Guests rarely glance at their watches at Liaison Lounge and Restaurant, where smooth jazz music and soft lighting create an unhurried and easygoing atmosphere. Instead, diners fix their attention on conversations with friends, occasionally signaling the bartender for another glass of wine. Servers dart nimbly around the white-clothed tables, bearing plates of upscale pub fare, such as warm paninis, juicy pork sliders, and smoked salmon bites. Occasionally, live performers fill the patio with soft music.
The kitchen staff at Cheezer’s Gourmet Pizza has made its fair share of signature White Creamy Pie pizzas since the shop opened in 1986, so staff members have the process down to a science. First, they slap together the dough and stir the homemade white, creamy garlic sauce. Then they toss the sauce onto the dough and blanket it with cheese, pepperonis, mushrooms, bacon bits, tomatoes, green onions, and one regulation-sized golf ball. Finally, they slide the entire disk into a brick oven and bake it until it bubbles.
All 19 of their pizzas receive a similar treatment, the only differences being the toppings and the type of homemade sauce, which include creamy-pesto sauce, barbecue sauce, tomato-basil sauce, and tomato sauce. They stuff the same toppings into paninis and calzones, though they wisely leave them out of the glasses they fill with draft beer.
A small menu of healthfully prepared favorites is accented by mouthwatering daily specials at Palenque, where fresh ingredients flourish and home-style recipes are always en vogue. The enchiladas verdes come filled with either chicken or cheese and are adorned with homemade tomatillo sauce, offering a flavorful throne for cheese, onions, and sour cream ($9.50). Lead-footed drivers on the burrito superhighway can cruise into tasty tunnels of beans, cheese, rice, and salsa, with their choice of al pastor, asada, carnitas, or chicken in the coveted passenger seat ($5.10). Refresh with a Mexican beer ($3.25) or two as you chat with friends, or venture out to converse with one of Palenque's affable staffers and potentially find your long-lost giggle twin.
For the most part, Gatsby's Diner looks nothing like the Japanese restaurant it replaced. Jazz Age art now covers the walls, and tunes by Cab Calloway and Tommy Dorsey complete a laid-back mood. But founders Chuck Caplener and Jared Nuttall kept one detail from the building's past: the teppanyaki grills in the middle of the dining room. That's where Gatsby's cooks sear the burgers that Sactown Magazine praised as "perfect." What draws out such admiration? Seasoned beef and seasonal fixings such as fire-roasted jalapenos and house-made barbecue sauce.
Back in the kitchen, the culinary team crafts more complex dishes—dishes that hooked the attention of Guy Fieri on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The bone-in pork chops, for instance, take flavor from a vanilla-bean brine before soaking up coffee-bean smoke. And this complexity runs throughout the diner's signature dishes: house-made meatloaf smothered in red-wine mushroom gravy, par-boiled beets sandwiched into sliders. To accompany these riffs on American comfort food, cooks hand-spin three milkshake flavors one at a time in order to keep their embarrassing third arms hidden.
The chefs at DJ’s Grill and Deli know that some of the culinary world’s greatest triumphs have been sandwiched between two slices of bread. As such, they follow suit, stacking juicy, charbroiled burger patties, deli meats, and fresh veggies into burgers, sandwiches, and cheesy melts. To pump up the flavor, they top these handhelds with a variety of toppings, such as sweet teriyaki sauce and grilled pineapple. They also serve up burger and corndog kids' meals to sate the pintsize appetites of children and retired astronauts looking to fit into their first spacesuits.