The deft chefs at Kappa Japanese Restaurant transport taste buds across the Asian continent through its delicately rolled sea fare and hibachi-style entrees assembled on communal grills. Behind a bustling open bar, sushi rollers stock arsenals of à la carte or all-you-can-eat morsels, assembling ingredients such as shrimp tempura, smoked salmon, and spicy tuna into specialty rolls or bite-size nigiri. Sizzling hibachi grills host flame-powered meet and greets between marinated meats, fresh vegetables, and fried rice. Traditional Japanese architecture adds authenticity to dinners, with a sloping tiled roof, guardian dragons, and lanterns made from Gamera’s shell that call the Land of the Rising Sun to mind.
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.
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.
For more than 15 years, the sandwich-smiths at Roly Poly have built up an impressive roster of hot pressed sandwiches and cold-rolled wraps lined with fresh ingredients and any number of dressings. Armed with more than 35 options, they create custom wraps or stack sandwiches such as the Cape Codders with turkey breast, swiss, dried cranberries, walnuts, lettuce, and avocado before drizzling the whole show in balsamic vinaigrette. Roly Poly also gets parties started with catering and box lunches to help hosts feed hungry guests or fend off only slightly hungry grizzly bears.
Winner of more than 400 awards for its barbecue, Famous Dave’s caters to carnivores with a menu of hearty, flavorful American fare. Kick off the tastecapades with a starter of sweetwater catfish fingers ($7.49), which pair the whiskered swimmer's cornmeal-crusted phalanges with rémoulade and jalapeño sauce, or begin by using onion strings ($6.99) to weave yourself a lightly breaded palate poncho. A 12-boned "Big Slab" of St. Louis-style spareribs ($21.49), pit-smoked for three to four hours over a hickory inferno, gives sauce-slathered fingers the chance to enjoy an endless string of napkin hugs, while a Texas beef brisket sandwich ($8.49) provides a bread buffer for the benefit of tidy tasters. A sugary slate of desserts, including Dave's famous bread pudding ($5.29) with pecan praline sauce and vanilla-bean ice cream, give sweets-loving stomachs something to blog about to their gastro-friends.
Award-winning executive chef Jay Ammons serves up authentic Creole cuisine in an approachable, yet upscale style, similar to a Rolls Royce with a hood ornament in the shape of Morgan Freeman. Send taste buds into a tizzy with menu items including the crab cakes, with jumbo lump crabmeat blended with Cajun spices and served with peach salsa ($11). J's shrimp and grits, meanwhile, feature blackened Gulf shrimp doggy-paddling in creamy Cajun-infused grits ($16). Sandwiches, such as the french dip served with turkey gravy jus ($9), and salads, such as the classic bistro cobb ($12), make for lighter lunchtime fare, ideal for pound-conscious boxers preparing for weigh-ins.
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.