In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
Restaurante Tenochtitlan takes its name from the capital of the ancient Aztec Empire, embracing more than eight centuries of history and tradition. Thick wooden timbers and earthy hues lend the dining room a rustic feel, and in the back of the house, chefs sizzle juicy slabs of carne asada and expertly seasoned spicy shrimp a la diabla. Diners bite into grilled-fish tacos, handmade tamales, or mega tortas stacked higher than the Leaning Tower of Tacos with baked pork, chorizo, and ham. Lighter alternatives include a chicken-and-pecan salad accented with avocado, or fresh garden vegetables tucked into a honey-wheat tortilla. In warmer months, diners can sip an icy margarita beneath strings of colorful lights on the restaurant's patio.
When single mom Bobbie Stokes lost her job in 1990, she looked to her family for inspiration. Her mother was a skilled baker, who taught Bobbie everything she knew, and so Bobbie took years' worth of family recipes, gathered the support of a few friends, and decided to go into business for herself. The sweet endeavor began in Bobbi's own basement as she baked cakes for friends and family members. But soon word got out and businesses came calling, eager for a slice of one of Bobbi's signature desserts––especially her famous, multi-tiered caramel cake. The demand grew so much that the working mother and grandmother––Angelica's is named for her granddaughter––eventually needed not one, but two locations in order to meet it. Today, Bobbi's cakes can be found on the menus of soul food restaurants throughout Chicago, as well as in the dessert cases of many supermarkets. 50 employees stay busy baking desserts around the clock, filling bundt pans with homemade batter, and drizzling the resulting pound cakes with homemade lemon icing, or portioning out individual servings of sweet potato pie or crumbly peach cobbler. Despite the hectic schedule, the bakery accepts orders for custom wedding cakes and also creates themed cakes for birthdays, graduations, and extra-special after school snacks.
When Debbi Fields opened the first Mrs. Fields in 1977, it wasn’t all sunshine and cookies. Between her lack of business experience and the unorthodox business model—selling only cookies—not many people believed in her. More than 30 years and a global franchise later, it’s safe to say the doubters are eating their words, at least when they're not busy stuffing their faces with one of Debbi's signature semisweet chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin and walnut cookies.
The wild popularity of Mrs. Fields's cookies can be attributed to the richness of their basic ingredients: real butter, whole eggs, and special blends of chocolate. Classic flavors include chewy fudge, peanut butter, and white chocolate macadamia, and seasonal flavors complement the lineup throughout the year. Select varieties can also be made into cookie cakes of various sizes and shapes that add a delicious twist to any celebration or milk-truck spill.
The Wetzel name wasn’t always a source of pride. As a kid, Rick Wetzel grew accustomed to hearing, “Hey Wetzel, you pretzel!” on the playground. But the teasing inspired a quest for the tastiest soft pretzel, one that eventually blossomed into Wetzel’s Pretzels. After years in Nestle’s marketing department, Rick and coworker Bill Phelps channeled Rick’s soft-pretzel recipe into a chain of shops. They make hand-rolled, oven-baked pretzels that sit for only 30 minutes before being sold or chucked, an example that might be in the dictionary under "fresh," if Babe Ruth using his bat as a pool cue weren't already there. And though the buttered and salted Wetzel’s Original still occupies a spot on the menu, a flurry of imaginative flavors fills its other slots, from Sinful Cinnamon to Jalaroni, a cheesy pretzel scattered with pepperoni and jalapeños.