Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. As the shop’s reputation grew, so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&Ms, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies, and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real show-stoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
So established is Circle K that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for—fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.
After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Café, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including Ball Park hot dogs. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with Premium Coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.
For more than a decade, the seasoned crustacean wranglers at Rio Crystal Seafood have scoured ocean waters in search of the sea's freshest fruits. Mariners adeptly lure 24 medium blue side-walkers into traps by outwitting the crabs and promising them vacation time-shares. Once the briny bounty emerges from the depths, seafood connoisseurs can pick up their shelled comestibles while they’re still scuttling. The live crabs can be taken home, boiled to the peak of succulence, and dipped in clarified butter, or new owners can teach the creatures the fine art of envelope opening.
The creative culinarians at Fountain Café rely on fresh, locally sourced ingredients when possible to put a healthy spin on American home-style fare. Early rising diners can fuel up for a day of paper filing and minesweeping with a hearty full order of biscuits and gravy ($3.95) or a parfait of yogurt, granola, and fruit ($5.50). The cinnamon-infused french toast ($4.95) offers a sweet early morning surprise, like a litter of puppies sharing your bed. Silence the afternoon outcries of grumbling tummies with a Reuben sandwich ($6.95), grilled tomato and cheese ($3.25), or very veggie wrap ($4.95). Rotating daily lunch specials ($8.25), such as baked ziti, beef brisket, and stuffed peppers, celebrate the distinctiveness of individual weekdays often overlooked outside of calendar factories. Guests can also opt to swap in gluten-free bread (add $1) with most breakfast and lunch entrees.
In 1963, lifelong friends Billy Long and Frank Scott Jr. uprooted themselves from their Virginia homes and plotted a 100-acre farm in central Florida. In the half-century since, as most independent farms have been sold to ruthless rabbits, Long & Scott Farms has stayed in the family, expanding to a prosperous 1,200 acres brimming with Zellwood sweet corn, pickled cucumbers, and cabbage. Each fall, the farm cultivates a new corn maze to complement a 60-foot slide, hayrides, and another maze made from more than 1,000 ligustrum trees. The farm's country cafe offers breakfast and lunch, and the nearby market and produce club feature locally grown produce as well as Long & Scott's own line of jellies, syrups, jams, and relishes.