After immigrating to the United States at age 20, Greece native Dino Adamidis cut his teeth in the restaurant industry as an employee at his sister’s steakhouse. He enjoyed the work, but still aspired to own his own business, a dream he carried with him from Greece. In 1982, he and his wife Vona decided to pursue that dream by opening a small white and blue stand at a local art fair where they sold gyros to spectators, often cinching a sale with free meat samples, saying, “We knew if the people would try it they would love it.” Love it they did, but it wasn’t until 1986—four years and several food stands down the road—that the couple opened the first freestanding Dino’s Gyros with only eight booths and a single particle accelerator.
Today, Dino’s is run by the two oldest children and serves quick Greek and Mediterranean cuisine from six locations. The menu still highlights the classic gyro, often with innovative twists, such as the Greek Philly, a gyro-meat mound sautéed with onions, green peppers, and swiss cheese. Catering services offer the same delicious fare as box lunches, family-style buffets, or busts carved from gyro meat.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
The baristas at J. Arthur's Coffee strive to cultivate appreciation for artisanal coffee by focusing on unblended coffee with unique characteristics. The shop trades directly with farmers that use sustainable methods, developing relationships with individual coffee-bean producers who are dedicated to distributing high-quality beans that taste magical but don’t sprout into beanstalks. J. Arthur’s blends espresso drinks with whole and 1% milk from Autumnwood Farms, a local family-owned operation that only raises grass-fed cattle. As patrons sip lattes and scarf down house-made sandwiches, live musicians fill the air with soothing tunes.
For 30 years, Sweet Chocolat has been a wonderland of handmade chocolates and caramels made onsite each day. The chocolatier has been known to fill the kitchen with song as she lovingly crafts her confections, which infuses each piece with extra sweetness and the uncanny ability to harmonize. In addition to traditional caramels and unorthodox bites such as chocolate-covered potato chips, Sweet Chocolat dispenses boxes of traditional and themed truffles and chocolates and more than 10,000 custom chocolate molds.
Since opening the doors of St. Paul Bagelry & Deli in 2007, sisters and co-owners Dodie Green and Peggy Teed have aspired to improve the lives of their customers with New York–style bagels, frothy smoothies, and freshly roasted coffee. Staffers also dole out stacked sandwiches during breakfast and lunch with piping hot cups of coffee and foamy lattes. For morning meetings and group get-togethers, catering trays can be delivered to your door piled high with scones, bagels, and an audio tape of a rooster crowing.
More than 50 years go, Mike Ilitch was poised for major-league glory. An up-and-coming shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, his baseball finesse was blossoming when an injury derailed his sports career. But although the wound stunted his athletic aspirations, it steered him toward a new path, and on May 8, 1959, he and his wife opened the first Little Caesars location, a then-unheard-of carry-out-only joint. The career shift and novel technique eventually proved triumphant. Today, the pizzeria's iconic, toga-clad mascot adorns storefronts on five continents. In each shop, staffers forge the signature Hot-N-Ready pizza, a freshly baked pizza designed for instant pickup, and warm, garlicky Crazy bread. With a storied half-century under their belt, Mike Ilitch and his family strive to give back, supporting local organizations and creating their own charitable programs.