For John Offerdahl, the aroma of meat sizzling on the grill stirs memories of his family's barbecues in rural Wisconsin. Even when John grew up and became a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, he couldn't escape that enticing smell—it would waft into the stadium from fans tailgating outside and the mascots who secretly stuffed their costumes with cheeseburgers. So it was only natural that, after retiring from football, John would once again find himself at the grill when he and his wife Lynn opened Offerdahl's Cafe Grill in 2000. The couple were no strangers to the restaurant business; they had previously owned a chain of bagel shops. This venture, however, would prove more ambitious—they devised menus of classic American cuisine that could be served up fast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a focus on fresh-grilled fare.
Today, Offerdahl's Cafe Grill has expanded to seven locations, but its flavorful, no-frills meals remain the same. "Johnny O's Famous Bagels" still take the starring roles during breakfast, waking diners up with flavors like cinnamon crumb, pumpernickel, and fruit-and-nut. But once breakfast turns to lunch and dinner, the grill takes over. Chefs swiftly cook up steak, chicken, and salmon, serving the proteins over rice, pasta, or salad with homemade dressings. They also grill chicken sandwiches and burgers, in a nod to the café's backyard barbecue roots.
More than just a simple dairy dispensary, Eco Yogurt Lounge pairs sweet treats with environmental stewardship in a space that’s more club than ice cream shack. More than 30 flavors of traditional frozen yogurt, including wild strawberry lemonade, peanut butter, and blueberry tart, play well with sugar-free, tart and agave-sweetened varieties, many of which also contain vitamin and protein boosts to replenish bodies with nutrients. Once patrons have selected their swirls, they can head over to a series of small alcoves, where a toppings bar with self-serve cookie, candy, and fruit pieces awaits sweet inspiration. Yogurt in hand, they can sit at one of the modern white benches or plush chairs as brilliant LED lights reflect a wall of color-changing waves across the room. In addition to placating sweet teeth, Eco Yogurt Lounge also allays consciences, supporting earth awareness by using recycled materials and donating a percentage of the proceeds to ecologically friendly organizations.
Under the leavened leadership of executive pastry chef Alethea Hickman, Passion for Pastry bakes a butter-creamed bounty of sweet treats. Cupcake paramours can relish in their selection of one dozen moist cupcakes, each made larger-than-average for an added number of heavenly bites and to make their oversized sunglasses look less ridiculous. Guests can choose their decadent desserts from an extensive selection of flavors such as cherry-topped black forest, crushed cookie-coated Oreo, apple cinnamon, peanut butter, red velvet, and butter rum.
With red-checkered curtains, wood-paneled walls, and electric lanterns over the tables, Tom Sawyer Restaurant & Pastry Shop evokes the feel of a homey general store. To accompany the frontier-like ambiance, the cooks spend their mornings whisking together hearty breakfasts of scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes with enough syrup to float a log cabin. Although the restaurant's lunch specials rotate daily, certain homestyle favorites—including orders of fried chicken and open-faced turkey sandwiches—regularly fly out to tables until 2 p.m. when the kitchen closes.
Juice & Java prides itself in a menu filled with drinks and organic ingredients all pulled directly and unadulterated from their natural birthplaces. Even the most devious of thirsts are heroically quenched by coffee and tea drinks ($1.40–$3.75) along with juices and smoothies, available with nutritious add-ins ($2.95–$10.95). Solid sustenance presents itself as a chicken crepe, a chicken breast swathed in a gossamer crepe with optional roommates of sprouts and tomatoes ($7.95). The salmon toss, named for an ancient ritual of flinging salmon onto mile-long barbecue pits, presents a plate of organic quinoa, smoked salmon, scallions, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and tzatziki sauce ($9.95). Vegan and gluten-free menu items unfold before the eyes of eager herbivores.