Gwen Willhite founded Cookies by Design in 1983, when an unsatisfying brainstorming session about gift ideas led her to ponder one question: why should flowers and sweets remain separate? Her solution was to design the cookie bouquet, where custom, hand-decorated cookies are displayed on sticks and arranged like flowers in gift baskets. Her invention quickly became a popular gift among locals, particularly those allergic to real blooms or too bashful to look at naked cookies.
Twenty-five years later, there are more than 200 Cookies by Design locations across the country. Each shop's team of bakers creates cookie baskets with a degree of care that matches Willhite's original vision, decorating and arranging sweet shapes for birthdays, holidays, and any other special occasion.
With more than 700 locations, Jamba Juice proves to the masses that nutrition can be speedy and delicious. Since the beginning, the company’s product philosophy has revolved around choosing whole fruits and other natural ingredients over artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives. The menu is completely free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, and it offers additional accommodations for vegan and gluten-free diets.
This naturalistic approach is fully realized in Jamba Juice's selection of smoothies. Made with 100% fruit juice, sherbet, and frozen yogurt, the frosty delights range from all-fruit smoothies such as peach perfection and strawberry whirl to more indulgent creamy treats, including peanut butter moo'd, an enticing blend of peanut butter, bananas, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, and milk chocolate.
For those with heartier appetites, steel-cut oats steep in soymilk before being enhanced with toppings such as apples, cinnamon, and brown-sugar crumble. The lunch hour presents protein-packed mini wraps, toasted bistro sandwiches and artesian flatbreads that pack only about 320–420 calories each.
In the city, coffee shops tend to thrive so much that guests often have to circle the seating area like airplanes until a seat opens up. Coffee Planet tries to bring the appeal of city cafes to its family-owned suburban location in Rolling Meadows, which features a fireplace, couches, and board games, but without the seating backlog. Even the name of its beans smack of urbanity: Metropolis Coffees get brewed in the traditional manner or poured over into cups, dripping slowly into a hot mug and thawing the palate after a stressful morning or a snowcone binge. The coffee comes in a variety of options, including a Guatemalan and Honduran mix. But the baristas can appeal to other tastes, too, by brewing Rishi Teas or hand-crafting espressos.
The chefs at Muscle Maker Grill put a healthy spin on flavorful dishes inspired by Italian, Asian, American, and southwestern cuisines. The chain was founded in 1995 by Rod Silva, a fitness enthusiast who grew weary of fast-food eateries that bogged customers down with unhealthy morsels and toys sculpted from butter. What began as a smoothie stand has expanded into a successful franchise that slings pastas, burgers, salads, and Tex-Mex-style wraps and proudly displays the calorie content and relationship status of each dish on the menu.
In spite of its name, Asian Tokyo takes a broad approach that combines classic Japanese and Chinese recipes on the same menu. Iconic dishes such as kung pao chicken and homemade egg rolls appear alongside steak teriyaki and hibachi-grilled scallops. Additionally, the sushi chefs prepare orders of nigiri and sashimi as well as more than 50 different rolls, which can incorporate everything from tempura lobster and asparagus to smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Simple tables and dark wooden booths fill the earth-toned dining area. Red lanterns hang from the ceiling, casting their light across the bar's stone wall— which supports a pair of flat-screen televisions—and lending a soft, rosy glow that makes the dining room a perfect setting for a romantic date or a staged reading of Cabaret.