At Karsh’s Bakery, a knife won’t come near your bread until you order it—point-of-sale slicing keeps loaves as fresh as possible. It’s exactly that sort of dedication to quality that has kept Karsh’s in business for more than 50 years. In fact, since the business opened in the 1960s, not much has changed, at least not when it comes to the friendly service or the kosher baked goods. Locals flock to Karsh's for the rye bread, which comes in several varieties, including seeded, unseeded, and marbled. Behind the counter, staff box kaiser rolls, crescent rolls, and bagels 13 to the dozen, and top party trays with treats such as scones, napoleons, cookies, rugalach, and eclairs. Of course, the bakers always keep a number of fresh-baked, 7", german chocolate, carrot, and raspberry delight cakes on hand for impromptu celebrations and food fights, while custom cakes can be ordered to help mark a birthday, wedding, anniversary, or other special occasion.
The bright desert sun has barely risen over Phoenix when Sharon Beatty unlocks the door of her shop, smiling as she imagines the colorful cupcakes she is about to bake. The cake-decorator spends the entire morning preparing fresh cupcakes for the day, topping the warm cakes in playful swirls of fudge, buttercream, and cream-cheese frosting. Her imaginative cupcakes were lauded by Az Food Magazine as having "a sweet filling that compliments the cake flavor."
By noon, customers amble in and out of the sunlit shop, ordering salted-caramel, chocolate-peanut-butter-cup, and amaretto cupcakes by the dozens. Sharon also custom designs specialty cakes for all occasions. Shoppers can choose from an elegant, flowery tower to celebrate a wedding or a detailed map of Nebraska to remind them where they buried their collection of half-dollar coins.
In 1997, friends Dena Tripp and Debra Shwetz set out to create a luscious, melt-in-your-mouth bundt cake. What began as an endeavor in their own home kitchens soon blossomed into a bustling business with bakeries in 13 states. Rich cocoa browns and soft pastels lend a nostalgic feel to each bakery, where every day lava-powered ovens warm up batter made from fresh eggs, real butter, and cream cheese. Flavors such as chocolate chocolate chip, pecan praline, and white-chocolate raspberry remain constants on the menu, and a new flavor makes a guest appearance each month. Cakes come in several sizes, from the standard 8- or 10-inch bundt to the single-serving bundtlet and the bite-size bundtini, all frosted with a signature blend of cream cheese and butter.
Like James Bond disguised as a plowman, Vovomeena achieves an appealing balance of rustic and suave. Disassembled wooden boxes zig-zag across the wall and cords of rope, strung from floor to ceiling, cordon off the tables. And the wall installation consisting of beakers, chains, and tubes holding dark liquid isn't really decor at all: it's the coffee brewing system, letting Mornin' Moonshine beans?and, often, spices such as cardamom?slowly drip through to be served the next day, following a Japanese cold-brew system that extracts as much mellow flavor as possible from the beans.
The menu also fancifies classic morning treats. The corn and chili johnnycakes, for example, don't come with plain maple syrup?they sport a prickly-pear-flavored variant. The banana-bread-pudding french toast gets its sweetness and its bite from whiskey caramel, and you can add a Portuguese donut to anything on the menu. The B.M.O.C. stacks up these and about half the rest of the menu, including a huge smoked pork chop, a waffle, and a couple of eggs. Many dishes nod to their Southwestern setting with touches such as the "excellent spicy and moist chorizo," as a Phoenix New Times review put it.
Although it often opens before the sunrise to serve morning commuters scones and other baked treats, Vovomeena isn't strictly a breakfast joint. Weekdays also offer a handful of sandwiches stuffed with bacon, grilled chicken, or other, tinier sandwiches.
When asked how to make a great cupcake, Sweet Jonez Rocking Cupcakes founder Jasmine Crowe doesn't list the ingredients—though she uses fresh strawberries and Hershey's chocolate—or brag how every one of her sweet treats is made from scratch. "Every single time we go in [the kitchen], we have music," she says. "We listen to oldies. We feel good while we're making the cupcakes."
Music and cupcakes are a natural pairing for Jasmine. She hails from a musical family ("My sister's name is Marley, after Bob Marley," she says) and she's always loved to bake. Good vibrations permeate every aspect of her business. When she and her friendly staff bring their cupcake truck to events such as birthdays and bar mitzvahs, they play crowd-pleasing hits such as Prince’s “Purple Rain,” a perfect soundtrack for eating one of the bakery’s grape-soda-infused Prince cupcakes. All of their creations have musical names, such as the Elvis, topped with Reese's Pieces, and the Chuck Berry, for which Jasmine uses two dozen strawberries for every one dozen cupcakes.
More than 100 varieties pack the bakery’s flavor roster, including cocktail cupcakes infused with spirits, and Extreme cupcakes such as the buffalo-chicken cupcake, topped with blue-cheese frosting. And even when being served from a rolling kitchen, cupcake catering orders look as good as they taste. "Service and presentation is everything for us," she says.
At more than 2,600 stores in more than 30 countries, Dunkin' Donuts serves coffee and iced beverages, fresh-baked donuts and desserts, and savory breakfast sandwiches. Since Bill Rosenberg opened the first location in Quincy, MA, in 1950, the donut shop has blossomed into a one-stop coffee and breakfast restaurant familiar to millions of morning rushers and afternoon sippers.
Behind the counter of each location, glazed french crullers twist and curve like Parisian city streets, and Bavarian Kreme donuts are filled with a sweet, golden custard. A cavalcade of meats is available for piling onto breakfast sandwiches, such as sausage, cherrywood-smoked bacon, or ham enveloped with fluffy eggs and melty cheese between a choice of crisp crusts. Health-conscious risers can fuel strenuous bouts of lifting cars in the drive-thru line with a Wake-Up wrap, which offers options such as egg whites with turkey sausage or veggies that add up to as few as 150 calories. Both sweet and savory selections pair well with a freshly brewed cup of coffee or a creamy, frozen Coolatta drink.
Though commuters can snag a quick pick-me-up within minutes, the wafting aromas of baking confections invite patrons to sit inside and embark on nostalgic reminiscences of syrup-coated playground slides. Beyond the bakery walls, the company aims for social responsibility with its support of community volunteer efforts and use of 100% fair-trade-certified espresso beans.