College is a place that often kindles lasting friendships, as well as lasting eating habits based on haphazard diets of chips and day-old pizza. Chris Sanchez and Patrick Ortiz, proprietors of Simply Fit Meals, have managed to buck the latter part of this trend. The friendship they forged at the University of Houston continued after graduation, even as Patrick pursued a career in hotel management and Chris entered the world of marketing, eventually serving as store marketing director for Whole Foods. Their shared passion for healthy eating brought their disparate career paths together to form Simply Fit Meals, an amalgamation of Patrick's chef skills and Chris's marketing prowess.
The challenge behind each one of Simply Fit Meals' recipes involves finding an equal balance between nutrition and flavor so that clients can stick to a regimen that's easy to maintain, unlike fad diets that involve raw foods consumed only in prime-numbered portions. The science of it, says Chris, is making it taste as if it's been freshly made, even after reheating, and to this end, Chris and Patrick are both avid consumers of their own meals. Chris claims he could eat—and has eaten—their mac 'n' cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The culinary team uses locally raised, free-range meats such as chicken and bison in virtually all of their creations, and concocts fresh-made ingredients whenever possible. The in-house dietitian guides clients toward their own fitness goals, as opposed to those dictated by fashion magazines or sentient elevators, who often lack tact.
When Lois Margolet first opened Capriotti's Sandwich Shop in Wilmington, Delaware, 36 years ago, she and her brother, Alan, worked from the second story of a boarded-up building, roasting 10?12 whole turkeys every night and churning out a ?real turkey lover's? sandwich each day. Today, Capriotti's has expanded across 14 states, each location stacking the same award-winning hot and cold sandwiches, racking up such accolades as The Best of Las Vegas 2013 and Best of Delaware 2013 prizes from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Delaware Today, respectively, as well as being named one of "10 great places to bite into a surprising sandwich" by USA Today. Though the shop is still known for its slow-roasted-turkey creations?such as the Thanksgiving-inspired Bobbie, voted greatest sandwich in America by AOL's Lemondrop.com, piled with cranberry sauce and stuffing?its menu now ventures into the realm of roast beef, italian deli meats with such sandwiches as the capastrami, cheesesteaks, and vegetarian treats, such as meatless chicken and turkey.
Le Peep's focus on breakfast and lunch stems from a decision made more than 40 years ago, when Buddy and Rhoda Waldman opened The Village Pantry in Aspen, Colorado, and?not wanting to miss a half day of skiing?would close the kitchen each day before noon. The duo would continue to tinker with their concept, stare at it through a novelty-sized microscope, and change its name before it eventually migrated to Texas.
Nowadays, the kitchen staff perpetuates the breakfast-crafting tradition by offering omelets, eggs benedict, skillets, and build-your-own pancake options that use ingredients such as walnuts, bacon, pineapple, and chocolate chips. Traditional dishes are augmented with unique twists, such as the Gooey Buns, english muffins broiled with brown sugar, cinnamon, and almonds and served with a signature side of Mom's Sassy Apples. During midday hours, a variety of salads, burgers, and sandwiches parades out of the kitchen accompanied by smoothies, juices, or Mother Parkers coffee. Le Peep's catering service delivers breakfast and lunch fare to homes, events, or filibustered neighborhood-watch meetings.
In 1969, Colonel Eure opened the first Mr. Gatti's Pizza in Austin. The small pizza shop—which received its moniker from his wife’s maiden name—focused on handcrafting pies using real cheese, yeast-risen dough, and a signature tangy sauce. Today, more than 40 years later, the Mr. Gatti’s Pizza has expanded into 140+ locations across 13 states. But despite the brand’s growth, its mission to make quality eats remains the same.
At one of Mr. Gatti’s appetizing outposts, patrons can build-their-own pie with fresh toppings, or select favorite pizzas such as the bacon double cheeseburger loaded with smoked provolone, beef, and bacon. Sides including four-cheese breadsticks and spicy chicken wings round out plates, and dessert pizzas topped with apples and streusel offer a sweet end to a savory meal. The restaurants also provide hot and cold buffet bars, allowing guests to sample every item on the menu without having to sneak into the kitchen.
Even for those who have eaten at Goodfella's countless times, it can be a struggle to decide on what to order. After all, these folks know firsthand how diverse and delicious the menu is. First there's the fresh pastas paired with lobster sauce, shrimp, veal, and eggplant. Then there's the four-cheese risotto, the 20-ounce lamb shanks, and the sandwiches that bring a sense of gourmet artisanship to a casual lunch.
But for many, the main draw at Goodfella's is and shall remain the hickory-fired pizzas. Though a 900-degree oven melts the cheese and seals in the crust's flavor, the pizzas start their path to perfection long before they meet the oven's brick surface. It all begins with fine flour imported from Italy. This is combined with water, sea salt, and yeast to form a dough that's then hand-tossed and dressed with a sauce made daily from San Marzano tomatoes. Next, of course, comes the homemade hand-pulled mozzarella. The final result is a pie that approaches high art?even guests who opt for the pasta will sometimes order a pizza to take home and hang over their mantle.
Smashburger isn't just the name?it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.