Jody Maroni, founder of Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom, started linking gourmet sausages in 1979 and now rules over a royal court of meat artisans who assemble more than 20 all-natural varieties. Many of the homemade recipes renounce nitrates and MSG and instead fill the natural pork casings with meat that is naturally low in sodium and fat. Chicken-mole sausages blend chocolate, cumin, and chilies, and the louisiana hot links steep in duck stock and smolder with Boudin-style spices. Like Iowa's delightful airspace, the meaty morsels have drawn bicoastal praise—Splash! Los Angeles argues that they "might just top the Dodger Dog," and Time Out New York thanks the eatery for bringing "rays of sunshine to the food wasteland of Times Square."
Russo's dining room evokes a Tuscan vineyard with large murals of plump purple grape bunches, exposed rafters, and deep-green twisting vines. Since 1987, John and Jane Russo have paired this rustic ambiance with age-old family recipes ranging from grilled fish filets and grinders, to hearty pastas and Sicilian-style pizza. Diners can also opt for gently sautéed shrimp and veal dishes bathed in made-from-scratch sauce.
Creating a sushi roll is as much an art project as it is cooking. The chefs at City Sushi and Grill have a colorful, modern style of preparation. They present their delicious rolls on stark white plates, decorated with purple flowers, black squiggles of sauce, and even—in the case of the tempura california roll—decorative glasses emitting tendrils of smoke. The sushi remains the real star of all plates, though, with ingredients chosen with color and flavor considered in equal measure. The ultimate tiger tempura, for instance, features bright-orange fish draped over crispy, fried crust, streaked with dark stripes of sauce to make it resemble the wild cat from which it takes its name.