Before the doors open for breakfast at 6 a.m., owners Richie and Patty Iadanza and the chefs at Park 51 Cafe are busy in the kitchen building every dish from scratch. That means mixing batter for pancakes and Belgian waffles, stirring potfuls of gravy to ladle over biscuits, and cubing potatoes to sizzle into home fries. When lunchtime rolls around, the chefs begin stuffing sandwiches with corned beef and sauerkraut or Cajun chicken, and baking pasta dishes in a hot oven to turn the cheese golden brown.
Bombay Grille's tandoor clay oven has filled the walls of its elegant dining hall with the fragrance of authentic northern Indian dishes since 1992. As lamb, chicken, fish, and shrimp emerge from the high-heat oven sizzling like butter-coated sunbathers, strips of tandoori-baked naan plunge into the creamy tomato sauce of their signature chicken tikka masala or the spicy gravy of the lamb vindaloo. Cushy beige booths and wood tables linger beneath colorful murals of Indian landscapes and planters full of cheerful pink flowers as customers line up before the expansive spread of a daily lunch buffet. A full-service catering menu can accommodate large parties or furnish business functions, offering office workers reprieve from a monotonous diet of break-room vending-machine tapas. The restaurant is owner Naval Sethi's second venture after spearheading North Carolina's Bombay Palace location, part of an internationally acclaimed chain.
At Table 274, talented chefs are dedicated to crafting wholesome lunch, brunch, and dinner menus. In order to support local agriculture, they work to forge a sizeable portion of their entree roster from locally acquired produce, which freshens their culinary cast more than Will Smith freshens a room when he films a sitcom in it. Their outdoor patio and spacious indoor dining area grant varied environs for sampling wood-fired pizzas topped with roasted vegetables, braised short ribs, or figs and prosciutto. To complement the diverse cuisine offerings cataloged on the menu, Table 274's mixologists shake and stir specialty cocktails with vodkas, citrus, and liqueurs, while curating a list of draft beers with selections from local breweries within the state.
The owners of JJ's Red Hots built their eatery as an homage to time-honored stands in hot-dog meccas such as Chicago and Buffalo. A retro-style neon sign beckons diners to the low-slung building, where sausages, chili, and hot dogs transport tongues to a bygone era when food was always made by hand. Martin's potato rolls cradle Sahlen’s smokehouse hot dogs, which can be dressed with toppings such as house-cured bacon, sweet chili sauce, and borracho beans. The Chicago-style dog wears a crown of sport peppers, deli mustard, and celery salt, declaring its supremacy over the Windy City without welding a throne to the top of the Willis Tower. To stay true to the idea of handmade food, the chefs craft their own salmon and chicken sausage and bratwurst and squeeze fresh fruitades every day.
The interior of the JJ's puts a modern spin on nostalgic decor. Black-and-white photos of those classic hot-dog stands line a crimson wall, lit from above by a chandelier constructed from a defunct set of drums. Diners can also sit on the rooftop patio, where umbrellas protect them from the glare of the sun, for whom a good hot dog is always just out of reach.
Classic Italian gelato and sorbetto is created from scratch and slow-churned at Bella Fresco Cafe each day, but this natural and fresh approach to food expands past its desserts. Meats rotate slowly on a spit in the style of shawarma, from which the kitchen staff carves succulent slices that make their way into signature pita sandwiches. Burgers, panini, and pita pizzas each pair with wine, which patrons nurse while reclining and enjoying lake views on the back porch. To finish up their meals, they choose a frozen treat and sip an espresso or Kona blend coffee.