The cooks at Velvet Grill & Creamery understand the timelessness of classic diner fare and a cold scoop of ice cream. All day long, they make breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes from scratch and churn out fresh batches of more than 20 ice-cream flavors. Breakfast seekers satisfy savory cravings with three-egg omelets stuffed with ingredients such as avocado, crab, linguiça, and feta cheese. Sweet teeth tear into Velvet's original pancakes, made with real oatmeal and buttermilk from a special house recipe. Later-day options include classic comfort fare such as chicken-fried steak and smoked pork chops doused with an apricot glaze. Among the sandwich selection, the house-special mega grilled cheese ($7.39) combines four kinds of melted, gooey cheese between three slices of bread to form a meal hefty enough to knock over Mechagodzilla should he return from his semester abroad in Prague. Diners can also lap up the eatery's rotating selection of homemade ice creams, which were spotlighted in the Lodi News-Sentinel for their incorporation of such unconventional ingredients as wine and butternut squash. Customers can also suggest new flavors and request special batches, which in the past have included licorice, bacon, and the sweet, sweet taste of victory over chinese finger traps.
Dream Dinners founders Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna want to help families gather around the table for delicious meals. Like many parents throughout the country, the two women tried to coordinate a family dinner, but their efforts were often thwarted by hectic schedules. As a dinnertime strategy, Stephanie began to prepare meals with fresh, raw ingredients and then freeze them so they could be quickly thawed and cooked during the week. This tactic became popular with her family. Before long, friends, friends of friends, and chimpanzee families that mimicked their friends wanted to learn her secrets. With help from Tina Kuna, she established the first Dream Dinners location, and the successful food-prep business has led to the creation of more than 90 stores in less than three years.
At each Dream Dinners location, customers find all the culinary tools to prepare a nutritious meal—everything from fresh ingredients to meal-packing materials. Each week Dream Dinners features a new menu of fix-and-freeze dinners that can be made for up to six people, providing customers with numerous options for planning quiet meals at home or dinner parties with friends. All ingredients are precut and measured to ensure an error-free fixing.
As the vibrant, swirling skirts of belly dancers entrance patrons' eyes, Skewers' chefs slice up lamb, filet mignon, chicken, and salmon for the restaurant’s namesake kebabs. To sate carnivorous cravings, their flavorful meats—which are marinated for 48 to 72 hours in tangy Mediterranean spices and oils—are roasted over the open flame of a stove or a snoring baby dragon. Bartenders craft potent martinis and pour international wines that complement both the punchy flavors of the kebabs and the plumes of sweet, aromatic smoke that dance through the hookah garden. On select nights, the kebab house brims with the catchy beats of live jazz bands, late-night DJs, and brave karaoke performers, and belly dancers take center stage with their sensuous dance moves on Saturday evenings.
A childhood spent in Japan as well as Japanese cooking lessons from her mother Sumako helped prepare Maisie Bell for her long career as a sushi chef. In 2009, after a quarter century in the kitchen, Bell opened her eponymous sushi house, where she and her staff prepare made-to-order sushi as well as grilled salmon, beef, and chicken dishes. Cool blues and greens define the interior of the sleekly modern eatery, where patrons tuck into specialty rolls such as Red Dragon, with tempura shrimp and spicy tuna, and the Unknown roll, whose ingredients are awaiting new names from the Witness Protection Program. The kitchen also whips up baked mussels in a spicy cream sauce, beef teriyaki, and traditional japanese curries.
Despite its expansive menu, Papachino’s is known particularly for one item—gyros. Fresh pita bread blankets the succulent combination of beef and lamb meat, but it’s the dollops of fresh tzatziki sauce, made from yogurt cultured in-house, that seal the deal. Other menu favorites span the Mediterranean, from Italian pastas to Greek moussaka. While munching on steak pita sandwiches or braiding strands of pasta marinara, customers can enjoy the eatery’s eclectic art collection, including a large painted mural of a Greek village as well as individual works by local artists. Every weekend, a live musician stops by and croons customers out of their seats and onto a makeshift dance floor with acoustic covers of hit songs.
Hot Dog on a Stick Founder Dave Barham opened his first Hot Dog on a Stick in Santa Monica in 1946, and the company has since burgeoned into an employee-owned franchise that's more than 100 eateries strong and spans 11 states. Best known for a 100% turkey hot dog dunked in corn-bread batter made from Dave's mother's recipe and cooked in soy oil, Hot Dog on a Stick also pioneered the dipping and be-sticking of mild american and spicy jalapeño jack cheese. Smiling employees in red-, white-, and blue-striped uniforms with, as Dave put it, "a splash of lemonade," hand over cherry, lime, sugar-free, or original lemonade that they make fresh every two hours by squeezing Ventura County lemons until they cry.