In one section of KAWA Japanese Restaurant, the area behind the gauzy paper screens, guests slip out of their shoes and onto a floor pillow to sip sake at a low table. In another, the main room, they gather around the circular, glossy-topped bar at the room's center and admire the billowing red curtains that sweep across the ceiling's exposed piping. Either way, they get to savor the maki, noodles, and lobster servers tote to tables. They can also serve themselves by visiting the sushi buffet or by saying, "Is that Dan Aykroyd over there?" and grabbing other people's food when they look.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,350 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options such as the eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs and slicing it into bite-size nuggets. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
Rudy's Mexican Grill serves up generous portions of uniquely tweaked Mexican cuisine doused in house salsas, sauces, marinades, and seasoning mixes made from scratch. Large mortars filled with house specialties such as the seafood paella ($14.95) erupt from the kitchen like a seafood-powered steam engine running on mussels, shrimp, octopus, crab meat, and calamari. The parrillada de carnes ($25), served family style, satisfies the liberal meat leanings of two people with an arsenal of skirt steak, chicken, marinated pork, and smoked sausage capped with grilled vegetables. Homemade flan ($2.50) molds corn and vanilla custards for a soft and sweet dessert-menu sampling.
Stay 2 Play’s 2,500-square-foot play town miniaturizes a real city center, recreating such locales as the post office, grocery store, and fire station. At each spot, kids’ imaginations have free rein to dream up games and imitate their elders as they take the theatre stage as a ballerina or upsell their peers at the fix-it shop. An adjacent café houses parents and caregivers who can sip coffee or nibble snacks while their kids have fun.
“Popcorn” is a name that reeks of the patriarchy. Deciding to “give Mom some recognition” instead, according to their website, the founders of Momcorn reclaimed the name for mothers everywhere by crafting a menu that blends corn-based treats such as corn on the cob with dishes inspired by Latin American street fairs. Chefs stuff flaky empanadas with ground beef and veggies and fill breakfast tortas with egg, cheese, and chorizo sausage. With its authentic recipes and age-old cooking methods, Momcorn’s Latin favorites are steeped in cultural tradition, much like the American flag’s depiction of alternating 4-inch-long hot dogs.