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.
Served beside tiny pasta dumplings, the golden-fried Jäger Schnitzel looks even more massive than usual. Rumor has it that the mushroom-topped schnitzel is one of largest in Texas, so it should come as no surprise that it's the most popular dish at Bavarian Grill, an eatery that twice won GermanDeli.com’s designation as the Best German restaurant in America. Such recognition yields lofty expectations, which Bavarian Grill meets with ease thanks to multiple menus brimming with authentic south German cuisine. Guests will find the Jäger Schnitzel on the dinner menu, but 18 other types of schnitzels show up for Schnitzel Fest, a seasonal celebration held once each year. Oktoberfest, on the other hand, seems to be celebrated year round, fueled by a hefty list of German beers. Add in live accordion players and a plate of bratwurst-and-salmon-stuffed mushroom caps, and it’d be easy to imagine yourself transported to Germany, especially if your visit happens to coincide with National Wear Lederhosen Day.
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.
Naan Sushi Japanese Restaurant's skilled culinary artisans craft specialty sushi and upscale Japanese cuisine amid the restaurant's modernistic décor. Fresh sushi and entrees populate Naan's dinner menu with rolls such as the Texas Tornado, a spicy deep-fried vortex of jalapeños, scallions, and yellowtail served on a double-reinforced storm plate. Lighter fare gently cares for subtle hunger pangs with antidotes such as soups, salads, and deep gulps of fresh air. A line of cushioned couches snakes through the restaurant, separating the spacious dining room from the luminous bar and giving Naan's layout a one-of-a-kind shape. White-clothed tabletops and chairs fill the dining area and provide a bright contrast to the dark-leather armchairs, an accordion partition adorned with dragons, and a campfire surrounded by Eagle Scouts. Patrons can also show off their rock-star-imitating powers at karaoke nights each Saturday at the Dallas location and each Thursday at the Plano location.
At Geisha Steak and Sushi Restaurant, fine dining mingles with culinary arts in a creative menu of Japanese specialties cooked over open flames or rolled fresh on the sushi bar. While juggling the entire food pyramid over the hibachi grill, chefs combine meats such as chicken and calamari, filet mignon and shrimp, and steak and lobster with steamed rice and assorted veggies. Meats sizzle as mounds of noodles brown atop the grill and mix with tangy sauces that land somewhere between salty and sweet, like a grizzled sailor’s love letters. The chefs condition taste buds to swoon over cylindrical foods by creating specialty rolls such as the flash-fried White Dragon roll with tuna, salmon, and avocado, or the Fuji-san, composed of shrimp tempura, snow crabs and spicy mayo. Their desserts—such as banana tempura, fried strawberry cheesecake, and mochi ice cream made from rice—deliciously round out meals, leaving otherwise noisy stomachs pleasantly subdued and receptive to patting.