Daniel P. Smith

Daniel P. Smith is a regular contributor to <i>QSR.</i>
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Local Legends

Stop a local in the Chicago area, inquire about the closest Portillo’s restaurant, and you’re almost certain to get directions to the Chicago-based chain’s nearest location (alongside some ordering suggestions). With its signature Vienna beef hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, Portillo’s is a Windy City icon, a beloved local favorite that many current and ex-Chicagoans speak about with reverence for its quality food, efficient service, and lively atmosphere.

Sustainability 2.0

When Arianne Bennett opened the Amsterdam Falafelshop in Washington, D.C., in 2004, she had some ambitious sustainability aims: green products, solar power, composting, community dumpsters. She had a vision of creating her own eco-friendly utopia in a world only then beginning to ride the sustainability wave, an adventure then entwined with environmental stewardship.

“We wanted to be as lean as possible … and we were careful about everything from the packaging we chose to the number of napkins we distributed,” Bennett says.

Standout Store: Dogmatic

Handcrafted, grilled-to-order, European-style hot dogs highlight the ambitious menu at New York City’s Dogmatic. Fresh-baked bread carries sausages that are made from sustainable, farm-raised meat and are topped with homemade gourmet sauces such as Cheddar Jalapeño and Chimichurri. One food critic called Dogmatic’s $5.65 signature item “a far more sophisticated pig in a blanket, and much more delicious.”

Standout Store: Cava Greens

When Patrick Fox opened Cava Greens in 2002, he fashioned it to be the anti–quick serve.

The food court–based eatery inside Denver’s 56-story Republic Plaza dishes up custom, hand-tossed salads alongside a range of fresh and natural offerings. The store resists processed foods in favor of dozens of seasonal foods, including figs, pomegranate seeds, and lean proteins, such as tofu and seared salmon.

Standout Store: Galloping Griz

Food trucks are going to school, and the Galloping Griz is among the latest to enroll.

The University of Montana’s mobile kitchen—which debuted last spring with a $167,000 price tag—provides late-night dishes, namely Mexican-style street food, to the university’s flagship campus in Missoula. It also serves breakfast and lunch offerings to a satellite campus located just five miles away.

Mark LoParco, director of university dining services, discusses the decision to invest in a food truck and the opportunities a mobile eatery brings.

Standout Store: Bountiful Eatery

After holding various positions in the Darden enterprise and managing a Chicago-area Panera Bread, Ed O’Brien tired of working for others. Eager to become his own boss, O’Brien opened Bountiful Eatery in July 2012.

Sandwiched between an ice cream shop and a pizza parlor, the Chicago-based restaurant offers a gluten-free menu of pita wraps filled with fresh produce, as well as an assortment of soups, stews, and chili made with seasonal ingredients.

The Whataburger Way

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, down the block from a McDonald’s and around the corner from a Jason’s Deli, Whataburger store No. 304 on Peoria Avenue features the same iconic, orange-and-white, A-frame exterior as nearly every other restaurant in the 740-unit Whataburger system. It serves the same quarter-pound hamburgers on five-inch buns, and its people inside display the same friendly demeanor that has catapulted the Whataburger brand through seven decades.

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