When Nord Brue and Mike Dressell began perfecting their recipe with the help of a professional New York City bagel maker in 1983, the bagel was still an anomaly in the food world—it was, for the most part, geographically and culturally isolated in New York City. Fueled by a desire to change this reality, the duo opened up the first Bruegger's deli with the hope of eventually introducing the rest of the country to the bagel. Brue and Dressell have since realized their dream, sharing their distinctive recipes and culinary traditions at 300 locations spread across 26 states.
To this day, they oven bake their center-less bread rolls every morning and afternoon, populating counter displays that also brim with daily made breads, vermont cream cheese, and custom-roasted coffee. Executive Chef Philip Smith and his network of gourmands use the original five-ingredient recipe for their bagel dough, which they shape into more than 20 varieties. Certain menu items may vary from store to store across the country; they draw from each region's local recipes garnered from dialogue between local consumers and store bakers, eschewing the homogenized approach to food adopted by many national chains and preprogrammed chef bots. Sometimes staffers slather bagels in eclectic cream cheeses such as wasabi, garden veggie, pumpkin, and smoked salmon, or they sandwich them around meats, cheeses, and spreads to evoke the flavor of chipotle or a california sushi roll.
Culinary crews assemble meals from local, and often organic, produce and craft bagels and breads from locally milled flour. Baristas also pour house blends of only 100% arabica coffee that is certified sustainable by the Rainforest Alliance.
Chef Sandy Pike acquired lots of free time when she sold her dessert business, Queen of Tarts, in 2005. Soon afterward, a close family member needed a diet overhaul following some stern words from the doctor. Drawing upon more than 20 years of culinary experience and a love affair with local, seasonal ingredients, Sandy began preparing healthy, flavorful meals ideal for diabetics. Before long, non-diabetic friends and neighbors began clamoring for her creations as well. In response, she launched Home Cuisine, a kitchen where she and fellow chefs create complete, nutritious meals that can be picked up or delivered, then heated and enjoyed at home.
Filled with fresh produce and lean meats—not trans fats or chunks of deep-fried Spam—her dishes showcase healthy eating's tasty side and illustrate the concept of portion control. Her staffers follow the American Heart Association's dietary guidelines and consult dietitians and food scientists from two local universities to ensure that each meal is as balanced as possible.
Sandy and her daughter Mae, a seasoned event planner, share their recipes regularly in the Voice-Tribune and the Courier-Journal, and also support a variety of area charities, including Boys & Girls Haven, Dare to Care Food Bank, and Blessings in a Backpack.
In the mornings, chef Darnell Ferguson can be found at SuperChef's Breakfast, folding local produce, meats, and baked goods into inventive breakfast sandwiches. But come lunchtime, the gourmet chef heads over to Bloom's Lunch Cafe, where he turns his attention to crisp artisanal salads, smoky bacon burgers, and BLTs with candied bacon. The chef pulls culinary inspiration from years of high-end experience, having captained the kitchens of prestigious restaurants and cooked for US delegates and a former president.
Naked Pizza is a recently opened eatery that serves up a menu of all-natural pies for health-conscious pizza fans. These pies of purity start with a multigrain crust made from an ancestral blend that includes hidden molecules of prebiotic fiber and probiotics for bone and digestive health. Atop this wonder wheel, Naked Pizza slathers all-natural tomato sauce and real mozzarella cheese without any added sugar or preservatives. This cherubic cheese pizza (10" $4.99, 12" $5.99, 14" $6.99) can then be adorned with flora flavor addendums (10" $1.49, 12" $1.69, 14" $1.89) such as sun-dried tomato, jalapeño, black beans, fire-roasted red pepper, artichoke, pineapple, mushroom, and fresh basil. Carnivorous connoisseurs can also add farm favorites such as chicken, hamburger, pepperoni, sausage, and ham, as well as feta or cheddar cheese. If the creative gene skipped your generation to join an actors’ strike, Naked Pizza is happy to make sagacious suggestions for specialty combos such as the smokehouse pizza (10" $12.99) with hickory-smoked barbecue sauce as the sultry setting for an illicit chicken and onion affair.
Celebrated fish dishes from around the country inspire The Seafood Connection's lunch menu, which sports favorites such as the Louisiana shrimp po' boy ($6.49), the San Diego fish taco ($3.99), and the New England clam chowder ($5.49/pint). Kids and coordinated sea cows can nosh on finger foods such as fish nuggets ($3.99) or a grilled cheese ($3.50), both of which come with fries. After burying the treasures atop a golden-fried shrimp platter ($8.99) deep within bellies, inspired patrons can peruse the fresh-fish counter's seafaring cookables to take home. The Seafood Connection serves lunch Monday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m.– 2:30 p.m. It is open for retail Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and on Sundays from noon–5 p.m.
Armed with baked goods from local bakeries and fresh, locally farmed produce, SuperChef Darnell Ferguson sets out to "make breakfast and lunch fun." Once served only at funerals, breakfast has become a lively and appetizing event with novel dishes such as Darnell's red-velvet pancakes. A graduate of Sullivan University, one of the country's top culinary institutes, Darnell was a chef for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team and has broken eggs in the service of a former president.
When Zoë Cassimus would appear at a party with a bowl of her homemade chicken salad, everyone's face would light up. In between mouthfuls of creamy chicken, her friends and relatives often urged her to open up her own restaurant. Encouraged, Zoë gathered her family's time-honored Mediterranean recipes and opened the first Zoës Kitchen in Homewood, Alabama. Hungry diners flock to her restaurant in search of her chicken salad, pita bread, and pasta.
Today, Zoë's family-run eatery has branched out into more than 50 locations across the country. Within each kitchen, chefs continue to adhere to Zoë's original recipes, folding fresh ingredients into wholesome Mediterranean-inspired roll ups, sandwiches, and kabobs each day. Out on sunny patios, diners clink glasses of beer and mop up last dollops of hummus with fresh pita. Others opt to take meals to go, carrying out still-steaming four-person dinners of chicken kabobs and steak roll-ups to enjoy at home with their family or with the band of outlaws they call their family.