Executive chef Fulvio Valsecchi discovered cooking at a young age. The prodigy was born and raised in Lake Como, Italy, and began culinary school in Milan at the ripe age of 16. After immigrating to America in 1969, he opened the incredibly successful Ristorante Divino, a mecca for Northern Italian cuisine that won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence eight years in a row.
On his way to and from Divino, Fulvio used to pass by a little building on Fort Jackson Boulevard. He began daydreaming about a departure from his upscale Italian roots—something more family-centric and homey. After one too many passes, Fulvio decided to let that idea stretch its legs, buy the building, and open The Diner as a hub for modern southern comfort food.
The 4,000-square-foot restaurant hosts three dining areas and a separate bar stocked with beer and wine, all of which sport a 1950s-diner theme. Vibrant wall paintings by Columbia's own Chicken Man transport diners back in time with images of cherry-red convertibles, revving motorcycles, and forlorn bicyclists. As guests admire the nostalgic decor, chefs busy themselves by assembling ingredients from local markets and crafting European-style rémoulades to accent their southern staples of fried green tomatoes, meatloaf, and Cajun shrimp.
While its menu is a nostalgic throwback to simpler times, American Roadside’s physical locations are a nod to a sustainable American future. They boast ecologically amenable fixtures such as reclaimed barn siding on walls and chairs made from recycled materials. The kitchen team, however, flame-grills each premium beef burger anew, before piling them with a variety of toppings, such as housemade chili, pepper jack cheese, and bacon. Sandwiches pack everything from Carolina-style barbecued pork to grilled chicken, while all-white-meat chicken tenders present a breadless option and Roadside wings tossed in barbecue, Mild Fire, chipotle, or Blazin’ Hot sauce present a flammable option. Fries, onions rings, and mac 'n' cheese accompany meals, which can be washed down with one of the eatery's handmade milkshakes. Beer and wine also make an appearance on the menu.
When Rich LaVecchia first started the American Roadside franchise in North Carolina, he appointed his 8- and 13-year-old children as chief taste-testers. Today, he pays them—and kids across the country—back by donating a portion of all burger sales to American Roadside charities, such as Classroom Central and the Autism Foundaton of the Carolinas.
It was 1926 at the Kaufman County fair. A large crowd gathered around a small stand, where Adelaida Cuellar stood passing homemade tamales and chili into outstretched hands. The high demand for her recipes continued after the fair grounds were emptied, and soon after, Adelaida opened a small café, Mama’s Kitchen, with the help of her 12 children. In 1940, five of her sons moved the eatery to another location in Dallas, re-christening it El Chico, which means, “the five sons that opened their mother’s restaurant in a new place”. More locations soon followed, with close to one hundred now in operation. And, just like Adelaida, the El Chico team spent some time passing out their specialties from a stand when they fed a crew of local volunteers on an episode of the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
At El Chico, Adelaida’s recipes still appear on the menu, from the spicy enchiladas with chili con carne sauce to the mexican apple pie with mexican brandy butter sauce and cinnamon ice cream. El Chico also has its own signature line of dishes called Top Shelf, which includes fajitas and quesadillas.
In 1937, Vernon Rudolph founded Krispy Kreme in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with the first location on South Main Street in Old Salem. Seventy-seven years later, his secret doughnut recipe lives on within hundreds of Krispy Kreme locations, serving premium sweet treats across the globe.
The entire doughnut-making process, which customers can view up close and personal at many of Krispy Kreme?s outposts, begins with fresh ingredients and ends with the click of a fluorescent sign bearing the words, "Hot Doughnuts Now." From the original, mold-breaking glazed doughnut to newer doughnut varieties, such as Chocolate Iced with Kreme Filling, Glazed Raspberry Filled, and Glazed Chocolate Cake, each round dainty pairs with piping-hot coffee for a compact snack.
Tokyo Grill’s chefs stand over sizzling grills, their furrowed brows illuminated by the dancing flames as they speedily prepare food that blends hibachi flavors with fast and casual dining. With swiftness and precision, they grill fresh vegetables alongside juicy strips of steak, cuts of chicken, and plump jumbo shrimp, then quickly plate the still-steaming meats atop beds of rice speckled with wedges of zucchini, slices of onion, and traces of fairy dust. Elsewhere in the kitchen, sushi chefs are equally hard at work, folding crabmeat and crisp cucumbers into sushi rolls.
Ismael and Silvia Villegas have been snipping off sprigs of cilantro and squeezing limes onto tacos inside Casa Linda Mexican Restaurant's kitchens since 1993. Beneath decorations such as papel picado and piñatas, staples such as chicken in mole sauce and tacos al pastor join specialties such as the Pollo Loco, a chicken breast topped with cream sauce and a medley of squash and other vegetables. The restaurant also shakes and blends specialty cocktails such as açaí cosmos and superfruit margaritas.