Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
More than a dozen sauces simmer in the kitchen at Galileo’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, ready to top unsuspecting pasta with rich flavors. In addition to classic francese, marsala, and milanese preparations of chicken, veal, and seafood, the restaurant also prepares various heroes, wraps, and paninis. There's gourmet pizza, too, such as Galileo’s Special, whose pepperoni, sausage, peppers, and mushrooms aren’t yet convinced that the Earth is round. A wrought-iron lamp hangs over the dining room, where black-upholstered booths are flanked by walls painted a rich chocolate brown or inlaid with stones.
For some, the test of a good burger is how juicy its center remains after coming off the grill. For others, satisfaction correlates with the number of condiments the bun can hold. When Bella was a child, her test was simple: if the burger was good, it would make her hum a little song. At least that's the story Bella's father tells.
Today, the team at Bella’s Burger Shack aims to inspire that same musical urge in its patrons. The cooks primarily do so with grade-A, never-frozen Bella burgers, served on Martin's potato bread beside steaming sides of hand-cut fries. Signature bacon-wrapped and deep-fried dogs also whet customers' humming whistles, aptly washed down with Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned soda, always free of high-fructose corn syrup, or a creamy Bella milk shake.
Christopher and Melanie Romano’s kids have long loved the music, iPads loaded with games, and fun flavors of Let’s Yo! When they’d frequent their neighborhood outpost, they felt assured they were feeding their kids a healthier alternative to ice cream. "Even in the winter, my kids wanted to go," Christopher says. "They would have gone every day if I'd have let them."
When the couple decided they wanted to quit the corporate world and open a business, Let’s Yo! seemed like a natural fit. They soon opened up shop, where customers self-serve 18 all-natural, organic flavors brimming with live active cultures. The flavors rotate regularly, with varieties such as sea-salt-caramel pretzel, red velvet cupcake, and California tart. Next, guests pile on premium toppings such as Andes mints, mixed nuts, and Kashi cereal—as well as about 10 different types of syrups, including Reese's peanut-butter topping and mango syrup. The staff members get fresh-fruit deliveries daily, which they chop up or splice via laser vision.
Along with iPads loaded with the latest apps, Christopher outfitted the shop with a flat-screen TV and free WiFi. He chats regularly with the customers who swing by for a cup or stop in after the gym for a yogurt protein shake. And he says it's definitely a change of pace from his Wall Street job. "The hardest choice you have to make is what topping you want," he says.
At Nunzio's Pizzeria, pizza experts whip up more than 20 varieties of specialty pizzas with inventive topping combinations such as chicken and alfredo sauce or fresh mussels. In addition to pies, they extend their culinary expertise towards a variety of other pizzeria classics—including hot subs, calzones, and mozzarella sticks—as well as authentic Italian favorites like eggplant rollatini pasta and veal saltimboca. Diners can split these dishes on intimate tabletops in the sunny seating area, or opt for carryout service to enjoy pizza and ill-advised food juggling routines in the privacy of their own homes.
The savvy grill artisans at food. serve up a brunch menu of classic comfort dishes as well as unusual culinary creations using ingredients from such top-flight sources as Balthazar Bakery and Pat LaFrieda. Twosomes can sample the unconventional lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, which fulfills palate predilections with orzo pasta, white cheddar, poached lobster, and a drizzle of truffle oil (a $14 value), and the cookie-dough flapjacks eschew their typical flat existence for a sweet filling of baked chocolate-chip cookie dough (an $11 value). Brunch companions can escort morsels down their gullets with cups of Allann Bros. coffee (a $3 value each) or summon nostalgia by donning hoop skirts and coolly quaffing on a cherry coke (a $3 value each).