Judging by his daring attitude toward fusion cuisine, head chef Michael Schiffer probably tried to fry the rule book before throwing it out the window. He founded Maximillian's Grill in 1991 with humble aspirations: it would be a 32-seat pizza restaurant where guests could enjoy quiet meals. In four months, however, he had amassed magazine awards and a clientele that would line up outside the restaurant for an hour before he opened the doors. They were there, waiting patiently, to see what delicious fusion food would sail out of the kitchen that night?Michael hand wrote a new menu every day and often invented new dishes on the spot, fusing Italian flavors with creole and Asian influences.
Unfortunately, in 1998, a fire closed Max?s for good. Though he and his wife Gayle later opened a gourmet deli, it wasn?t until 2001 that they opened Max?s once again, this time in a roomier location with high ceilings, soft light, and tinted windows. The new joint even has a wine bar in the back separated from the dining room by a partition.
In the kitchen, Michael devises fresh takes on fusion cuisine while holding onto many of the dishes that made Max?s famous, classics as the grilled caesar salad?prepped by grilling the actual lettuce?and the peppercorn-encrusted Voodoo tuna. Michael has also archived his old menus on the restaurant's webpage, viewing them as a timeline for his culinary evolution and a way to remember how to spell "bouillabaisse."
At The Great Mongolian Grill, patrons are free to assemble their own plates of Mongolian fusion fare at buffet-style counters, a process that earned the grill favorable mention in Cary Living magazine. Protected by vaulted glass, a long counter hosts bins of noodles, fresh veggies, and meats waiting to be assembled into novel combinations. After filling their bowl, diners snag a colored stick denoting their sauce of choice, then watch the chefs fire up their meal on the grill or at a nearby Olympic torch. While the selection of meats, veggies, and sauces is ever-changing, the Cary Living feature highlights the crabmeat, mushrooms, sprouts, shrimp, and honey-citrus pepper sauce. Patrons can also relinquish the burden of dish-building responsibility with special entrees on the menu, such as galbi—Korean barbecue beef ribs served with a ginger salad or boneless beef short rib steak. In the eatery’s dining room, sleek modern lines and neutral tones are illuminated by wide cylindrical lamps hanging above tables.:
After more than a decade in Berkeley, California, the minds behind Thai Spices & Sushi Restaurant headed east to showcase their classic Asian flavors for North Carolinians. Locals and food reviewers, in turn, have showered plenty of praise upon the restaurant, where customized heat levels range from hot to hotter than a supermodel wrapped in an electric blanket.
The chefs' adjust the spiciness while crafting everything from tofu saut?ed with cashew nuts and snow peas to medleys of eggplant and deep-fried tilapia simmering in green curry sauce. Sushi chefs, meanwhile, assemble raw fixings into 19 specialty rolls, including a California roll topped with baked seafood and the Neptune, a union of eel and cream cheese crowned with crab-stick salad. In addition to nightly dinners, the eatery hosts lunches every weekday with everything from pan-fried salmon teriyaki to Bento boxes chockfull of veggie curries and gyoza.
A science lab calls to mind test tubes, bubbling flasks of chemicals, maniacally laughing men in white coats—but rarely ice cream. But that's exactly where Curt Jones, chairman and founder of Dippin' Dots, came upon the inspiration for the tiny flash-frozen beads of ice cream. A microbiologist, Jones spearheaded the flash-freezing process of cryogenic encapsulation, a method capable of trapping flavor and freshness.
Beginning as a retail shop in Lexington, Kentucky, the ice cream quickly began to quell the tantrums of Fortune 500 CEOs all over the country. Having won numerous awards since he created a new way to enjoy an old treat, Jones stays true to Dippin' Dots’ roots, making the ice cream at the company headquarters in Paducah, Kentucky. New additions to the Dippin' Dots family include Dots ‘n Cream, a treat similar to traditional ice cream.
Past a verdant forest of shrubbery, a welcoming umbrella-tabled patio, and homey bright red drapery, diners at La Shish Mediterranean Cafe tuck into sumptuous fare from Greece and Lebanon. Gyros crammed with beef and lamb lurk on the lunch and dinner menus, attended by tangy tzatziki sauce and a pronunciation coach. Entrees often arrive with house-whipped hummus and a Greek or Lebanese salad as well. News and Observer food critic Greg Cox is a big fan of La Shish, placing it on his ?Hot List: Middle Eastern? not once but twice, and citing the baklava?s ?shatter-crisp texture and golden brown color? as just two reasons why it is ?without peer? in the region.
It's been more than a half-century since the first Char-Grill opened its doors on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, but not much has changed at this beloved local chain. Whether in the original cinderblock building or one of the 10 locations that have been added since, people still approach the counter to jot down orders, pass them through the window, and then look on as cooks grill half- and quarter-pound steak patties over charcoal flames.
In addition to the signature smoky-flavored burgers, Char-Grill also fires up grilled chicken, chili dogs, and pulled-pork sandwiches. Milkshakes and fries add to the eatery's classic feel, helping land it on USA Today's list of 51 Great Burgers and reminding guests of simpler times when hamburgers were used as currency.