In the middle of July, alfresco diners at Le Deauville might dive headlong into a Bastille Day celebration, watching as servers light red, white, and blue cupcake towers with sparklers or mediate street-side matches of pétanque. Though they bathe their sidewalk bistro in patriotic colors on state holidays, the staffers also immerse visitors in French culture year-round. Chefs populate seasonal menus with traditional French dishes such as steamed mussels in tomato and herbs, roasted rack of lamb with bordelaise mint sauce, and sea scallops with wild-mushroom risotto. They sometimes augment these dishes with globe-hopping guests including Caribbean lobster and Spanish mackerel, introducing new flavors to French preparations without having to pass sushi off as really, really strange-looking ratatouille.
In warm weather, servers ferry these dishes to sidewalk tables draped in white tablecloths next to the restaurant's French-door-covered façade, which is illuminated each night by strings of colored light bulbs. Gray tiled floors inlaid with intricate designs spread out inside, running between dark-wood-paneled and exposed-brick walls. Here, patrons gather at café tables or sidle up to an old wooden bar, where servers pour from a full stock of beer, wine, and spirits.
Justin and Kristin Gilbert spent three years in Italy, visiting gelaterie in more than 20 cities to mine artisanal secrets before opening their own shop. In choreographed musical numbers, the duo handcraft dense, flavor-packed gelato in small batches using local milk and fresh fruit. From a repertoire of more than 100 recipes, Justin and Kristin curate 20 flavors at a time. Past and present flavors include poached-pear zinfandel, orange-ginger dairy-free sorbetto, and chocolate orange—one of Justin's favorites, according to a feature in Louisville Magazine. Delicate crêpes conceal Nutella or lemon and sugar. The cozy shop also sends forth its mobile cart to cater office snack breaks, weddings with as many as 2000 guests, and Roman legions on the march.
Devoted to the emerging farm-to-table agricultural movement, 610 Magnolia uses local and sustainable foodstuffs to create artful and innovative three-course prix fixe ($50/person) and four-course prix fixe ($60/person) meals. Chef Edward Lee, who was recently named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast and featured in Southern Living, harnesses international techniques to infuse southern cuisine with eclectic flavors. The variability of local and seasonal pickings makes dishes change as often as a carousel, but past offerings have included Angus beef tartar with pequillo peppers, wax beans, and heirloom tomatoes picked just miles away, and a mosaic of grilled octopus slices with red pepper, cucumber, and feta in tomato-water gelée drizzled in kalamata olive vinaigrette and oregano oil. 610 Magnolia’s skilled kitchen crew can accommodate vegetarian preferences if they’re noted at the time the reservation is made.
The Great Canadian Bagel stuffs sandwiches with nutritious ingredients and embraces each mouthwatering mound with freshly sliced wheels of dough. The extensive sandwich menu reflects gourmet deli concoctions such as barbecue beef with onions ($5.59), asiago swiss supreme ($4.99), and the Monte Cristo ($4.99), which is garnished with toasted ham and sweet revenge. Pizza bagels ($2.19) and bagel dogs ($3.09) grant sandwiches a much-needed rest until a sausage-egg-and-cheese ($4.19) or nova-lox-and-cream-cheese sandwich ($6.29) scrumptiously breaks dawn. Rumbling stomachs can embellish meals with a spring-greens salad ($3.69) and a bowl of Klondike chili ($4.29) or simply snack on a brownie ($1.99) and raise a pinky while sipping a large chocolate milk ($2.39).
Connected by an asphalt web of highways, state roads, and thoroughfares, blocky yellow signs gleam nonstop, casting a dandelion glow from the words “Waffle House.” The booths at the eateries fill 24 hours each day with the aromas of sizzling pork chops, Jimmy Dean sausage, and endless mugs of coffee. Line cooks brown shredded potatoes on a grill as waiters shout back in a language all their own for hash browns “smothered,” “covered,” or “topped”—served with onions, cheese, or chili, respectively. Angus burgers and steak melts share space on the rippling-hot surface at all times of day, allowing tired drivers to stop for food when they are on a long journey or just listening to an 11-hour drum solo on the radio. The first Waffle House switched on its lights in 1955, and some menu items still bear the names of Waffle House staff of the past, including Bert's chili from Dallas and Alice's iced tea.