Young, ambitious, and passionate about Japanese cuisine, Chef Alexander Chong takes to sushi the way an artist takes to canvas. He lords over his open bar, nimbly slicing up rolls with ultra-fresh fish and innovative ingredients such as jalapeños, deep-fried yam, and barbecue sauce, arranging pieces to complement the ingredients’ colors and flavors. Behind him, deep in the kitchen, chefs fillet fresh seafood for sushi dinners and labor over stoves, stirring pots of udon noodles and sizzling up poultry, pork, and steak teriyaki dishes for those who shy away from seafood since they were raised by fish. Out in the chic dining room, diners clink glasses of sake amid clouds of conversation and red walls adorned with angled accent pieces.
In Russian fairy tales, the firebird is a mythical creature of rare beauty, and Firebird Russian Restaurant aims to capture that spirit with its exquisite Russian feasts set in a bright, artistic atmosphere. Colorful artwork from local and foreign Russian artists lines the walls of the dining room, where you can try hot and cold appetizers such as salmon caviar or golubtsi—beef and rice rolled in cabbage—before digging in to vareniki dumplings or blini pancakes with meat and cheese. Sip on fruit kompot or kvas, a fermented beverage made from rye bread, which complement to hearty entrées of claypot lamb stew, pickled herring, or buttery chicken Kiev, or visit the full bar and peruse their selection of Russian vodkas. An apple strudel or cherry-stuffed blintz, like a lullabye sung by a choir of babies, can help end your night on a sweet note.
Crazy for Yogurt lives up to its name by offering 10 flavors of self-serve yogurt that customers jazz up with more than 80 fruit, candy, and nut toppings. They also have a selection of fresh-fruit smoothies and shakes that chefs whip up onsite, rather than outsourcing the task to a generic food-production factory or unreliable polar bears.
The aroma of beef and veggie patties, frankfurters, and sliced steak sizzling on the grill fills the kitchen at Mr. Pickles Sandwich & Burger Shop. where chefs busily craft no-nonsense burgers and sandwiches. They keep more fixings at hand for build-your-own sandwiches, which incorporate classic deli ingredients from sweet rolls and cream cheese to tuna salad and pastrami. Specialty sandwiches include the salami and ham combo of the Big Tony and the teriyaki-soaked chicken of the St. Francis, whose namesake became famous for introducing the concept of marination to Rome. Though a cozy dining area accommodates guests feasting in-house, chefs also cook meals for pickup and catered events.
Willie's classic diner-style menus serve up hot, fresh-cooked meatiness without compromise. Dig into one of its signature Slammer chiliburgers, such as the Slammer TCC ($5.35), boasting triple patties with cheese, Slammer chili sauce, thick-cut tomato, mustard, pickles, and onions, or bang on the anvil of your appetite with a Hammer 1 ($2.90), a single-patty burger bedecked with thousand-island dressing, lettuce, tomato, and fresh or grilled onions. A side of fries or garlic fries complement any menu item ($1.90–$2.50), while a spiced-up order of chili rings ($4.85) aptly accompanies a grilled chili dog ($4.40). Willie's also serves up malt-shop-style desserts, with classic hand-scooped ice-cream milkshakes ($3.45) available in mocha, coffee, strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate flavors to soothe inner fury arising from rain-ruined backyard ballet recitals.
On pearly white plates, heaping Angus burgers arrive steaming on their sturdy rolls alongside crispy fixings. It’s also not uncommon for bacon, guacamole, and pastrami to find their way onto Jasper’s specialty burgers, which are often accompanied by crispy French fries and hand-scooped milk shakes on the side. Chicken, beef, and lamb gyros are heaped high, while housemade dark chocolate baklava satisfies sweet tooths. In the retro dining room, eaters slip into old-fashioned leather booths or twirl atop brushed steel stools as they enjoy those and other sizzling, old-fashioned drive-in-style favorites. Since taking over in 2012, new owner Sam has made a point of sweetening up the menu with his family’s secret recipe for Jubilee Everything Cake. Diners can also satisfy dessert needs with cupcakes shaped like miniature burgers that are actually made of moist cake, served with cake “fries,” and dusted with sugar and red icing “ketchup.”