Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs grill every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% 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. The chefs then sandwich each slab in an artisan bun and turn it into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market. This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the chefs do, from blending handspun Häagen-Dazs 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 to 160 restaurants in five years, 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.
Vinnola’s Italian Market quashes midday hunger grumblings with a café menu of hot and cold sandwiches, pizzas, and Italian specialties. Newly wedded cheese and sauce emerge from their oven honeymoon on slices of pepperoni or sausage pizza ($1.99). The hearty lasagna provides a multilayered pasta dance floor for taste-bud tap dances ($5.95), and grilled homemade focaccia takes center stage in the paninis, with backup flavors of prosciutto, salami, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, peppers, basil pesto, and bags of chips ($6.99). Classic italian sodas and Pepsi products refresh palates and carbonate mealtimes with a range of old-school flavors. Give postlunch activities a sweet edge with one of Vinnola’s cannoli, prepared in the traditional Italian, Bavarian, and Pistachian styles ($2.35 each).
The feel of a classic saloon with wood-slat flooring and a wood-topped bar invites patrons in for a cold pint and a comforting burger. The menu opens with a prologue of starters such as the southwestern-chicken egg rolls infused with chicken, black beans, corn, spinach, and jack cheese ($6.95) and fried-pickle spears ($5.95) for staving off hunger's vanguard. Try your hand at a sandwich such as the bagel Reuben ($8.25) or heft a vegetarian-black-bean burger served with southwestern slaw ($6.25). Diners can also be the architects of their own burger ($4.95), starting with a choice of 15 add-ons ($0.75+ each)—including fried egg, goat cheese, applewood bacon, and brie—before attempting to build an entire city out of ground beef. When the sun shines, many guests find seats in an outdoor patio reminiscent of a German beer garden as they drain a glass of sudsy sustenance.
Aromatic herbs weasel their way into almost every dish at Real Thai, where chefs add a liberal sprinkling of chilies, basil, lemongrass, galangal, and lime leaf to create their signature dishes. These can take the form of entrees such as green curry that's infused with coconut milk or drunken noodles that are free of inhibition. However, not every dish is built upon a foundation of noodles or rice. They also whip up specialties such as eggplant stuffed with ground chicken and shrimp and drizzled in eel sauce.
Of all the sauces at Kickin Wings, the restaurant’s spicier concoctions seem to attract the bravado of both regulars and newcomers. Sauces with names such as Hot, Xhot, and XXhot delightfully scorch tongues devouring cooked-to-order batches of boneless and bone-in wings. Not all of the sauces pack a wallop, though; wings also shimmer with tongue-soothing carolina barbecue, peanut butter, or thai basil sauces. Complementing matters are side orders of jalapeño corn nuggets and mini corn dogs.
A drive-thru and walk-up destination for a quick, satisfying cup of joe, Rocky Mountain Mocha's small stature can be deceiving, as there's much more than freshly brewed coffee on the extensive menu. Using fresh beans imported from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Honduras, and El Salvador, baristas craft drinks such as flavored lattes, Black Forest mochas, and foamy cappuccinos. The menu also includes non-caffeinated Italian sodas in a variety of flavors, such as strawberry, sugar cane, lemon, and watermelon.