Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
BGR The Burger Joint’s burgers start with high-quality ingredients—most importantly, all-natural beef from grain-fed cattle, free to run in the fields and given zero hormones, fillers, or antibiotics. The prime beef is dry-aged, blended, and ground fresh to form patties that are grilled over an open flame, and then placed atop buttery, locally made brioche buns delivered fresh each day. The menu focuses on the Legendary Burger, which includes gourmet toppings such as avocado, applewood bacon, and grilled jalapenos. For nonbeef eaters, the menu's selection of burgers also includes turkey and veggie varieties, as well as The Greek, a seasoned lamb patty topped with tzatziki and feta. Burgers are also available in a lettuce wrap or on a salad in a healthy salad bowl.
Diners can request all of BGR The Burger Joint's freshly made fries—from thick-cut yukon gold potatoes to asparagus fries—be topped with parmesan, rosemary, roasted garlic, or a tiny tiara. The staff hand-spins shakes with Gifford's or Breyers ice cream to create extra-thick treats for finishing off meals, and some shops curate their own selection of bottled vintage sodas and offer beer and wine.
The Melting Pot transforms date nights and friendly outings into rich, sensory experiences by gathering diners around communal pots of fondue and adorning their tables with sumptuous four-course feasts of cheese, salad, chocolate, and steakhouse fare. Bubbling pots of emmentaler, lager-laced cheddar, and creamy fontina quell urges to engage in skewer swordfights as guests eagerly dip and slather slices of crisp granny-smith apples or crusts of artisanal bread. Creamy peppercorn ranch and decadent burgundy-shallot vinaigrette drape plates of crispy salad greens and roma tomatoes before servers parade out the pièce de résistance—fresh shrimp, sesame-crusted ahi, and succulent slices of filet mignon that bathe in roiling pools of coq au vin and bourguignonne. As a tasty digestif, dessert-savvy diners coat brownies, marshmallows, and unlucky car keys in cauldrons of milk, dark, and white chocolate.
With locations in six states, 16 Handles is carving out a delicious space for itself in the self-serve frozen-yogurt world. In addition to rewarding customers’ cravings with a rotating daily selection of 16 flavors—each packed with protein, probiotics, and calcium—the healthy-dessert emporium sets itself apart from its competitors through its eco-friendly practices. 16 Handles not only arms its patrons with biodegradable cups and spoons crafted from cornstarch, but it also works with Trees for the Future, an organization that assists global communities in growing trees for agriculture, food, and animal habitat. Through their partnership, 16 Handles has planted 91,284 trees so far, one-quarter of which grow frozen yogurt instead of leaves.
Potomac Pizza?s chefs toss and stretch fluffy, nonfat, and cholesterol-free dough into pizzas lauded by the Washington Post for ?returning pizza to its good name? in a world of national chains. The DC-area pizzerias create each pie with freshly-made sauce and a selection of 24 toppings, such as grilled chicken, eggplant, feta cheese, and Canadian bacon. Potomac Pizza?s kitchens also whip up calzones, and other Italian specialties such as lasagna and veal parmesan, served in Potomac?s dining rooms or nestled into boxes for takeout and delivery orders.
Working together with his son Areen, Classic Bakery owner Rubic Movsessian handcrafts cakes, cupcakes, and pastries with recipes passed down through the family for more than 50 years. He bakes three-layer cakes from scratch and offers 40 yellow-cake flavors, such as bourbon vanilla, five sponge-cake flavors, such as marble, and 35 fillings in the likes of oreo cream and fresh mixed fruit. With this vast array of ingredients and the help of arrow-toting cherubs, he also constructs elaborate customized wedding cakes. In addition, he slaps deli cuts of salami, ham, or roast beef between bread and pours steaming cups of armenian coffee and espressos, serving more than 15 sandwiches and an equal number of drinks.