Caliente Kitchen blends a lively menu of zesty south-of-the-border bites with an alluring part-restaurant, part-nightclub atmosphere. For starters, guests can occupy a gabby tongue with a gift of made-to-order guacamole ($12) before crunching into a piquant plate of veggie tacos, loaded down with peppers, onion, mushrooms, and fresco cheese, and accompanied by rice and beans ($10). The enchiladas de mole verde invigorates lethargic appetites, making relishable ripples on a sea of taste buds with tangy green mole sauce soaked into tortillas rolled around pulled pork or chicken-breast stuffing ($14). Prepared with chicken ($15), pork ($16), or steak ($17), a traditional mexicano burrito brings meat, beans, and pico de gallo to meet cheese and sour cream, a mouthwatering mashup that ends in tragedy shortly after the five ingredients start getting along.
There's an art to picking a steak. As the chefs at Prime will tell you, a steak should have just the right amount of marbling, which makes the meat retain tenderness and develop more robust flavors during cooking. That's why father-and-son duo Steven Pellegrino Sr. and Jr. insist that every steak be cut from USDA prime beef. They also insist upon fresh seafood, lining up catches such as sea bass and line-caught swordfish for their chefs to transform into flavorful entrees, as well as a roster of sushi and sashimi.
Outfitted with a supper-club atmosphere, Prime dazzles with its decor as much as its menu. A pianist lights up the ivories nightly, each scale undulating through a posh interior of chandeliers, marble floors, and a martini-centric bar. A dedicated butcher's area lets patrons take a hands-on approach to dining by picking out their own cuts of meat—a favorite feature of Zagat and other delighted reviewers. Premium spirits, cigars, and velvet feedbags can also be brought and stored in Prime's inscribed liquor cabinet for enjoyment throughout the evening.
The three men behind Park Tavern have been partners in arms for more than eight years. Their friendship began when Brian Albe and Brandon Belluscio tended bar at the restaurant where Anthony Pizzo manned the kitchen. Soon the symbiotic team broke out on their own, opening the wine bar Vertical 114 and the steak house Cut 432 before realizing their third venture together, Park Tavern.
The seasonal menu centers on locally procured fare, with veggies arriving at the kitchen so fresh that their roots are still intact. Signature dishes include the tavern burger, made from house-ground short rib and sirloin before being topped with locally grown tomatoes and onions. Each order of barbecue ribs is paired with a housemade buttermilk biscuit and green-apple-jalapeño chutney, which marries sweetness with spice as seamlessly as a donut maker whose custard gun is filled with wasabi.
The from-scratch mentality carries through to the specialty drinks, some of which are served in mason jars and cooled by just one large ice cube. The oversize cubes, frozen and shaped in house, melt more slowly than smaller squares, keeping flavors fresh and undiluted for longer. Fresh-squeezed juices complement drinks such as the Strawberry Fields of Kentucky—made with Tap 357 maple-infused bourbon, strawberry jam, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
Rustic decor completes the Park Tavern experience, with exposed brick walls and a stained concrete bar top. The American flag on the rear wall was painted by one of the staff bartenders, who also salvaged the wood paneling from pallets. Extensive outdoor seating offers the opportunity for up to 125 guests to share the same french fry.
Since they first arrived on the Mayflower in 1620, Linda Bean's family members have only ever lived in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Bean, who is the granddaughter of the famous one—L.L., not the Chicago sculpture—has traveled to four continents but maintains enormous pride in her New England heritage. She names Maine as her favorite place on Earth, and when she started a business in her 60s, she sought to convey this state pride through its tastiest signature export: lobster.
Within just a few years of its inception, Linda Bean's Perfect Maine was in front of QVC cameras, on top of Walmart shelves, and filling a 26-foot "lobstermobile" purchased when Bruce Wayne was rebranding. Of her quintet of proprietary restaurants, only one is outside Maine, but all fill bellies with sea-fresh lunches and dinners. Linda's herbed lobster roll is the star—its two buttered buns hug a quarter pound of meat that's been sprinkled with an herb blend whose classified recipe she refuses to disclose.
Guests walk by book-lined walls, take their seats in red leather chairs, and open envelopes filled with silverware. It's just another day at The Office, an American gastropub that serves classic comfort foods remixed with a modern flair. Executive Chef Nick Troisen—who's worked under James Beard Award–winning Chef Mark Militello—teams up with Chef De Cuisine Zack Orsini to craft an eclectic selection of dishes, such as certified-humane beef burgers and lemongrass-glazed sea bass. The chefs use ingredients from local vendors and produce grown in The Office's hydroponics area, as well as unique preparation methods including molecular gastronomy, sous-vide cooking, and burgers extracted directly from visitors' dreams. In keeping with its chic workplace-inspired motif, the restaurant also features a front desk in lieu of a hostess booth.
At Dada Restaurant, scents of contemporary American entrees waft through the intimate interior of the restored 1924 building that encapsulates comfortable, thematic dining rooms. Dada's menu displays all-natural blue-crab cakes ($26) and butternut-squash ravioli, which mingles with vine-ripe tomatoes and artichoke hearts in a flavor-compounding pool of thyme-infused cream ($18.50). The restaurant's chef, Bruce Feingold, expertly braises boneless short ribs ($19) and coats salmon with a dulcet force field of habanero-maple glaze ($21) to simultaneously electrify and pacify taste buds. Friendly servers navigate gingham drapes, plush chairs, and hardwood floors in Dada's cozy interior, and a tree-shaded veranda hosts spoon brandishers outside the eatery. Diners can sip local or imported vino from an extensive wine list ($7+) as they drink in live music and amble beneath the glow of twinkling lights hung from a sprawling banyan tree or ahead of the lights flashing on the heels of their shoes.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Sundy House tempts diners with a menu of seasonal fusion cuisine served in an intimate indoor/outdoor dining area overlooking lush gardens. Appetizers, such as the pork belly seared with maple-soy glaze, tantalize taste buds, and crisp salads, including a toasted pistachio, heart of palm, and red-oak lettuce creation, can be glued to diners' faces to create seamless forest camouflage. A hefty entree of filet mignon arrives at tables emblazoned with grill marks and served alongside foie gras butter and a fingerling potato cake, and Mountain River wild-boar tenderloin accompanies a smattering of sautéed brussels sprout leaves and pickled apples. Diners can cleanse palates between bites, courses, or acts of a Shakespearean play with sips of red or white house wine.