Banana Leaf fills its dining room with platefuls of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free Indian meals cooked with fresh spices ground in-house. The juices from 16 curry dishes and seven rice specialties can be mopped from the plate with 10 different Indian breads and washed down with lassi drinks. Banana Leaf’s catering services, which serve small gatherings to weddings with more than 1,000 guests, both please party hosts and literally sustain festive homemakers stuck in a web of their own decorations.
Every pizza at zpizza is freshly prepared, hand thrown, gently coaxed into the oven using soft birdcalls and pheromone trails, and fire-baked to crispy perfection. The dough is prepared fresh daily from 100% certified-organic wheat, and z is also happy to offer certified organic and gluten-free crusts, sating the pizza desire of the allergic, dieters, and wheat sympathizers. Toppings include award-winning Wisconsin skim mozzarella, MSG-free pepperoni, certified-organic tomato sauce, additive-free sausage, and fresh produce. Try a large ZBQ pizza (with barbecue sauce, mozzarella, barbecue chicken, roasted pepper, red onion, tomato, cilantro, and sweet corn ($16.95); or a chicken curry and yam rustica (with mozzarella, curry chicken, yam, mango chutney, raisin, and cilantro; $8.95). Vegans can delight in a small Berkeley, a vegan cheese veggie pizza (with marinara, vegan cheese, veggie burger crumbles, zucchini, tomato, mushroom, red onion, and bell pepper; $11.50), and traveling tongues can sate their wanderlust with a mouthwatering Moroccan rustica (with pesto, mozzarella, basil, roasted eggplant, feta cheese, caramelized onion, and pine nut ($8.95).
Explorers Club's cozy, 100-year-old brick exterior lends a deceptively comfortable face to the restaurant's constantly experimenting kitchen. Owner Tracy Studer and Chef Dan Varga—both veterans of the late Harold Smith's Gloria Café—root their eatery's fare in playfully updated Latin American food such as chorizo sliders and plantain-topped burgers. Yet, Varga constantly flexes his culinary muscles with unusual menu additions such as his chili-citrus-flavored vegetable lo mein. Monthly menus jet around the globe—614 Magazine notes that after deciding on "a country or cuisine, [Varga] spends months researching the ingredients, history, and flavor profiles, and then experimenting in the kitchen," turning out tributes to Germany, Spain, and his ancestral Hungary. An impressive range of vegan and vegetarian options makes use of soy-based tempeh and tofu, catering to animal-loving humans and self-hating venus flytraps.
At The Butter Cafe, every dish that chefs create maintains their commitment to sustainable cooking and eating, from the fluffy, golden pancakes topped with organic sweet-cream butter to the omelets made with locally sourced, free-range eggs. This dedication to sustainability extends to ensure respect for animals and workers. Along with their all-day breakfast, which includes gluten-free and vegan options, lunch and dinner caters to meat lovers and vegans alike with hearty meatloaf served along with vegan hot dogs and spaghetti.
Hot Dogs Plus Cafe N' Cones recalls an old-fashioned ice-cream stand, with bright yellow brick walls, a walk-up dairy bar, and a menu of classic American carnival treats. Cheerful servers bustle about behind the counter, doling out freshly made foot-long coney dogs, pulled-pork sandwiches, and fried-green tomatoes. They swirl more than 50 flavors of soft-serve ice cream, and shower sundaes in hot caramel and salted nuts.
The roster of calzones on Doughby's menu grows long, rattling off more than 75 varieties of the golden-brown, savory pastries. Sweet and savory crepes, available all day, come in more than 25 styles, lined with ingredients such as ham, pineapple, brown sugar, and mozzarella, or Nutella, strawberries, and bananas. Open early and late, diners can stop in for brunch and lunch, or stay as late as 4 a.m. to sate late-night cravings for hand-held grub.