When he cofounded his first sandwich shop in 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca planned to use his profits to pay his way through medical school. But the combination of quality ingredients and friendly service at the shop—then called Pete's Subway—proved so popular that nine years later, he and his partner found themselves in charge of 16 locations across Connecticut, and Fred left behind his doctoring plans for a career in business.
Today, Subway restaurants number over 34,000 around the world—almost as many shops as there are sightings of Elvis buying cold cuts. At each location, staffers pile sliced ham, marinara-slathered meatballs, and other fillings into halved loaves of bread before customizing handhelds with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and other healthy toppings plucked from chilled containers behind the counter. Salads free crisp veggies from bread's overprotective embrace, and crunchy baked chips or apple slices accompany entrees to tables. Subway's website also facilitates health-conscious eating by listing each item's nutrition information and fastest mile time online.
The chefs at La Casita Pupuseria pull their recipes from El Salvador, a country where fresh shrimp and savory meats are in no short supply. To craft their signature pupusa—a traditional Salvadoran snack that enticed the palate of reporters from the Washington Post—they sculpt masa into perfectly round balls before packing it with cheese, meats, and veggies. They carefully pinch off excess dough so they can procure an ideal balance of masa and filling, as well as secretly help the Pillsbury Doughboy gather enough material to eventually build himself a wife, finally. The skilled cooks sizzle the plump discs on a griddle before plating them with fresh pickled cabbage and tomato salsa.
Once plates of warm pupusas have been delivered to hungry diners, chefs turn their attention to orders of crisp enchiladas and fresh seafood ceviches. They also whip up a variety of natural juices and fresh licuados, favoring juicy slices of mango, papaya, and mamey.
From India to Bangladesh and everywhere in between, Southeast Asian cuisine embraces distinct foods that overlap in ingredients and cooking methods. Pho D’Lite culls the healthiest all-stars from each region, starting with pho from Vietnam. Swimming with a variety of toppings and a choice of meat such as beef or meatballs, the eatery’s namesake soup shares space on the menu with loaded vermicelli bowls and housemade curries. Only the highest quality ingredients infiltrate each dish, including organic tofu, antibiotic- and hormone-free meat, and fresh produce.
Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
In the dead of night in 1976, the Abi-Najm family boarded a cargo ship bringing only what they could carry; an escape from Civil War in Lebanon called for a quick getaway. They traveled across the ocean to safety in Arlington, Virginia, where they were able to open a small cafe in 1979. To save money, they changed the eatery’s name from “Athenian Taverna” to “Lebanese Taverna” so that they only had to update one word on the eatery’s marquee.
From these modest beginnings grew a series of eateries that today comprises of six cafes and four quick-service cafés, all still operated by the Abi-Najm clan. One look at the menu explains the success: chicken shawarma, spicy hummus, lamb tartare—all Lebanese staples that helped the restaurant earn a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's list of 25 Iconic Eats. There's even kibbeh, or stuffed meatballs, which blend ground beef, lamb, almonds, and pine nuts into fried spheres suitable for felling miniature bowling pins on top of the table before entrees arrive. The decor is as striking as the cuisine; inside the Bethesda location, light filters through the colored glass lanterns that decorate the dining room.
Pronounced “AH-beets,” Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza sets itself apart from more familiar pie prototypes with a crunchy yet chewy, stone oven-cooked crust, irregular shape, and massive size. Combining their roots in fine dining with a dedication to fresh and simple Italian cuisine, Pete’s chefs make the gluten-free pizza crust in-house each day and top pies with savory sauce and locally-sourced toppings that are farm-fresh, organic, or made in house. Their artisan approach means that each apizza emerges with its own imperfectly round shape, primarily served in 18-inch whole pies, single slices, or doughy maps of ancient Greek city-states.
Pete’s menu also encompasses wheat- and egg-based pastas including goat cheese and basil ravioli, homemade lasagna, and spaghetti Bolognese. The fortress of feasting also channels the vibes of a neighborhood bar with a variety of draft and bottled beers, eclectic décor, and oven doors that bark out patrons’ names when they walk through the door.