Sixteen hours. That's the minimum amount of time that Robert and Erin MacNab, the duo behind Sage Garden BBQ & Catering, spend slow cooking cuts of pork and chicken that they've dry rubbed with spices and herbs. Afterward, they shred the meats and layer them onto sandwiches, stuff them into tacos with housemade pico de gallo, or serve on platters with made-from-scratch sides such as kettle chips or sweet cornbread.
The MacNabs complement their down-home barbecue with desserts such as freshly made banana pudding, Ghirardelli brownies, and cupcakes garnished with citrus zest or additional cupcakes. They also do custom catering for events.
There’s nothing more quintessentially Irish than Guinness beer, a fact not lost on the chefs at Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub. Led by Deacon Ovall, recently featured on Fox Charlotte's Chef Spotlight, the kitchen staff pairs house-cured corned beef and cabbage with Guinness au jus, smothers flank-steak shepherd's pie with Guinness gravy, and batters fried cod fillets in Guinness batter. But the menu is nothing if not multifaceted, with offerings ranging from traditional Irish eats and hearty half-pound Black Angus burgers to nearly a dozen freshly tossed salads.
Diners can pair their upscale pub eats with a hearty selection of pours. Four of the eight draft beers on tap hail from Ireland itself, and the servers also mix up "Lucktinis," including the Spiced Leprechaun made with Bacardi Oakheart, sour-apple Schnapps, and pineapple juice. Big-screen TVs dazzle eyes as flights of Irish whiskey tantalize tongues. Every Wednesday at 9 p.m., rounds of trivia keep brains from forgetting little-known factoids, such as the name of George Washington’s least-favorite fruit.
As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon’s piano players, explains on the club’s website, “Every night…we try and throw a party, regardless of whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night.” The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. Servers stand over patrons to plunge jello injectors into their mouths, and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 86-ounce booze buckets filled with sangria or other fruity libations. Pomegranate liqueur and honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
Not only do canines and their owners come to Dog Bar to socialize, but human visitors can also order a round of beer. While owners sip cool beverages from the bar, dogs play on a partially covered patio with astroturf. Dog Bar's staff sanitizes the play area each day, ensuring a clean and safe environment.
Southern Living says Sonoma's dinner menu blends "a Slow Food philosophy, which focuses on local, organic, peak-season ingredients, with true culinary artistry." Menus change with the seasons; current appetizers include gruyere- and bacon-topped Kobe beef sliders with a side of pommes frites ($9) and a seared sesame-crusted tuna ($10) flanked by a spicy cucumber salad. Main courses such as a leg of venison ($20), a duck breast ($18), and a Kobe beef burger ($10) take aim at the freshest fruits and vegetables in Old MacDonald's inventory. Neptune also sacrifices some denizens to Sonoma's flavorful fare; sup on grilled Atlantic salmon ($16) and grilled sea scallops topped by a pineapple-jalapeño chutney ($18). Salads, sandwiches, and daily specials populate the lunch menu.
Walls dappled with blue, coral, and gold make for a festive atmosphere at Aquavina, where artists' abstracted takes on ancient canoes dangle from the ceiling over table linens topped with seafood, chops, and steaks. Chefs determine meat temperatures according to a precisely gauged chromatic system, so diners can know exactly how red, pink, gray, or paisley their filet mignon's center will be. Alternately, indulge in seafood entrees such as ahi tuna, lobster tails, or salmon doused in citrus beurre blanc. The restaurant’s multiple dining rooms glow with color, and an outdoor patio seats up to 100 guests reassured by the sight of the nation’s extensive fresh air reserves.