Just as Thomas Edison stumbled through useless prototypes of light bulbs and movie cameras before perfecting the phonograph, the alchemists at Qdoba Mexican Grill took 47 attempts before landing on the franchise's signature blend of three cheeses, known simply as queso. That attention to detail still pervades every aspect of the menu, as employees spend hours each day chopping, dicing, and simmering the fresh ingredients that find their way into burritos, taco salads, and grilled quesadillas. Beyond the marinated bites of chicken, beef, and pork and hand-crafted tortillas, cooks protect their ripe, fragile avocados from harm by smashing them into batches of fluffy guacamole.
At locations in more than a dozen states, U-Swirl delivers more than 40 flavors of frozen yogurt packed with live and active cultures and designed in low-fat, non-fat, and sugar-free varieties. Self-serve machines line the shop?s lime green walls, ready for customers to dispense heaping swirls of old favorites, such as cookie & cream and fruit sorbet, or seasonal innovations, including eggnog in the winter and fireworks in the summer. Next, patrons head to the toppings bar and crown their frozen treats with as much fresh fruit, cereal, and candy as they can handle before weighing cups and paying by the ounce.
When he cofounded his first sandwich shop in 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca planned to use his profits to pay his way through medical school. But the combination of quality ingredients and friendly service at the shop—then called Pete's Subway—proved so popular that nine years later, he and his partner found themselves in charge of 16 locations across Connecticut, and Fred left behind his doctoring plans for a career in business.
Today, Subway restaurants number over 34,000 around the world—almost as many shops as there are sightings of Elvis buying cold cuts. At each location, staffers pile sliced ham, marinara-slathered meatballs, and other fillings into halved loaves of bread before customizing handhelds with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and other healthy toppings plucked from chilled containers behind the counter. Salads free crisp veggies from bread's overprotective embrace, and crunchy baked chips or apple slices accompany entrees to tables. Subway's website also facilitates health-conscious eating by listing each item's nutrition information and fastest mile time online.
Among the tales that make up Hussong's history are colorful stories about the invention of the margarita, motorcycle batteries, and a fleeing wife. While they're yarns of varying believability, one thing's for certain: Hussong's, established in 1892, has evolved from a cantina into a restaurant serving up a mean menu of Mexican cuisine in varying locations. Hungry travelers will find delectable mounds of chicken, steak, and carnitas stuffed inside tortillas, alongside dishes such as chiles rellenos and fajitas. Vegan and gluten-free options are also available.
The cooks at Lakeside Bar & Grill, who have more than 20 years of experience, serve a menu of American food as vast and diverse as the States themselves. In the mornings, their griddles sizzle medleys of eggs, waffles, and pancakes. The lunch menu, heavy on sandwiches and burgers, includes the keystone special—au jus-slathered roast beef on a french roll—and the dinner menu brims with specialties such as flame-broiled barbecue pork ribs. A selection of red and white wines complements entrees, as well as draft beers served colder than Santa Claus' heart each year after he realizes nobody got him any presents.
At Famous Dave’s, hand-rubbed St. Louis-style spareribs smoke over a hickory fire for 3-4 hours. A generous helping of sweet and sassy sauce—made from Famous Dave’s secret recipe—seals in the ribs’ piquant flavor and also makes appearances on other barbeque specialties including country-roasted chicken and regular or boneless wings. Joining Famous Dave’s menu of barbecue staples are burgers and citrus shrimp fresh from the grill as well as sandwiches, southern sides, and desserts.