Doe’s Eat Place
> Headquarters: Greenville, MS
> Number of units (approximate): 12
> Region served: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas
There’s no other restaurant quite like the original Doe’s Eat Place, which was opened by Dominick “Doe” Signa and his wife Mamie on a quiet corner of Greenville, Mississippi, back in 1941. Dining there is truly an experience: It’s a low-slung, shabby building, and guests enter through the kitchen and dig into absolutely massive steaks doused in jus (cut to nearly two inches thick), along with Doe’s signature tamales. A handful of new locations have opened, but a visit to the original, which was dubbed a James Beard America’s Classic and is on the National Register of Historic Places, should be on every steak-lover’s bucket list.
El Pollo Loco
> Headquarters: Costa Mesa, CA
> Number of units (approximate): 475
> Region served: Arizona, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Texas, Utah
Founded by Juan Francisco Ochoa in Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1974 and expanded into the U.S. in 1980, El Pollo Loco specializes in Mexican-style grilled chicken. Their chicken is famously marinated in citrus and fire-grilled, and it’s served alongside rice & beans as well as in salads, bowls, tostadas, tacos, and burritos. The chicken is obviously the centerpiece of the menu, but popular sides include corn, macaroni & cheese, and mashed potatoes with gravy.
> Headquarters: Pomona, CA
> Number of units (approximate): 66
> Region served: California
Fosters Freeze is a beloved California ice cream chain, founded by George Foster in Inglewood, California, in 1946. It’s famous for its soft-serve ice milk and milkshakes, and also serves a lineup of fast food staples like burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, corn dogs, and tacos. But it’s the soft serve that put it on the map, which is sold by the cone, in sundaes, in parfaits with berries and hot fudge, and blended with add-ins including Reese’s and chocolate chip cookie dough.
Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana
> Headquarters: New Haven, CT
> Number of units (approximate): 12
> Region served: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island
The city of New Haven can stake a claim as America’s best city for pizza (yes, even more so than New York), and while that’s certainly open to debate, Frank Pepe’s pizzas blow most of the competition out of the water. Founded by Pepe way back in 1925, the place serves pizzas that are perfect examples of the New Haven style, which is slightly oblong, with a crisp, chewy crust, slightly charred from being baked in a coal-fired oven, which burns hot and dry. A trip to the original is a pilgrimage all pizza lovers should make, but thankfully for us, they’ve built exact replicas of their famous coal oven at six additional Connecticut locations, three in Massachusetts, one in Rhode Island, and one in (gasp!) New York State.
> Headquarters: The Bronx, NY
> Number of units (approximate): 120
> Region served: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas
In New York City, Jamaican food is synonymous with Golden Krust, which was founded by Mavis and Ephraim Hawthorne in The Bronx in 1989 and today has locations throughout the city as well as many states along the East Coast as well as Texas. Jamaican staples including jerk chicken, braised oxtail, curried goat, and escovitch fish are all represented on the menu, but Golden Krist is best known for its empanada-like Jamaican patties, in varieties including beef, chicken, jerk chicken, shrimp, spinach, and vegetable. As it was founded as a bakery, there are also lots of traditional Jamaican baked goods on offer, including coco bread, rock cakes, and hard dough bread, a family recipe since 1949.
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