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.
The top brass twisters at Auntie Anne's, one of the world's largest hand-rolled, soft-pretzel franchises, create enough twirly treats every year to wrap the earth in deliciously salted dough three times over. Pretzel professionals prepare a wide array of sweet and salty snacks, spiraling them into ornate knots with the delicacy of a grandmotherly sailor and baking them to golden brown in full view of customers. A plain pretzel offers a satisfyingly simple snack, while sacchariferous ingredients such as cinnamon sugar and toasted-almond toffee make tongues sweat with anticipation. Mouths will mambo to the Mediterranean flavors of the garlic pretzel, a perfect treat to submerge into a dunk tank of marinara or one of the other available dipping sauces. Or, sample slender tubewiches swathed in the warm embrace of pretzel dough with signature pretzel dogs. Pair braided bites with a chalice of lemonade or a frozen ICEE drink, both of which pack a flavorful punch that’s more refreshing than a brisk morning run that successfully evades a pursuing snow leopard.
The resident chefs at Bella Notte Pizza Pasta and More hand-toss the pizza dough that lays the foundation for their menu of specialty pies and Italian cuisine. Diners can easily view dough-tossing displays from the dining room, allowing them to take in the scene and maintain the eye contact necessary for telekinetically willing a pizza into being. Nibble on Bella Notte’s distinctive creations, such as the tutti casa (16", $25), which sets anchovies afloat on top of zesty veggies, pepperoni, and sausage. Create-your-own-pizza menus (18", $15) set out a spread of ingredients including fresh tomato, hot peppers, meatballs, roasted red peppers, and pineapple, allowing for a democratized dining experience. Sandwiches, including the Chicago-style roast beef ($7.99) loaded with mushrooms and provolone, satisfy handheld hunger pangs.
Since the first Friendly's opened in 1935, staff members have been serving up hand-crafted ice cream in scoops, cones, and sundaes alongside juicy beef burgers crowned with crisp lettuce and tomatoes. Now with locations spanning the United States, Friendly's has come a long way from its first modest shop in Massachusetts, which sold double-dip cones for 5 cents. Today, servers scoop ice cream in classic flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry and dish out new twists on the favorites, including Fribble soft-serve shakes and Friend-z ice-cream desserts whipped with toppings such as Oreos, Butterfingers, and Reese's peanut-butter cups. They also top crisp belgian waffles with scoops of ice cream and hot caramel and fill dishes with new ice-cream flavors such as Vienna Mocha Chunk and Rockin' Poppin' Cotton Candy.
Behind the grills, cooks build big beef burgers such as the Vermonter with melted vermont white cheddar and maple-pepper bacon on a toasted ciabatta roll. Healthier options include meals under 555 calories, such as the sweet and spicy grilled shrimp over rice pilaf and the chicken-caprese sandwich.
As live music reverberates through the elegant dining area and lounge, plates of contemporary and classic Asian dishes parade out from the kitchen. Sushi knives chop up fresh fish into specialty maki rolls, sashimi, and nigiri; grills sizzle up rib-eye teriyaki; and pots simmer with piquant curries. Patrons cheers to a full bar of specialty cocktails, wine, beer, and saki, sipping at the sushi-bar seating as they watch the chefs slice and dice, or relaxing at tabletops lining the sleek dining room, piano lounge, and outdoor patio. Further entertaining the senses, the restaurant hosts live performers each night, who are only sometimes coin-operated chimps playing miniature cymbals.
Sakura Japanese Cuisine traffics in time-tested Japanese dishes. Sushi dinners highlight chef-selected sampler platters and old-fashioned hand rolls, some of which are crafted with ingredients that are rarely seen stateside, such as plum paste and a fermented-soybean delicacy known as natto. Chefs also whip up traditional entrees, including lightly fried vegetable tempura, shrimp teriyaki with miso soup, and hibachi-grilled steak. They even make authentic sukiyaki hot pots, which come accompanied by morsels of beef or chicken that you cook right at the table—just like anything served at that restaurant on sun.