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 Caesar's location, a then-unheard-of carryout-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 pie designed for instant pick-up, 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 its own charitable programs.
The culinary construction crew at Papa Murphy’s, the highest-ranking pizza chain in the 2010 Zagat Fast-Food Survey, builds a tasty menu of customizable Take 'N' Bake pizzas that patrons can heat up in the comforts of their own homes. Visitors watch as the chefs assemble thin- and stuffed-crust pizzas in-store using fresh dough, one of four sauces, shredded cheese, and up to 24 toppings. The pizza artisans then package the handmade creations for customers to bring home and cook in kitchen ovens, on backyard grills, or over an overheated car engine. Papa Murphy's collection of comestibles complements circular meals with sides of bread, salad, and chocolate-chip-cookie-dough dessert.:m]]
Pizza Plus serves up specialty pizzas, light entrees, pastas, platters, and more from its hearty menu. Open up with an appetizer of Jason’s loaded fries, smothered in bacon and cheddar cheese with a side of ranch ($3.99). Then try a specialty large such as the Falcon, with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms, and black olives, or the Hawaiian Luau, with smoked ham, bacon, pineapple, onions, and green peppers ($10.99 each). For diners seeking stomach enlightenment, Pizza Plus offers lighter-side selections such as the grilled-chicken platter with steamed veggies ($6.99), as well as a full burger bar with classic sandwiches and specialty patties such as the Mexi-Cali burger, a quarter-pound patty with pepper jack and jalapeños ($4.29).
Head chef Jason Schauer crafts Mediterranean dishes steeped in the flavors of the South. His seasonal menu, comprising locally grown produce, Gulf seafood, and naturally raised meats, is peppered with dishes that reflect that philosophy, including steak cooked atop a wood-fired grill and accompanied by polenta or crispy flounder paired with friend green tomatoes. A hickory- and oak-fired oven bakes pizza crusts to charred perfection, whether they're topped with caramelized vidalia onions, country ham, and eggs or an assortment of Italian meats. The wine cellar, meanwhile, is stocked with bottles from Italy, Spain, and France, as well as California and Oregon.
The dining room's floor-to-ceiling windows send sunlight streaming over geometric print wallpaper, brushed concrete floors, and crisp linens draped over tables. The centerpiece of the room is a crescent-moon bar bedecked with dangling lightbulbs and natural stone that fuse modern aesthetics with paleolithic authenticity. The dining experience continues outdoors, where a smattering of bistro-style tables allow people to enjoy meals under the sun.
At Nick's Ristorante, Nick and Sherry Mikus emulate northern Italian recipes inspired by more than four decades of international traveling. In the kitchen, Chef Gerald works from a menu featuring dishes such as the Angel Hair Pasta Nicky, with shrimp, pasta, and thyme sautéed in a white-wine sauce with oregano and tomatoes. Certified Angus beef in cuts ranging from 12 to 20 ounces—voted Best Steak in North Alabama by the Alabama Cattlemen's Association—arrive with wedge salads and garlic mashed potatoes.
To allow guests to fully enjoy the flavors in these hearty Italian entrees, Nick's Ristorante's decor features oodles of elegance. Glass pendant lamps hang above the dining room from wrought-iron columns, where they cast a soft glow over the crisp black tablecloths that double as capes for hungry Batmen. Wines from around the world complement each meal, and patrons can slip into Nick's Ristorante's lounge to sample cigars from Perdomo, Victor Sinclair, and other producers.
The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to 100 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location's being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, chefs assemble grilled and deli-style hoagies and bake calzones and pizzas in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 100 microbrewed and imported beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's, Abita, and Dogfish Head are also featured in regular beer events.