Bucky's Bar-B-Q owner Wayne Preston honed his craft at a young age, spending boyhood afternoons in his father's meatpacking plant and Wednesday nights preparing suppers for his local church. Word about Wayne's saucy ribs and pulled pork spread shortly after he founded his own roadside barbecue stand, forcing him?like the barbecue-sauce barons of years past?to expand his operations to new frontiers. Today, each of Bucky's four locations fashions heaping plates of never-frozen Boston butt, tender chicken, and St. Louis?style ribs in the traditional country style: hand-rubbed with secret seasonings and slow-cooked over a smoky fire of hickory chips. Three housemade sauces garnish slices of juicy meat served alongside traditional sides of baked beans, coleslaw, and sweet potatoes. When they aren't dishing out meals in the restaurant, Bucky's tireless staff serves parties, formal events, weddings, and flash mobs as large as 1,500 people with fully catered barbecue feasts.
Wayne shares his more than 15 years of barbecuing expertise with aspiring grill masters during in-depth classes offered at his Roper Mountain and Donaldson Center locations. Students not only learn the art behind sauces and rub but also get to eat their class materials.
As they enter under the hanging wood sign bearing a carving of grapes and shuffle past the gray stone and golden stucco façade, patrons at Kozani Restaurant & Bar find themselves transported to the warm kitchens and rolling vineyards of the Mediterranean. Aromas from spices imported from Italy, Greece, Israel, and Lebanon waft through the dining room, signaling the arrival of Mediterranean dishes, including recipes from head chef Tim Robinson's favored region of Emilia Romagna. While he focuses on Northern Italian dishes, the chef also consistently snares an eclectic blend of local ingredients, such as produce and seafood, and crafts gluten-free versions of every dish on the menu. He often appears on the floor to meet clientele, roaming the dining room to chat with diners and make sure their forks have the proper number of prongs. To compliment his dishes, the serving staff often pairs meals with more than 80 wines hailing from Europe, South and North America, and Australia.
Tom Engel burst onto the culinary scene in 1977 when he opened Richards Cafe and Little Richards. Now, in his eponymous house of barbecue, he draws on more than 30 years of culinary experience to roast brisket, chicken, and carolina pork shoulder, drawing out their natural flavors with one of nine sauces. These savory potions—which range from sweet and mild to spicy to Cheerwine sauce—sizzle on the grill, punching up a menu that overflows with homestyle treats such as hush puppies, meaty barbecue baked potatoes, and saucy ribs. Tom's BBQ also deliver catered Southern feasts to parties, special events, and straw houses to send their residents a stern message.
Owner Lazaro Montoto maintains a healthy diet, and doesn't believe in sacrificing flavor to do so. That's why he opened Tropical Grille as an alternative to the nation’s preponderance of greasy fast-food dives. Natural light pours from wall-length windows onto his steaming grill, where the smell of sizzling chicken and steamed veggies mingle with the aromatic release of Lazaro's flavor-packed spice rubs. He puts those blends to good use; in addition to spicing up the grill, they also infuse his signature pork, which marinates for 12 hours before taking a trip to the slow-roaster for inclusion in thick sandwiches and hearty wraps.
The multitalented chefs at Sakura Japanese Steakhouse emphasize quality ingredients and artful presentation in each and every dish. The traditional Japanese dining room features a central hibachi grill that sears vegetables, steak, and seafood in an inferno of sizzling oils and bright yellow flames. Sakura’s more coolheaded sushi chefs swirl hand and specialty rolls—crafted from shrimp tempura, softshell crab, and salmon—behind chilled cases of fresh fish. Indecisive diners can request omakase meals, assortments of seasonal dishes handpicked by the chef to showcase culinary skill and an ability to match meals to wallpaper swatches.
The Cazbah serves up traditional American and Asian-inspired small plates along with a carefully curated list of wines. Housed in a former feed-and-seed store, it features a chic industrial design with tin ceilings, exposed brick walls, and a rooftop bar that allows guests to enjoy dinner with a view. The Cazbah furnishes those dinners with a menu of between 30 and 35 rotating tapas, including grilled seafood, veggie dips, and comfort-food staples. The wine list is equally varied, making it easy to find pairings for all types of cuisine.