Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
The expansive menu at Vista's Icebox contains more than 30 sandwiches, each assigned to one of four taste-oriented rankings. Beneath the ?really good? status, customers find classics, such as tuna on wheat and egg salad, while the next level up??better sandwiches??offers BLTs and shrimp pitas. The shop?s ?best sandwiches? list includes a club stacked with bacon, turkey, and ham, and at the top lies Vista?s ?finest sandwiches?: Reubens, heros, and BLTs dressed up with avocado and crowned in laurel leaves.
A whiteboard relays the day?s handwritten specials, beneath which reads a list of hearty sides, such as coleslaw, potato salad, and tortellini pesto. The kitchen also churns out daily-made soups, breakfast burritos, egg sandwiches, and frozen yogurt.
Richard Valenzuela fondly remembers the home cooking of his Sicilian grandmother, once telling the North County Times that “just thinking about it makes me hungry.” Now that he co-owns Via Sicilia Ristorante Italiano, he continues to embrace those same generations-old family recipes when he helps design the menu. His chefs bake fresh bread every day and hand-form meatballs into perfect dodecahedrons. These house ingredients lend a rustic touch to familiar Italian comfort fare, including crispy pizzas, saucy pastas, and baked veal and chicken. The restaurant’s devotion to Old World ambiance extends to the decor, which evokes the feel of a café along the streets of Sicily. Faux shuttered windows and shop awnings line the walls in the dining room, where red-and-white-checkered tablecloths pop against cobblestone floors. To illuminate the space, the restaurant relies on a combination of wall-mounted lanterns, towering streetlights, and giant, irradiated fireflies.
The restaurant's chef and owner, John Randall, employs more than 30 years of experience to grill up a wide variety of fresh seafood, certified Angus steak, and hearty sandwiches. Rev up digestion engines with one of John's starters, which include such Neptunian delights as fried calamari and smoked salmon pizza ($3.50–$9.50). Hearty entrees, such as prime rib, a swordfish sandwich, and scallop scampi, muscle out hunger ($9.95–$18.95), while a bevy of soups and salads stand on the sidelines, waiting to be tagged in if the bacon cheeseburger sprains its condiments ($4.50–$10.50). At the full bar, 15 different beers and more than 20 wines, several from California, supplement rising salivary floodwaters.
Famous Dave’s dishes out a hearty menu of downhome barbecue drawing on founder Dave Anderson's 25 years of culinary exploration and experimentation. Diners can kick off the carnivorous carnival with buffalo-style shrimp ($9.99) sporting spicy cornmeal breading and tiny Bills jerseys. To sate hungrier stomachs, pit masters slow-smoke ribs over smoldering sweet hickory fires to create the Big Slab of 12 ribs ($22.99). After first passing through a sauce-slathered shrink ray, Dave’s BBQ Buddies ($9.99) offer bite-size versions of the restaurant’s most popular sandwiches, including Georgia pork, Texas brisket, pulled chicken, and hot link sausage. Afterwards, a lineup of sugary treats, such as Dave’s famous bread pudding smothered in pecan-praline sauce and vanilla-bean ice cream ($6.99), pleases even the sweetest of teeth. The laidback barbecue mecca also keeps eyes and ears entertained with its playful décor and blues- and klezmer-spiced soundtrack. Diehards can join Famous Dave's P.I.G. Club, designed to keep members current on the restaurant's happenings via email.
The chic, simple interior of Skybound Coffee + Dessert Lounge keeps the focus on what's most important: colorful, creamy gelato, fresh-baked pastries, and espresso. Topped with regular, organic, or dairy-free milk, espresso transforms into foamy lattes, mochas, and cappuccinos at the hands of expert baristas. Meanwhile, loose-leaf teas from around the world come to life with a touch of hot water, often served up alongside a flaky, fresh-baked croissant or a slice of rich, chocolate cake. Some gluten-free options are also available.