The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
A mermaid basks in the warm glow of track lighting, reaching to embrace a starfish as onlookers point and stare. This maritime beauty lives on a large mural inside Northern Lakes Seafood Company. She’s just one way the restaurant celebrates the ocean’s many wonders. Fresh fish and shellfish arrive daily from Boston, Hawaii, Florida, and the Great Lakes each day, landing in the kitchen, where chefs broil, grill, and sauté them and drizzle on gourmet sauces such as beurre blanc and béarnaise. To ensure that the fish is fresher than a mint-flavored iceberg, the chefs revise the menu each day, highlighting the newest catch available. In the lounge, guests can sip signature martinis and explore an oyster bar brimming with specimens from the East and West Coasts. The dining room teems with elegant decor such as ornate chandeliers, old-fashioned ceiling tiles, and burgundy carpet that matches the cabernets in the eatery’s wine library, which has won an award from Wine Spectator. In addition to helming more than six restaurants, The Epicurean Group, Northern Lakes Seafood Company’s parent company, has launched a wellness program that helps local organizations prepare nutritious, organic meals filled with fresh ingredients. To do so, they’ve partnered with Dr. Heather Annatoyn Dickson, a physician who specializes in wellness and longevity.
Once inside Barrio Tacos and Tequila, one is immediately struck by the smoky blues and warm blooms of color that fill the space. Frosted panes of azure glass line one side of the restaurant, and vibrant murals overtake the other walls—the ones that aren't stacked with shelves of tequila bottles, anyway. Orange lights from above branch into glowing tendrils, studding the navy ceiling with miniature suns and illuminating the mortar and pestle on each table. These points of color are akin to the sparks of flavor inside the menu: pleasantly surprising and, in the words of the Detroit News, "bright and well-balanced."
Executive chef Ryan Porter is the brain behind Barrio’s inventive recipes. As a teenager, Ryan cooked for his family every night, honing the creativity that would lead him through American-, Asian-, Italian-, and finally Mexican-themed kitchens. Today, he looks in all cardinal directions for culinary inspiration, fashioning platters in the style of Oaxaca and Acapulco, among other regions. He stuffs tortillas with nine types of taco fillings, including housemade chorizo. On the side, scoops of chili-dusted sweet corn transport guests to Mexico without forcing them to throw out the giant bottle of shampoo they keep hidden under their shirt.
Tim Castañeda's culinary education began at his family's dinner table. Nourished by the fresh salsas and flavorful meats, Tim developed a deep appreciation for and understanding of the traditional flavors of Mexican cuisine. After cooking in his family's restaurants during his youth, Tim continued to perfect his recipes and spice blends in Mexican eateries throughout the country. He brings his years of experience to Zumba Mexican Grille, where he whips up freshly made tacos, burritos, and quesadillas reminiscent of the authentic dishes of his childhood.
Named for the Spanish slang word for "energy," Zumba bustles with color and zest—from its shiny stainless-steel counters and rainbows of wooden chairs to the skirt steak, red-chili pork, and fresh vegetables sizzling on its grills. When customers walk in, their first step is to pick meats, toppings, and black, pinto, or magic beans. Then the servers behind the counter begin building Mexican specialties—including the burritos, named the city's best by Real Detroit Weekly. After receiving their orders, guests stroll over to the fresh salsa bar, where six different housemade varieties in various spice levels await them.
Chen Chow Brasserie's executive chef experimented with gigs as a musician and pro BMX rider before he discovered the culinary arts. After settling on this new career path, he wrangled a team of like-minded chefs to help craft a menu of inventive Asian-inspired cuisine, including miso-infused Chilean sea bass with crispy udon noodles and togarashi-blackened steak fillet. They also craft sushi rolls loaded with exotic ingredients such as forbidden black rice and brûléed salmon, and they occasionally hand over the reins to local celebrities, who design limited-edition maki rolls for charity. In addition to these eclectic morsels, the restaurant curates a collection of rare teas and sakes.
These Asian-fusion meals populate tables in a modern, ornately decorated dining room. Here, a recessed ceiling anchors scroll-shaped lighting fixtures that cast their silhouettes across a backlit wall. Circular booths facilitate hassle-free conversations or games of four-way patty-cake.
Owners Tina and Kevin Yancey didn't start their marriage with the idea of running a bakery. Kevin, a business owner, and Tina, a corporate employee, were simply fans of their local Great Harvest franchise and the freshly baked breads the staffers forged from scratch each day. With the couple's natural love for cooking and entertaining, they quickly realized the fulfillment they would gain from opening their own Great Harvest bakery. In 2007, they found that fulfillment by unveiling their very first location in Las Vegas.
Though far from the glitter of the Strip, the Yanceys' Birmingham location still bakes pillowy breads with the same techniques as the original Great Harvest that impressed them years ago. Everything from sweet scones and cookies to 10 types of flavorful bread are made completely from scratch with whole-grain flour the company mills itself and baked in an oven fueled by the company's fire-breathing staff members. The menu transforms from month to month, giving new and veteran customers alike new treats to taste throughout the year.