create Birdville pizzas, named for Natrona Heights' former moniker. As special blends of cheeses bubble atop baking pies, cooks deftly grill up Black Angus burgers, stack hoagies with meatballs, and crisp ironically flightless buffalo wings in the trans-fat-free deep fryer.
Zottola’s Pub & Eatery specializes in evening entrees, serving up a dinner menu stocked with European-inspired dishes and delicious desserts. Coronate a feast with friends using an order of PEI mussels ($11) before savoring a tongue-tingling house favorite, such as three-cheese or beef ravioli, served slathered in a special tomato-herb sauce that sets the bar of aspiration for newborn tomatoes ($13), or wrestle the broiled wild haddock away from a shark and savor the delicate flavor of sweet, sea-caught victory ($16). Each dinner entree comes with a house salad and chef's side of the day. For lighter eating, try a pub sandwich, such as the asiago chicken, which combines chicken, bread, cheese, and awesome for a handheld feast ($8.25), or an old-time pub burger—a half-pound patty of hand-formed ground beef cooked to order and dropped straight onto your appetite ($8.50).
At Ladles Restaurant, sandwiches layered on homemade syrian bread form foundations of comfort-fare feasts augmented by Italian entrees and served within a quaint storefront setting. Diners can plunge into Ladles' signature soups or seas of sweet-potato fries ($3.99) before sailing to the savory shores of the grilled Caprese panini ($7.29), where fresh Roma tomatoes and mozzarella cheeses mingle amid delicate olive-oil drizzle. Main courses of chicken cutlets ($12) or grilled bone-in pork chops ($13.99) simmered in an apple-potato hash ensure all sizes of appetites attain satiation. The aromas of eight specialty pizzas waft over the Arnold location’s country-kitchen styled dining room, tempting diners to sample the pizza con funghi’s ($8.00) mushroom-topped surface nose-first.
Inside the historic Tarentum station, JG's chefs colonize unexplored stomachs with a menu of upscale American cuisine. Coated in seasoned butter and chucked into a cast-iron skillet, the Pittsburgh-style new york strip steak conceals a deliciously pink core far below the flavorful, charred crust ($21.99). The cedar salmon, seasoned with oriental spice, broils atop the very cedar plank on which it was caught snoozing, buttressed by a side of ginger and plum wine relish ($16.99). To create the shrimp louie, sacrificial artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers simmer in garlic butter and lobster sauce beneath a blanket of crab meat ($18.99). Twin center-cut pork chops come slathered in a mushroom and roasted shallot demi-glace ($17.99), and the chicken gabrielle casts tasty chunks of sautéed bird into a sea of mustard and marsala wine sauce with sundried tomatoes and pine nuts ($16.99).
During the last three decades, Charley’s has shuffled up standard decks of carbs in a fresh, innovative fashion. Though the soul of Charley’s spawns from the beefy abyss of the signature cheesesteak sandwiches ($4.59–$8.99), the entire menu is flavorfully filled to capacity with delicious grilled combinations (prices vary by location). The chicken teriyaki sandwich ($4.89–$9.29) is quaint for a stomach sublet, while the Italian deli deluxe carnivorously conquers with a bed of pepperoni, ham, turkey, provolone, and generous dustings of Italian seasoning ($4.59–$8.99). Diners can load their gastronomic cargo-carriers with a combo meal, complete with Charley's famously crisp fries ($1.79–$1.89 for a regular order), or ascend a mountain of abominably coated fries featuring cheddar, ranch, and bacon