To Yes Asia Cafe owners Nancy and Tiger Huynh, their business in America is the end of a long journey that began with their families' attempts to escape to the US from Vietnam. Despite multiple tries each year, Nancy's family was always turned back. "There were scary moments," she writes on the café's website, "and I'm glad it's over." Tiger's family was luckier, drifting into a safe harbor after seven days in a tiny boat.
Today at Yes Asia Cafe, both Huynhs celebrate the cuisine of their childhoods with a menu of traditional pan-Asian and Vietnamese dishes. Like a poorly calibrated compass, banh mi sandwiches fuse East and West, stuffing crusty french bread rolls with fillings such as curry chicken and cured pork. Succulent morsels of barbecue pork and grilled beef mingle with cilantro, mint, pickled veggies, and peanuts in rice and noodle bowls. And an impressive drink menu cleanses palates with jasmine teas and jackfruit smoothies.
Danny’s Cafe warmly serves what co-owner Carl Dote described as “Italian peasant food” on Danny’s Check, Please! feature. Their cooking aims to comfort, from generously stuffed artichokes to their signature fried-meatball sub. The hefty sandwich, highlighted on WGN, comes to fruition after staff members hand-form fresh meatball mix into patties and pile on fried peppers. Co-owner and chef Paula Dote told ABC’s “Hungry Hound” that when she and her husband bought the restaurant, she wanted to make exactly what she made at home, and indeed, she uses recipes from her mother and mother-in-law in all of her cooking and homemade volcano experiments. She ladles vodka sauce and crumbled sausage over homemade rigatoni, and layers provolone, parmesan, mozzarella, and ricotta in the four-cheese lasagna. Pork neck bones, one of Danny's more unique dishes, are served twice a week and praised by Hungry Hound for the tender meatiness resulting from hours spent simmering in spiced tomatoes. The eatery has also spawned relatives—appropriately named “Cuzzin’s Cafe”—that serve similar dishes in Des Plaines and Orland Park.
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 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
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. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.