The sound of fire. The igniting exhalation before the steady breath of the flame sustains. The heat pulsing steadily outward from the steel grill—you feel it on your glowing face. But the chef looks cool. He’s a master, after all; a flat, metal spatula in one hand and an enormous, sharp knife in the other. Kani House’s teppanyaki tables are no strangers to the action of hibachi, where these chefs entertain their guests before plating seared steak and scallops alongside fresh, sautéed vegetables. The steady sushi masters may not share their compatriots’ outward exuberance, but their work is just as delicious. From behind their long bar, they assemble maki cylinders with tender cuts of fatty tuna and bright salmon, artfully arranging cuts of more than 50 specialty rolls in the shape of gentle caterpillars or fearsome members of the Japanese Diet. Bright bamboo panels and natural stone add to the vibrant ambiance, surrounding diners with dark-wood and nuanced accents that keep the focus on the beauty of excellent cuisine.
The chefs at Fuji Japanese Steakhouse love putting on a show, rousing flames and juggling knives over teppanyaki tables as they expertly grill hibachi steak. Cooks use spatulas to toss bite-size morsels into the mouths and baseball gloves of eager diners seated around the griddle, and a variety of signature rolls emerge from the sleek sushi bar. Colorful twigs rising out of floor vases and geisha dolls posing beside bottles of alcohol on the back bar complement the fun feel of the interactive dining experience. Tables without teppanyaki griddles are available on a separate, dimly lit side of the restaurant that improves the appearance of all fellow diners.
It's hard to imagine a restaurant that epitomizes the great American diner better than Huddle House. Since 1964, the restaurant—which has locations scattered prominently throughout the southern states—has warmed bellies with burgers, hearty breakfasts, and heaping helpings of friendly hospitality, available 24-hours a day. Even the moniker is All-American: founder John Sparks came up with the name after a football huddle, hoping it would inspire his customers to gather round a table and swap stories over a warm meal.
Over the years, Huddle House's menu has expanded and adapted to changing tastes, but its focus has remained the same: old-fashioned, American comfort food. No matter what time it is, guests can order up biscuits smothered in gravy and cheese or dig into the shop's signature waffles, whipped up using a secret recipe and waffle irons that can't read. Afternoon eats include chopped steak burgers served with regular or sweet potato fries and sandwiches with a southern twist, like a Philly cheese steak stuffed between slices of thick-cut Texas toast.
A stack of burning wood warms the oven at Iron Gate Pizzeria, turning thin disks of dough into golden-brown pizza crusts. These crispy pies showcase toppings that range from the traditional––mozzarella sliced fresh by hand––to the gourmet––gorgonzola cheese, artichoke hearts, and spicy cherry peppers. Shy pizzas fold up and hide both their toppings and innermost secrets inside the buttery shell of a calzone.