Dave Bohannon had a simple idea for a restaurant: he wanted to open one by the water and craft a concise menu of uncomplicated, but immaculately prepared dishes. With this vision in mind, he and his wife Alice opened Surf Burger. She honed its decor with help from local artists, creating an interior where old beach-themed paintings line the walls and surf movies play against a soundtrack of island music. Not only do the couple and their children leave their mark on the eatery’s menu and interior decor, but on its guests, as well. They often venture from their respective posts to eat, chat, and get matching tattoos with diners, forging a sense of community and transforming one-time visitors into loyal regulars.
They bolster this friendly, low-key atmosphere with casual dishes such as burgers, chili dogs, and fish tacos, as well as sweet-potato fries and quarter-pound Cajun sausages inspired by down-home southern recipes. At a full-service bar, servers pour draft beers and blend frosty tropical cocktails, which arrive before customers seated in the beachy dining room or on the outdoor, dog-friendly deck.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine?s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop?s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M?s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
Sunny yellow walls and park benches frame the entryway of CJ’s Kitchen & Grille, giving the cozy eatery the feel of a small, Southern town. Inside, baskets of fried fish and gulf shrimp, and platters of smothered pork chops and country-fried steak keep the Southern ambiance alive. A friendly wait staff shuffles fresh-made breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare from table to table, sating appetites with crab cakes, housemade tartar sauce, and hush puppies. Early-rising taste buds awaken from dreams about licking the surface of the moon to devour eggs paired with hash browns, grits, and andouille sausage, or to dive into homemade french toast made from Gambino's New Orleans' french bread.
Chefs roll fresh salmon, scallops, and barbecued eel into sushi behind Fuji’s open-air bar and send elegant platters to diners watching every slice or parties gathered in private rooms. Teriyaki-chicken or shrimp-tempura bento boxes arrive filled with neat portions of dumplings and crab rangoons to ensure that meals remain perfectly organized on the trip to the stomach. Pork or chicken cutlets are breaded and fried in the tonkatsu style, and udon or soba noodles tangle with stir-fried vegetables and fish cakes. Hibachi chefs sear filet mignon, chicken, or lobster tails to perfection to complement glasses of Japanese beer, sake, or jasmine tea from the beverage list.
The chefs at Bella Luna Pizzeria like to get creative in the kitchen, dreaming up unusual names for their pies—such as Mona Lisa and The Vatican—and tossing their thin New York–style crusts with unique toppings such as barbecue pork and andouille sausage. They even extend their culinary expertise toward vegan pizzas, topping them with dairy-free cheese and fresh vegetables. When they’re not perfecting their pies, the chefs keep busy slicing up meats for crunchy hero sandwiches and whipping up meatballs for spaghetti dinners. As the chefs bustle around the kitchen, customers await their meals in the bright dining room over pitchers of draft beers and bottles of sparkling champagne.
In business for 15 years, O?Brien's Bistro serves an upscale menu of seafood and grilled meats, all prepared to order by chef and owner Jim O?Brien. The chef endeavors to please all tastes with a variety of seafood dishes?including crowd favorites such as lobster-stuffed grouper and coconut fried shrimp?as well as grilled chicken, steaks and house-made soups. He?ll even modify any dish to accommodate customer requests, such as allergy restrictions or a preference for rhyming ingredients. Though the bistro is located in a strip mall, the interior offers an unexpected retreat with latticed dividers, cascading ivy, and a fluorescent fish tank.