When Popeyes first opened in a New Orleans suburb in 1972, it wasn't exactly an instant hit. Known back then as Chicken on the Run, it experienced several months of lackluster sales. Not ready to give up, founder Alvin Copeland Sr. changed his recipe from traditional southern fried chicken to the native spicy New Orleans?style chicken. He then gave his eatery a similarly spicy new moniker: Popeyes, named after "Popeye" Doyle, the hardboiled detective in the hit movie The French Connection.
A little more than a decade later, the popular chain had opened its 500th restaurant, expanded to Canada, and added its fluffy buttermilk biscuits to the menu. It also introduced the country to crawfish, which?much like draping beads over everything from trees to the local alligator population?had been beloved by Louisianans for decades.
Nowadays, patrons can dig into the Louisiana favorites that made Popeyes famous, including breaded seafood, po' boys, and sides like mashed potatoes and red beans and rice. Of course, the main event is still spicy or mild chicken that marinates for 12 hours before being hand-battered, hand-breaded, and fried.
Born in the Lebanese city of Tripoli before moving to Canada in the '80s, Frank Ishraki was raised on the traditional cultures and flavors of his homeland. Ishraki dedicated himself to sharing the classic, healthy flavors of Lebanese cuisine, first in Canada, then at his family of restaurants around Orlando. The Lakeland location is a convenient, quick-service shawarma stop complete with chicken, lamb, and beef loaded on rotating spits to cook evenly and slowly hypnotize diners. Guests can enjoy meats wrapped in pita or served on a platter with tabbouleh and hummus or go vegetarian with rice-stuffed grape leaves and fried falafel.
Authenticity is the secret ingredient in Tortilleria La Mexicana #5's mouthwatering Mexican fare. The family-owned restaurant takes pride in crafting many of its items entirely from scratch, starting with the house-made tortillas, all the way down to the homemade ice creams, available in a dozen flavors including coconut, pistachio, and cheesecake. The menu covers all the favorites from cheese-covered enchiladas suizas, to sizzling platters of steak and seafood fajitas, but also includes unique items not typically seen on more Americanized menus, such as burritos stuffed with fried pork skin or cactus. The outdoor enclosure invites visitors to sample the cuisine and sip margaritas amid picturesque gardens, while a jukebox in the main dining area tempts patrons to serenade the restaurant with their favorite pop songs or tuba solos.