It was 1926 at the Kaufman County fair. A large crowd gathered around a small stand, where Adelaida Cuellar stood passing homemade tamales and chili into outstretched hands. The high demand for her recipes continued after the fair grounds were emptied, and soon after, Adelaida opened a small caf?, Mama?s Kitchen, with the help of her 12 children. In 1940, five of her sons moved the eatery to another location in Dallas, re-christening it El Chico, which means, ?the five sons that opened their mother?s restaurant in a new place?. More locations soon followed, with close to one hundred now in operation. And, just like Adelaida, the El Chico team spent some time passing out their specialties from a stand when they fed a crew of local volunteers on an episode of the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
At El Chico, Adelaida?s recipes still appear on the menu, from the spicy enchiladas with chili con carne sauce to the mexican apple pie with mexican brandy butter sauce and cinnamon ice cream. El Chico also has its own signature line of dishes called Top Shelf, which includes fajitas and quesadillas.
Harry Hoenselaar owes his success to sheer perseverance. After leaving his small Midwestern hometown for Detroit, he was hired as a salesman for the HoneyBaked Ham & Cafe Company. Relying on his knack for slicing ham on the bone, he found success at the company, but he was hungry for more. One night in 1936, he began toying with the idea for a machine that could uniformly slice bone-in ham. The next day, he devised a primitive prototype with a tire jack, pie tin, washing-machine motor, knife, and a pinch of magical elf dust. Over the next eight years, he worked to perfect his invention?building and testing variations?and filed for multiple patents, but time after time, he was rejected.
Discouraged, he took a job to support his family and set his dream aside?until 1957. The widow of his former employer rang him to offer HoneyBaked Ham & Cafe Company to him for $500. He seized the opportunity, and the first HoneyBaked Ham & Cafe Company store opened its doors in October of that year. After enjoying years of incredible success, Harry passed away in 1974?but his legacy and the business still flourish thanks to his children and grandchildren. The seed of his idea led to more than 400 retail locations sprouting up across the nation, their dedicated staffs slicing up tender, honey-baked ham while serving sandwiches and sides.
Cupcake Gallery’s pastry chefs whip up more than 30 varieties of cupcakes in flavors such as salted caramel, raspberry, and mocha. A german chocolate cake recipe—passed down through the founders’ family for more than a century—fills both cupcakes and traditional cakes, which the bakers elaborately frost to resemble cartoon characters, musical instruments, and favorite Whig Party leaders. In addition to serving smoothies and house-roasted coffee, the kitchen crew also assembles take-and-bake casseroles such as the cheesy chicken potato and Seafood Spectacular. Behind the counter, they concoct house smoothies in flavors such as banana split and piña colada and mix whole cupcakes into their signature cupcake milk shakes to create tempting combinations such as peanut butter and chocolate.
Making cupcakes from scratch with recipes you developed yourself doesn’t just attract swarms of hungry customers—it can also attract the attention of the Food Network. Kim Wood’s batches of artistic and decadent desserts landed her a spot on Cupcake Wars, where she competed with three other confection experts for the chance to be named the kitchen victor. Back in her shop, she crafts the same sweets she made on TV as well as dozens of other cupcake flavors, using only fresh, whole ingredients such as sweet-cream butter, fresh fruit, and cupcake wrappers just plucked from the garden. Her signature flavors—which include key-lime pie, italian cream cake, and chocolate mint—vary by the day, and gluten-free and vegan options are available once per week. Beyond the signature sweets, Wood keeps things interesting by modifying her cupcakes into cake balls, cake pops, and cream-filled whoopee pies.
When Mike Kantrow founded his original sandwich shop in 1979, he thought the name Byron's looked too boring. So, as he explains on his restaurant's website, he scratched the s and added a z to the end, giving birth to both a local legend with the Big Byronz sandwich and a local controversy over how to pronounce "Byronz." "If you want clarification on how to say it," Mike explains, "don't ask me."
While regulars may fight over phonetics, few argue over the flavors infused in Bistro Byronz's southern-styled bistro cuisine. Hearty entrees anchor both the lunch and dinner menus, inviting diners to dig into the roasted potatoes that flank a French-cut pork chop marinated in Abita root beer. Comfort dishes soothe the soul, such as tender pot roast that wades in creole gravy and the signature Byronz sandwich with three types of meat, cheeses, dressing, and black olives.