Cylindrical lights cast artful shadows on golden walls while amber drapes evoke waterfalls of pure honey. Patrons just entering The Wine Loft's warm, glowing lounge find seats on a wall-length leather sofa and begin eyeing neighboring feasts of small plates. Shareable boards are scattered with Italian antipasto, charcuterie, and Mediterranean accouterments, all begging companionship from more than 40 wines by the glass. "I also have 100 wines by the bottle," the waitress says, seeing the customers scanning the bar. She drops two menus and cocktail napkins onto the black-lacquered table. Each item's description flickers against lit tea candles. Jazz music gives the room a velvety pulse. "We'll have the Japanese pumpkin ravioli and shrimp and blue-cheese pastries,” says one of the diners. “And as for all these wines, I think we'll need a few more minutes."
Inspired by the culinary traditions of Latin America, the chefs of Pio Pio put their own spin on centuries-old recipes that hail from Peru, Colombia, and Spain. The indisputable highlight is the tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken, which the chefs roast on a rotisserie and brush with a spicy Peruvian sauce before serving it alongside fries, plantains, or traditional yucca. The menu also features a handful of coastal seafood dishes and hearty steaks.
An acronym for Fabulous Art Buying Opportunity, FABO began as just that: an art store. It still is today, only along with art, the Park Road shop quenches thirst and quiets hunger, too. Inside, artwork from nearly 60 local artists?including paintings, photographs, jewelery, and pottery?sprawls across blue-gray and wine-colored walls. Visitors kick back in this funky atmosphere to sip on coffee, espresso, and even a carefully selected roster of wines and beers, some from local breweries. When stomachs begin to rumble, guests can also munch on muffins, bagels, and other bakery treats made to eat while on the move or during a secret detour from a nearby marathon.
The epicurean engineers at The Original Italian Pie slather homemade sauce across gourmet pizzas, which beckon hungry stomachs from a mouthwatering menu stocked with salads, pastas and sandwiches. A meaty triumvirate of pepperoni, italian sausage, and ground beef joins forces with a bevy of fresh veggies to invigorate combo pies, and modest margherita masterpieces enjoy simpler existences with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella. A garden of more than 25 toppings, including canadian bacon, herbed ricotta, and jalapeños ($0.95–$2.75 each), endows customers with more choices than an edible Choose Your Own Adventure novel at the create-your-own pizza or calzone station. Unlike their circular counterparts, a selection of salads, pastas and entrees, such as seared tuna salad ($9.95), spinach lasagna ($10.95) and chicken parmesan ($11.95), provide a purpose for utensils, keeping hand-jealous forks from throwing themselves off the table.
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.
Lebowski's Neighborhood Grill is a family-run operation. Founders Kirk Weaver and his daughters, Jessica and Amelia, opened it in early 2009. As natives of Buffalo, New York, they import hometown mainstays such as wings, haddock, and beef on 'weck—a roast-beef sandwich served on a Kaiser-like roll with kosher salt and caraway. They feature eight beers on tap and supplement this collection with more than 70 craft and imported brews. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., they hold two happy hours Monday–Friday, once in the early evening, and again between 10 p.m. and midnight.