Open since 1945, Elmer's Doghouse has been a haven for generations of diners looking for cold brews, hot meals, and a set of familiar faces to enjoy them with. At this casual neighborhood spot, the kitchen staff still dishes out burgers, pizzas, and steak dinners lit by the neon glow of beer signs. On Monday nights, these meals emerge amid the tuneful clatter of the bar’s acoustic open mic, refueling audiences and musicians alike. Other musical entertainments include karaoke nights and live bands, who often coax diners into dancing or just giving them a bite of their food.
Inside a little shop or on a spacious patio, Wee-Dees serves classic American fast food for lunch and dinner. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and fries populate the menu beside gyros cloaked in pita pockets. In balmy weather, patrons can munch their burgers and dogs outside at picnic tables, each shaded by red and white umbrellas and a guard of zeppelins.
Before buying his own restaurant, Mario DeMarco spent 10 years in the imported Italian-food business, and his experience with high-quality ingredients is evident throughout the menu at Mario’s Pizza, Pasta & More. Fresh pasta is used in every pasta dish, breadsticks are made from scratch, and imported prosciutto fills paninis along with high-quality, extra-virgin olive oil. Pizzas come in varying styles, from thin crust to deep dish, and can be customized with flavorful toppings such as italian sausage, fresh garlic, and artichokes. And as the sister restaurant of Salt Creek BBQ, Mario’s serves Salt Creek's rib slabs and hand-pulled pork sandwiches.
Fox's Restaurant & Pub first propped open its doors in 1964, welcoming diners with an extensive menu that eventually grew to encompass comfort foods from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to familiar Irish staples—including corned-beef sandwiches and shepherd's pie—the cooks sear 10-ounce hamburger patties and slather baby-back ribs in a rich barbecue sauce. For a distinctly Mediterranean touch, they also hand-form meatballs into perfect dodecahedrons and whisk together their own marinara sauces in-house. The pizza chefs can layer oven-crisped pies with more than 10 available toppings, such as giardiniera, sausage, and chopped garlic.
Select locations help to keep spirits high by hosting live music and restaurant-wide games of musical chairs throughout the week. Bands can get diners' toes tapping and heads bobbing by playing a combination of lively Irish classics and popular favorites.
The aesthetically inclined chefs at Swordfish special order fish from overseas, then compose the fresh fillets into a variety of grilled entrees, sashimi, and artfully presented sushi. Colorful sauces and garnishes accent the gentle pastels of seafood dishes, and crunchy golden sprinkles attract desperate leprechauns from the tops of rolls such as the calamari tempura.
Swordfish's bartenders pour out warm sake or line stemware with one of the house's wines or signature martinis, encouraging the swelling sounds of conversation during evening dinners or weekday happy hours. The sounds of mingling patrons bounce off of the dining room's crimson walls, adorned with contemporary murals and artwork, as the crackling fireplace emits tendrils of heat.
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.