Now an international brand of premium ice cream, Häagen-Dazs began as a humble, family-owned business in the Bronx. In the 1920's, Reuben Mattus sold his mother's fruit ices and ice-cream pops out of a horse-drawn wagon. For decades, the family business thrived, and around 1960, Reuben officially founded Häagen-Dazs. He chose the name to evoke Old World traditions and quality craftsmanship, the bedrocks of the brand. Originally, the ice cream came in just three flavors—vanilla, chocolate, and coffee—made from fine ingredients gathered from around the world, such as Belgian dark chocolate, hand-picked vanilla beans from Madagascar, and ice shaved from lunar glaciers. The resulting confections so delighted sweet teeth that the brand grew exponentially, leading to the creation of dozens of flavors and forays into sorbets and frozen yogurts.
Though Häagen-Dazs ice cream was immensely popular in grocery shops, their first parlor didn't open until 1976. Not far from the Mattus family's original ice-cream beat, the Brooklyn store sold ice cream as well as treats such as sundaes, shakes, and cakes. Shops eventually dotted the country and globe, wherein friendly ice-cream scoopers fill waffle cones, blend frosty coffee and ice-cream drinks, and wrap ice-cream cakes in bright ribbons.
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.
Red Mango's frozen yogurt has been garnering national attention for more than five years, unlike that musician strumming away next to the foosball table in his basement. The shop earned a place atop Zagat's 2011 lists for Best Smoothie and Frozen Yogurt Chain and Best Healthy Options Among Quick Refreshment Chains. Red Mango showcases its award-winning reputation by dishing up all-natural and gluten-free yogurts—all of which are either low-fat or nonfat—that promote healthy digestive and immune systems with natural probiotics. Friendly staff members are always on hand to whip Ghirardelli dark chocolate, POM pomegranate juice, and seasonal pumpkin spice frozen yogurts into Stevia-sweetened smoothies or parfaits layered with organic granola and fruit. The toppings bar brims with crunchy cereal, cheesecake bits, and nuts, allowing creative customization.
At The Cupcake Factory, owner Missy Bristow bakes up delicious handheld treats, pies, and cakes for all occasions. Each day she fills the menu with set flavors, including red velvet, Reese’s, and chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing. She supplements these with daily specials of rotating flavors that range from carrot and cappuccino to strawberry, German chocolate, and Turtle. She also specializes in custom decorating for cakes, with previous artistic icing jobs that include superheroes, electric guitars, and 3D baby rattles.
While most of us sleep, Montego Cafe’s wings marinate overnight in a specially prepared jerk seasoning to perfectly spice tongues during the next day’s feasts. The chefs craft the rest of the café’s authentic and fusion Caribbean dishes with equal patience, sautéing gulf shrimp or white-meat chicken in a signature curry sauce and crowning Angus beef burgers named for Bob Marley with plantains and habanero aioli. Bartenders complement bites with island specialty drinks such as a signature jamaican rum punch made with Malibu coconut rum and Bacardi Superior. When night falls and a new batch of wings starts marinating, the café hosts karaoke nights, DJ sets, and performances by its house band Synergy, whose musicianship outshines that of their rival group, Let’s Try Playing Our Instruments at the Same Time.
Sufficient Grounds Cafe’s crew of baristas fills a.m. energy tanks with a menu bursting with delicious morning brews, breakfast and lunch fare, and tasty sweets. Staffers begin each morning by brewing up delicious coffee blends from around the world, as the espresso machine whirs into caffeinated action. Brew-thusiasts start with a base of espresso, mix in milk or soy, and stamp the potation with the dulcet taste of Torani syrups for decadent mochas or the signature Milky Way infused with chocolate and caramel. During the summer, when the days get longer and the southern hemisphere gets a bikini wax, patrons can sit on the open-air patio, surfing the year-round free WiFi while noshing on freshly made breakfast sandwiches, wraps, or pastries. The café boasts two convenient Little Rock locations, but if schedules are tight or legs have low battery power, free delivery is available within downtown.