A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas—its more than 300 locations blanket 36 states and half a dozen countries—Planet Beach is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in the Luminous facial, a light-based service that delivers blemish-busting results similar to those of a conventional facial. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam in order to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. Other machines whiten teeth, spray tan skin, and massage muscles.
Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning that members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.
If the wooden tables that stretch across Country Kitchen’s dining room were any less sturdy, they would buckle under the weight of the sizzling platters of Southern fare that chefs trot out for unlimited buffets. Old-time recipes of fried and baked chicken vie for attention alongside a menu of specialties that rotate daily; the weekend’s seafood gumbo and fried catfish give way to succulent barbecued sausages that can spice up any Monday. Southern cuisine is known for its show-stealing sides and desserts, and Country Kitchen delivers in spades on both counts. Fried hush puppies and vegetable dishes refuse to take a backseat to their main-course counterparts, and a dessert bar exudes nostalgia with heaping servings of bread pudding, peach cobbler, and ice cream. Between bites, guests seated under cheerful framed artworks or beside a colorful rooster statue can reminisce about childhoods spent wrestling catfish or plucking ripe morsels of corn bread fresh from the vine.
Since 2003, Charlie Brown's Family Sports Grill & Bar has paired an extensive menu of grilled sandwiches, steaks, and seafood with a feast for the eyes made up of 25 large flatscreen televisions. The restaurant's buffalo chicken wings come with or without bones, just like the majestic buffalo chickens of yesteryear, and its charbroiled and grilled burgers are piled with enough delicious bacon, cheese, and sautéed mushrooms to distract children from the kids' arcade for a while. Dishes such as fried soft-shell crab and shrimp alfredo offer a seafood angle to the entree list, which also documents chicken-fried steak and 14-ounce rib eyes served, and 8-ounce filets served with with veggies and mashed potatoes. To help guests to wash down hearty meals and salute the local sports memorabilia draped on the walls, the bartenders have composed a long list of beers, specialty drinks, and wines.
Sarita's Mexican Grill & Cantina owner Rudi Gomez owes his restaurant’s panoply of authentic fajitas, enchiladas, and tacos to his mother’s time-tested catalog of Mexican specialties. The steam rising from bowls of chicken tortilla soup and sizzling shrimp fajitas caught the eye of WAFB Channel 9's Culinary Corner hosts, who recently invited Rudi into their studios to share some of his recipes and tortilla-tossing techniques. When not evoking desert sunsets with their multicolored arrangements of rice, salsas, and crisp tomatoes, Rudi and his fellow chefs stray across the border to cook up local favorites such as hand-patted burgers and po boys. Signature margaritas entrance taste buds in a medley of flavor infusions, and frothy brews douse the lingering fires of hot salsa. Outdoor tables invite warm-weather lounging with free WiFi and bottles of sour cream to lather on in lieu of sunscreen.
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 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop?s reputation grew, and 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&M?s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
As a sports-nutrition store and smoothie shop, Sunset Smoothie blends fruit and health boosters into tasty performance drinks. These smoothies suit many kinds of diet and exercise plans by serving up both low-fat and muscle-building treats that come in a variety of sweet flavors. Even the indulgent Cheat Days smoothies use Splenda in lieu of sugar, sweetening flavors including banana split and cookies ‘n’ cream. Lacto-sensitive sippers can indulge in allergen-free soy smoothies blended with ice and fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and bananas. Extras pulled from the supplement side of the store enhance smoothies with Muscle Milk, creatine, and vitamin B-12, resulting in a more fortifying drink than Hulk Hogan’s upper-lip sweat.