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.
Connected by an asphalt web of highways, state roads, and thoroughfares, blocky yellow signs gleam nonstop, casting a dandelion glow from the words “Waffle House.” The booths at the eateries fill 24 hours each day with the aromas of sizzling pork chops, Jimmy Dean sausage, and endless mugs of coffee. Line cooks brown shredded potatoes on a grill as waiters shout back in a language all their own for hash browns “smothered,” “covered,” or “topped”—served with onions, cheese, or chili, respectively. Angus burgers and steak melts share space on the rippling-hot surface at all times of day, allowing tired drivers to stop for food when they are on a long journey or just listening to an 11-hour drum solo on the radio. The first Waffle House switched on its lights in 1955, and some menu items still bear the names of Waffle House staff of the past, including Bert's chili from Dallas and Alice's iced tea.
There’s nothing flashy or upscale about Peppy Grill in the historic Fountain Square district of Indianapolis. In fact, the small, old-style diner, which is open 24 hours a day, specializes in easygoing charm rather than an eloquent experience. The majority of the main dining area’s seating options position guests literally next to the facility’s kitchen and grill, separated from food prep by nothing more than a countertop. And while haughtier eateries might label this as chef’s counter seating, Peppy Grill is much simpler, with an all-day breakfast menu that leans heavily on eggs and potatoes. Of course, there are hamburgers on offer, and if you’re in the mood to split a sizzling steak tenderloin with a loved one, it’s possible to grab a more discreet table opposite the kitchen and cash register counter.
The griddle at Bearcats Restaurant releases sizzling applause beneath eggs, sausage, pancakes, and hot sandwiches. At the vintage booths and counters, the clatter of silverware punctuates sound from a 52-inch screen TV broadcasting football games or security-camera footage from accident-prone toupee shops. The eatery also carries a selection of wine and beer, including draughts from Indianapolis’ own Sun King Brewery.
Sporting the same smiling staff since it opened in 2007, Dena's Diner dishes up a delicious menu of homemade comfort cuisine in quaint, family-friendly surroundings. Homemade soups such as Dena's award-winning sweet-corn chili ($2.95–$3.95) along with fresh salads ($2.75–$8.85) and slow-roasted meat dishes transport diners to halcyon childhood meals brimming with savory flavors and gravy-faced relatives.
A Forkable Feast provides an array of restaurant-quality meals packaged in microwave- and oven-safe containers, ready to be taken home, reheated, and devoured with all the ferocity of a sun-swallowing Fenris wolf. Signature entrees include savory veal and ricotta meatballs ($6.95), mac 'n' cheese with herbed goat cheese ($4.95), and lemon-rosemary chicken ($6.95). Assemble a full meal by partnering a lonely entree with a winsome side dish, such as succotash, creamy mashed potatoes, or lemon-orzo salad ($2.95 each). Glowing obediently behind the cashier, the brick pizza oven ushers forth crispy, wood-fired pies such as the minimalist margherita or the roasted-vegetable varietal, which employs a delectable cast of portobello mushrooms, onions, zucchini, pesto, and mozzarella ($7.50). A Forkable Feast also cooks up a reputable variety of gluten-free meals to share its edible accomplishments with the gluten averse.