When Ronn Teitelbaum opened the first Johnny Rockets location in 1986, his goal was to create a restaurant where people could escape the postmodern blues of everyday life and experience a taste of time-honored Americana. The name itself is a nod to this ideal—it combines the star of a classic American fable, Johnny Appleseed, and a classic car, Oldsmobile’s beefy Rocket 88. The chain now makes itself at home in America's cultural landmarks, including Yankee Stadium and the Flamingo Hotel.
During dinners at the famous burger joints, you’ll see signs of simpler times, starting with the cooks and servers—dressed head to toe in white, including white paper hats, they look like they’ve fallen out of a wormhole from the 1950s ready to sling shakes and cook up some eats. Behind a stainless-steel bar lined with red leather stools they tend to their traditional diner fare, including burgers and melts with sides such as chili-cheese fries and onion rings. Riding sidecar to each meal is a collection of hand-dipped and hand-spun floats, shakes, and malts topped with whipped cream.
At Kenji Hibachi and Sushi Bar, chefs are masters of every delicious part of Japanese cuisine, from fiery hibachi grill cookery, to delicate sushi creations, to beef noodle soup and chicken rice bowls. Sushismiths roll up seaweed, avocado, salmon, and softshell crab as hibachi chefs dazzle dinner guests with dizzying knifework, towering flames, and perfectly equitable portioning. Wall-sized murals of mountains and cherry blossoms ring the high-ceilinged space, where kimono-clad servers unveil appetizing plates of fried beef dumplings, breaded pork cutlets, and piping hot soba noodle soups.
Spices are powerful. During antiquity, the quest for cloves and pepper helped start wars, inspired exploration, and redraw the map of the known world. Today, in many parts of the world, this power has been domesticated, relegated to calm cabinets and old recipe cards. But, there are still places in the world where spice retains its ability to define a dish and transform those who eat it. Extreme Pizza is just such a place. There, though they don't normally specialize in Indian cuisine, cooks harness the flavors of the subcontinent for their Spice Route pizza. Atop scratch-made dough, spice-packed tandoori chicken joins with red onions, green peppers, and mozzarella cheese, a cross-cultural Italian-Indian combination that brings out the best in both countries' cuisines.
This painstaking attention to flavor is evident in all of Extreme Pizza's 21 specialty pies. From the pineapples and oranges that mingle with Canadian bacon on the Paia Pie to the Aveiro's Portuguese linguiça, smoked bacon, and pepperoncinis, each pizza boasts a creative combination of flavors prepared with the freshest possible meats, cheese, fruits, and veggies. They also embrace individuality; guests are invited to chow down on personal-sized versions of each specialty pie, or design their own pizza using six house-made sauces, nine cheeses, and dozens of toppings including everything from broccoli and roasted potatoes to Thai chicken, shredded BBQ pork, and fresh basil and garlic. They even stay sensitive to dietary restrictions, offering a gluten-free menu filled with rejiggered versions of their favorite pies.
In addition to their eponymous pizzas, cooks also whips up their fresh take on other classic Italian eats. The Bahn In The USA Monster Sub riffs on the classic Vietnamese bahn mi, blending shredded pork and peanuts with the signature trio of jalapeno, carrots, and cilantro. On the calzone front, the Big Wednesday packs its pocket of dough with carmelized onions, Italian sausage, and pepperoni held together by a two-cheese blend and a thick dollop of tomato sauce. With all of these options and more to choose from, it's no wonder that the restaurant routinely rakes in awards from outlets including Entrepreneur Magazine and Ernst & Young.
Daily Grind Short Pump welcomes visitors with a menu sporting coffee brewed from locally roasted beans, cool specialty drinks, and an edible plethora of coffeehouse fare. Satisfy hungry eyes along with bellies while taking in walls decked in local art and savoring the coconut, chocolate, and macadamia flavors in a CocoMocha ($3.30–$3.95) or a cup of the daily joe ($1.55–$1.90). The scent of the coffee house’s locally roasted beans wafts through the air as patrons kick back with a buttery croissant ($1.85), and flatbread breakfast sandwiches stuffed with egg and cheese ($3.85) launch successful mornings with protein-packed oars. Put noontime hunger to sleep with a sandwich filled with marinated chicken spooning pesto mayo ($6.95), or douse overheated taste buds with a refreshing pomegranate italian soda ($1.75–$2.75).
Tropical Smoothie Café's wholesome smoothies are filled to the gills with fresh fruit, juices, yogurt, chocolate, nuts, and healthful supplements, minimizing the crushing guilt of dessert consumption to a soft heartbeat emanating from the floorboards. Puréed potions such as pomegranate plunge (pomegranate, banana, strawberries, and cranberry; $4.79) are stuffed with super fruit, and low-fat options, such as mango magic (mango, pineapples, and non-fat yogurt; $4.29), trick gullible taste buds into believing that they are traversing a candy factory full of whipped-cream lollipops. Supercharged smoothies are stocked with a healthy dose of supplements, such as the kiwi citrus green tea's antioxidant-laden matcha charge or the muscle blaster's whey or soy protein ($4.79 each). Individual supplements can also be added to any other smoothie ($0.79 extra), boosting its magic points by +10.
Inspired by the cupcake bakeries in New York City, Frostings offers a destination gourmet cupcake spot for sweet-tooth-addled customers and cyclists looking to lube up their chains with deliciously slick frosting. Each customer will obtain a palate-percolating chef’s assortment of a dozen cupcakes composed of daily flavors, with blissful cups including the gluten-free vanilla, peanut butter cup, cookies and cream, strawberry shortcake, key lime pie, tiramisu, and the cupcakery's beloved Wendy's red velvet. Vegan and dietary restriction special orders are also available.
From behind a frozen granite slab, the staff of Cold Stone Creamery uses twin spatulas to blend custom servings of ice cream and creative mix-ins to fit customers’ exact specifications. Founded by Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone began under the hot Arizona sun, eventually spreading its frosty fingers to encompass more than 1,400 locations worldwide. Despite the size of the company, each location’s staff keeps up the handcrafted quality, making ice cream onsite every day and using those signature spatulas to create delicious pointillist art against the freezer wall.