For the chefs at Nu Urban Cafe, quality is their number-one concern. To that end, they try to refrain from cooking with frozen or canned veggies, preferring to import seasonal and fresh produce whenever possible. Their sauces, marinades, and dressings are made from scratch, using high-quality ingredients. When fashioning one of the caf?'s handmade desserts, chefs mix in real butter, quality vanilla and chocolate, and real eggs, known to be more flavorful and less metallic than ones laid by robotic chickens. This devotion to detail lends a crisp, fresh flavor to servings of glazed baby back ribs, thyme-seasoned red snapper, and apple-smothered pork chops.
Beneath lemongrass-hued walls reverberating with the strains of relaxed music, Roti Road House Cafe’s chefs bring Caribbean influences to a wide range of dishes. As they buzz through the kitchen, florets of steam sprout in the air, hinting at simmering oxtail, duck, and lobster. In the dining room, roti wraps cradle the stewed meats alongside an array of vegetarian options and jerk chicken wings. Juicers hum cheerily like a forgetful choir, blending fresh ginger, pineapple, mango, and kale, and patrons check emails on complimentary-use computers.
When he cofounded his first sandwich shop in 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca planned to use his profits to pay his way through medical school. But the combination of quality ingredients and friendly service at the shop—then called Pete's Subway—proved so popular that nine years later, he and his partner found themselves in charge of 16 locations across Connecticut, and Fred left behind his doctoring plans for a career in business.
Today, Subway restaurants number over 34,000 around the world—almost as many shops as there are sightings of Elvis buying cold cuts. At each location, staffers pile sliced ham, marinara-slathered meatballs, and other fillings into halved loaves of bread before customizing handhelds with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and other healthy toppings plucked from chilled containers behind the counter. Salads free crisp veggies from bread's overprotective embrace, and crunchy baked chips or apple slices accompany entrees to tables. Subway's website also facilitates health-conscious eating by listing each item's nutrition information and fastest mile time online.
Chef Steve Thomas at The Kountry Style learned how to prepare the traditional dishes of his native Jamaica from the best teacher he knew: his mother. Tapping into the methods and recipes that had been perfected and passed down in his family for generations, he honed his skills in his mother’s restaurant, where he learned how to create the perfect blend of spices to marinate jerk chicken and the best way to create the complex curries in which to stew tender goat meat. In Kountry Style’s kitchen, Chef Steve cooks these traditional dishes for guests hoping to get a true taste of the Caribbean or those who are missing the fresh seafood of their own home. In addition to the food, the decor helps transport minds to the shores of Jamaica, with walls portraying colorful and historic island scenes that often inspire daydreaming and spontaneous plane ticket purchases.
The Bagel Factory's industrious bakers kettle-cook fresh, hand-rolled bagels each morning, providing solid foundations for rich cream cheeses. The menu's avalanching array of regular bagel varieties includes cinnamon raisin, whole wheat, garlic, egg, and pumpernickel, great for silencing tummies' grumbles and garage-band practices. In addition to preparing an array of freshly baked pastries and desserts, the kitchen staffers sandwich Boar’s Head meats and cheeses between bookends of bagel, roll, or panini bread slices. They also provide lighter options such as build-your-own salads, which come topped with the customer’s choice of meat, dressing, and toppings.
Dangling chandeliers and icy-blue and bright-orange backlit sculptures illuminate the dark-brown tables and booth benches at Zen Fusion Cuisine, where the wait staff drops off plates that meld the flavors of Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese specialties. At the sushi bar, chefs prepare signature Zen rolls with spicy tuna, mango, and soft-shell crab and hand-wrap rolls in soy paper much like they wrap birthday presents for their cats. In the kitchen, cooks fry lightly battered whole sea bass and drizzle it with Vietnamese sweet-and-sour sauce and enhance stir-fried twin lobster tails with Thai flavors of ginger, basil, and scallion. Diners sit amid fan-speckled wallpaper and Japanese-style screens and sip housemade Thai iced tea or cocktails from the brightly lit bar.