In 1983 Nord Brue and Mike Dressell decided that it didn't matter how far Burlington, Vermont was from New York City; no distance was too great to limit their access to New York-style bagels. So they spent 2.5 years apprenticing with a professional bagel baker from the city until they mastered the technique. Once they were comfortable with their skills and had accepted that it doesn't actually hurt the bagel to bite it, they opened their first Bruegger's Bagels, a casual bakery and café. Today, they have more than 300 eateries across the United States and Canada, each hawking freshly baked bagels, cream cheeses, sandwiches, coffee, and desserts.
At Sushi Avenue, chefs HaeChung Lee and Nansook Choi?or Harry and Nana, as they're known?curate a selection of more than 45 specialty sushi rolls filled with everything from apple to fresh crab. Along with the myriad maki?christened with names such as King Kong, Samurai, and Red Caterpillar?the restaurant also serves entrees such as orange chicken and classic appetizers such as miso soup, putting chopsticks to plenty of uses other than practicing Morse code.
From afar, the inside of Hon machi Sushi & Cocktail could look like a thriving marina, as salmon, eel, and tuna from around the world board wooden boats that dock at tables framed with lush plants and paper lanterns. Seasoned sushi chefs outfit each these passengers with a layer of seaweed or rice before granting eight of them passage on the Hon machi boat along with three types of sashimi and a rainbow roll. In their wake, hot Japanese entrees such as chicken yakisoba and pork katsu emanate savory scents from Teppanyaki tables. In addition to captaining sushi boats, the staff gives specific driving directions to sushi and noodles, which show up at homes, parties, and corporate events.
Sushi chef Pancho doesn’t hide behind the walls of a kitchen. Dressed in a brightly colored happi coat emblazoned with tropical fish, Pancho can often be seen distributing hot towels and cracking jokes while he crafts sushi rolls filled with spicy crabmeat, masago, or yellowtail in front of diners at his sushi bar. Of course, chefs still create hot specialties in the kitchen—entrées such as teriyaki salmon, vegetable tempura, and breaded pork tonkatsu add a dose of heat like an eager dragon in his first day as an AC repairman. The eatery cuts down on diners' bills with daily specials, including a half-price sushi happy hour and all-you-can-eat sushi for around $20.
With a nod to its namesake warriors, Ninja Japanese Restaurant assassinates insatiable appetites and sour moods alike for a fun and lively dining escape. At the outset, distinctively authentic decor transports guests to a trans-Pacific land without requiring them to buy a plane ticket or get really good at kayaking. Slim wooden logs form a roof over intricate wooden gates branded with Japanese characters, opening to reveal seating options that steer the evening's experience. Perched on chairs tucked under a U-shaped bar, diners watch chefs artfully roll fresh sushi from an edible palette of pink salmon, yellowtail tuna, or chunky avocado. The hibachi room, on the other hand, cranks up the heat. There, hungry diners sit up close to an iron teppanyaki griddle where a chef chops and sizzles fresh seafood and veggies, at once creating a meal and a spectacle to sate hungry stomachs and hungry eyes.
The recipe for Republic Ramen & Noodles' slow-simmered broth may be a secret, but anyone can figure out that it tastes good. “Republic Ramen in Tempe is the real deal,” said a Phoenix New Times piece that named it the city’s best ramen restaurant in 2011. Chefs bedeck each bowl with locally sourced veggies—sprouts, spinach, scallions, carrots—as well as savory proteins, such as pork, tofu, spam, chicken, or beef. It wouldn’t be right to serve an Asian comfort-food staple without the associated imported beverages. The menu includes Japanese beers, such as Asahi and Orion, and a four-sample sake flight that comes with a side of edamame. The staff also blends boba drinks that, like Mother Nature’s tears in January, come in slush and snow form. Fruity flavors, including honeydew, coconut, peach, and passionfruit, end meals on sweet note.