Every day at all of El Nopal’s locations, cooks whip up fresh batches of salsa, chips, and beans. The sauces and sides accent chicken or beef chimichangas, handmade tamales, and nachos smothered in cheese. All El Nopal locations offer complimentary chips and salsa with every meal, and some locations have outdoor seating areas. Performances by live bands at select locations serve as a pleasant distraction from meals, unlike a judge with highfalutin ideas about not eating in court.
Colonel Eure opened his first pizza restaurant in 1964 and when time came to open another franchise five years later, he named it Gatti's Pizza in honor of his wife's maiden name. The Gatti's Pizza empire steadily expanded over the next four decades, thanks in part to a commitment to high-quality ingredients such as real cheese, yeast-risen dough made fresh daily, and a 16-ingredient secret sauce protected by Swiss bankers. Today, chefs prepare specialty pies such as the barbecue chicken and bacon double cheeseburger pizza and bake custom creations from a choice of 17 toppings and three crust options. Many Gatti's locations boast a dining room complete with a big-screen TV, and some include a Veggie Tales room, a sports room, and a game room.
The culinary crew at El Campesino grills up delectable Mexican favorites to create an extensive menu that caters to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. El Burro Grande’s oversized flour tortilla cradles grilled beef or chicken, heaps of onions and bell peppers, and drizzles of sour cream and enchilada sauce ($10.25). Not since Meat the Beatles has a medley of protein performed as well as the steak, chicken, and shrimp showcased in the combo fajitas ($15), and the quesadilla a la Mexicana ($10.99) sings with layers of cheese, chorizo, and chicken. Meat-freers rejoice upon tasting selections from the vegetarian menu, such as the chilis poblanos stuffed with mexican cheese and deep-fried in egg batter ($8.50), and carnivores sink all four rows of canines into the tacos de carnitas, three flour tortillas filled with morsels of pork and served alongside accouterments of rice, beans, and tomatillo sauce ($9.99).
The chefs at El Rincon Cuban Restaurant & Bar treat diners to the tastes of Havana with a menu of authentic Cuban cuisine. Before entrees take the stage, an appetizer of papas rellenas warms taste buds with its orbs of breaded, fried mashed potatoes, each filled with seasoned ground beef, much like most asteroids. Diners can quell lunchtime belly rumblings with the chuleta natural, seasoned grilled-pork-tenderloin steak served with yuca with mojo sauce. Inside the fricassee de pollo, a bone-in quarter chicken simmers in potatoes and a white-wine-and-creole sauce, and the grilled sandwich cubano culls together ham, roasted pork, and cheese. Live musicians belt out festive tunes on weekends, and staff members lay out tarps for late-night salsa dancing or impromptu slip 'n' slide competitions.
The tasty array of casual Italian tastes at Bearno's will warm bellies while the friendly neighborhood service warms tomato-shaped hearts. Appetizers such as spicy boneless chicken wings ($7.49 for a large) and garlic cheese stix ($7.49) lay the foundation for a robustly-flavored repast, while fresh salads ($3.99–$10.99) cleanse the palate in preparation for savory sandwiches ($7.39–$8.99), build-your-own or pre-conceived specialty pizzas ($8.99–$37.99), and classic pasta dishes. Wrap paws around a slice of Mama Bearno's pizza, loaded with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, olives, and mozzarella ($17.99 for a medium), or mumble a mouthful of chicken parmesan with a side of mostaccioli ($7.99). If you are having trouble deciding between menu categories, opt for a hybrid open-faced pizza hoagie ($7.39), or blindfold your index finger and point.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop’s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M’s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
From its humble beginnings as a single orange-juice stand in Los Angeles, Orange Julius has blossomed into a worldwide purveyor of refreshing blended smoothies and fresh fruit drinks. Slurp a large smoothie (a $5.73 value each) in one of more than a dozen flavors, such as pomegranate and berries, a blend of low-fat frozen yogurt and three ruby-hued fruits, or tropical tango, a mix of pineapple, banana, orange sherbet, and tropical fruit juice. Light smoothies each contain 250 or fewer calories, acquiring their sweetness from fresh fruits, a light sprinkling of Splenda, and afternoons spent reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Or hold the ice and sip a namesake large Julius fruit drink (a $4.44 value each) available in the shop’s famous signature orange or 1 of 13 other frothy flavors, perfect for quenching thirst after a long day of stamp licking.