Matthew Corrin was fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's marketing manager, which meant a lot of long hours at work and a lot of hurried lunches at local delis. After his umpteenth greasy sandwich, Corrin began wondering why there weren't more healthy and convenient lunch alternatives. This rumination and a resignation letter to de la Renta begot Freshii, a fast, casual eatery that serves healthy meals and has graced the pages of various publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Inc.'s 30 Under 30 list. Environmental awareness also plays a big part in the business model—even the food packaging is made from eco-friendly vegetable starches.
Every Freshii kitchen is stocked with base ingredients of brown rice, rice noodles, romaine lettuce, field greens, and spinach; toppings such as carrots, broccoli, grilled tofu, and candied walnuts; and an array of dressings and sauces. Using these ingredients, the chefs create bowls, wraps, salads, soups, and burritos for lunch and dinner. During morning hours, when the sun is still busy curling its rays, they scramble eggs, serve house-made oatmeal, and top fat-free frozen yogurt with a choice of fruit. Customers can bring their own bowls and the staff will wash them and fill them with fresh ingredients hailing from environmentally responsible farms that fairly compensate their workers.
As Pierogies Plus's chefs filter into the kitchen early each morning, they peek at the vast pot of potatoes they left to boil overnight, making sure each spud is tender and ready to tuck inside their signature dumplings. The multigenerational kitchen staff—some of whom have been making pierogies for four, five, or seven decades—roll out rounds of dough and top them with sauerkraut, kielbasa, potatoes, and other fillings, following a special recipe espoused by Food Network chef Bobby Flay. Then chefs center each dollop of filling, hand pinch the pierogies into scallop-edged crescents until they cry uncle, and cook them until the dough turns golden. Pierogies Plus dishes out its eponymous treats and other Eastern European dishes both in its McKees Rocks storefront and in an online store, and caters special events, such as graduation parties and weddings.
It sounds strange, but Dan DiZio found the perfect pretzel machine hiding in a nondescript Florida garage. Once he saw it, he knew what he had to do. With help from his friend Len Lehman, DiZio hauled the equipment back to his native Philadelphia—where as a child he once sold homemade pretzels to his neighbors. He soon opened the original Philly Pretzel Factory. Today, nearly 15 years since first opening, Philly Pretzel Factory whips up fresh batches of secret-ingredient dough across 100 locations in eight states. The pretzels are twisted by hand into salted or cinnamon-sugar pretzels and pair with the shop's signature brand of mustard, or sweet blends of chocolate and butter-cream. The menu also tucks hot dogs and spicy sausages into pretzel rolls, and dusts salt on "rivets," or soft pretzel bites, which can top party trays or bind the masts of gravy boats.
Beach Kreations adorns necks, ears, and other style-seeking appendages with its earth-friendly recycled jewelry. Crafted from colorful beach-glass fragments and sterling-silver wires, the prismatic accessories come from the remnants of shattered beer bottles and other glass items that have been buffed smooth by wind, surf, and the tentacles of Lake Erie's malignant sea beasts. Luxe up lobes with lever-back earrings festooned with kelly-green teardrops ($27) or cobalt-blue pebbles ($34), or rig up wrists with a rubber stretch bracelet laced with three glass beads ($25–$27).
When Patrick Watt moved from Jamaica to the U.S. at age 13, he also transported his country's culinary traditions. These simmered in his mind throughout careers as a student, electrician, and truck driver, titles that the Reading Eagle reports he held before delving into the restaurant business. After cooking for three years in New York, he decided to channel his knowledge of Jamaican cuisine into a venue of his own: Higher Level Restaurant & Lounge. There, his brother Roger marinates meats in mild and spicy jerk sauces, such as the resident Jerk Dread, and assists Patrick when he doubles as boss and cook. The kitchen staff preps every meal—from oxtail stew to weekend red-snapper specials—from scratch. They deliver meats from the grill straight to dining-room tables, which are flanked by orange walls, artwork, and libations that diners can supply themselves, as long as they bring a receipt or a signed note from Dionysus.
Since its humble south Philadelphia beginnings in the 1990s, PrimoHoagies has quickly expanded throughout the region and garnered several awards on the strength of its cold-cut sandwiches, made with Thumann's brand of gourmet meats and cheeses. The shop's robust menu features dozens of specialty hoagies, many of which were created in-house rather than underwater, as is the industry norm. Sharp Italian hoagies teem with prosciutto and genoa salami, and pork Diablo hoagies marry Thumann's homestyle roasted pork with a blend of piquant spices.