Erwin Ovalle spent his childhood in his family?s bakery, dashing back and forth into the kitchen to help bake bread after helping customers at the register. He dreamed of one day owning his own bakery, but after sampling the food from street vendors during a whirlwind trip across Mexico, he changed his dream. He would instead open a caf? infused with the very aromas that beckoned him to those humble street carts.
At Ovalle's Mexican Caf?, Erwin and his chefs pay homage to Mexican regional cuisine, building a menu centered around dishes such as enchiladas suizas and choripan?authentic Mexican chorizo with roasted poblano, onion, oaxaca cheese, and garlic aioli. And they build every dish from scratch, to boot. They pickle the jalapenos that tuck into braised short rib tortas, and whip up a cilantro garlic sauce that crowns the grilled chile-rubbed skirt steaks.
Organic and fair-trade ingredients transform into beverages, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at Pasha Coffee & Tea. Between walls bedecked with original artwork, patrons nestle into plush armchairs to warm up with marbled-froth cappuccinos. Guests also spoon up Oreo frappes heaped with pillowy dollops of whipped cream, as well as coffee that, according to the roasting philosophy printed on the menu, is painstakingly roasted to the optimal degree. Cholula mayo paints crispy bacon slices in the spicy BLT, and pesto and mozzarella accent the italian breakfast melt's stack of ham and tomatoes. And occasionally, the coffee tables, magical beanstalks growing from dropped beans, and mismatched furniture part ways to make room for live music and poetry.:
It's clear from their menu that Blacksmith's Bistro & Bar's cooks don't take things too seriously. They named a burger crowned with pimento cheese and russian dressing the "Gooey" and affectionately called a pulled duck sandwich smothered in cherry barbecue sauce "Duck Duck No Goose." Still, fried-chicken sliders with tomato jalapeño jam and mac 'n' cheese with chunks of andouille sausage and crawfish prove that they can create some serious eats.
That southern influence can be found at brunch, too, with entrees ranging from spicy barbecue shrimp served over cheese grits to buttermilk biscuits smothered in sausage gravy.
Feasts unfold in a down-home space where tables line wood-paneled walls and menus top wooden barrels that can later be used on the nearby Tennessee River to float customers home. At the bar, mixologists whip up craft cocktails.
N’awlins Big Easy Bistro owners Craig McNamara and Venu Puttagunta celebrate the spirit of New Orleans with a regular lineup of rustic cuisine as well as occasional oyster roasts and crawfish boils. Prepared in the tradition of Cajun cooking, the eatery's menu ignites taste buds with shrimp or barbecue shrimp. Soppin bread accompanies crawfish étouffée, and po boys come dressed up in lettuce, tomato, and house sauce or dressed down in buns made from blue jeans.
A sizzle rings throughout Lou’s Burger House’s kitchen as the cooks toss behemoth 10-ounce burgers onto grills. Nearby, friendly staffers sing and dance while washing dishes or joke with the customers, who lick flaky chicken-pot-pie crust off their forks and tear into barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches. Forks also dig into heaping sides of mac ’n’ cheese, creamed potatoes, and collard greens, as well as sweet-cherry and peach cobbler. Lou’s recently added the barbecue options to its menu—making its slogan, “Our butts will drive you nuts!” finally have more than one meaning.