Arturo and Tina Vargas have a unique way of celebrating their family's central Mexican roots. They make an annual journey to different locales south of the border, ending each trip with a visit to their hometown of Cuernavaca. But these aren't average vacations. Instead, Arturo and Tina use the opportunity to discover new ingredients or recipes that they can bring back to Cristina's Fine Mexican Restaurant, their flavorful franchise of Texas eateries. Their culinary findings appear throughout the menu of Tex-Mex cooking.
The staff at each of the Vargas' venues wholeheartedly embraces those deep roots, making flour tortillas in-house, hand-rolling enchiladas, and preparing orders of guacamole directly beside diners' tables. But that's not to say the dishes are expected?salmon with pineapple butter and fried chicken breast with white wine-cream sauce demonstrate some of the kitchens' more experimental inclinations. Flavored margaritas and mojitos can add spirited refreshment to meals, as can any of the beers that the restaurants import from Mexico via man with a very strong throwing arm.
Though its name suggests otherwise, the Forget About It roll’s unorthodox ingredients make it pretty memorable: the flavorful crunch of shrimp tempura is wrapped up with crawfish and accented by ginger cream. It's just one of the many unique combinations dreamed up by Piranha Killer Sushi's owner and chef, Kenzo Tran. Non-traditional sushi fixings are Kenzo’s specialty, from the White Lotus roll’s pico de gallo and truffle oil sauce to the Bullet roll’s cilantro chili purée and edible police officer’s badge.
That blend of the classic and unconventional runs throughout Piranha Killer Sushi's menu at all four locations including the newly remodeled location in Fort Worth. Besides distinctive rolls, the kitchen serves up dishes such as Korean beef in ginger marinade, salads with octopus and spicy conch, and blue crab fried rice. Ditto the drink menu, featuring specialty libations such as the saketini, a blend of vodka, gin, and sake with a cucumber garnish. The restaurant's whimsical take on Japanese fare hasn't gone unnoticed—media outlets laud it for its tasty creations and inviting decor.
Bar Fun Dining's name is memorable not because of its unusual syntax, but because it so perfectly encapsulates what the restaurant is about. Not only does the restaurant harbor a menagerie of new and innovative arcade games—such as competitive four-player Pac-Man—it serves upscale American cuisine in the form of gourmet burgers and heaping entrees. Between stints on an arcade racing game, diners chow on entrees ranging that include chicken fried steak, blackened chicken pasta, Philly cheese steaks, and Cuban sandwiches. Like the news that Twinkies may never be made again, meals are best served with a chilled bottle of beer or the bartenders’ unique takes on classic cocktails, such as the cucumber-vodka-filled mojito.
At Starwood Cafe, 7:00 in the morning might as well be time for dessert. The breakfast menu here doesn't shy away from sweet specialty dishes, including homemade french crepes stuffed with bananas and Nutella or pancakes with Oreo crumbles blended into the batter. But this family-owned restaurant does more than just churn out inventive sweets. The staffers also tip their collective hats to the classics. They serve biscuits with sausage gravy, farm-fresh eggs with grits, and skillets full of hash browns and toppings.
Once the day segues into lunchtime, the cafe composes sandwiches and wraps alongside gourmet salads. Grilled teriyaki-salmon stir-fry speaks to the kitchen's versatility, while tuna melts and deep-fried Atari games show the cooks' passion for nostalgia. And some entrees, such as the chicken-fried steak, are just as delicious in the afternoon as they are at sunrise. Regardless of what you order, almost everything that makes its way from the kitchen to the dining table abides by Starwood's strict philosophy, which prizes freshness and made-from-scratch quality above all else.
In Italy, l’aperitivo is time for socializing with friends over drinks and light snacks. Aperitivos Coffee & Wine Bar supplies this exact respite amid old-country surrounds of dark woods, brick, and stucco walls. Here, baristas add splashes of flavoring, such as sugar-free hazelnut, to Segafredo Coffee, or use it to craft caffeinated favorites like chai lattes. Bartenders, meanwhile, pour reds and white from an extensive list with selections that span everywhere from Argentina to Washington State.
All beverages complement upscale bistro fare, including six-ounce marinated steaks finished with blue cheese butter or flatbread pizzas topped with roasted chicken and a creamy garlic-and-onion sauce. On most weekends, feasts unfold as local musicians grace the Aperitivos stage with soothing tunes.
The smell of chocolate-chip cookies baking in the oven has a tendency to unleash waves of childhood memories, especially when those cookies are iconic Nestl? Toll House creations. At Nestl? Toll House Caf? by Chip, passionate bakers coax out these memories by using Nestl? products to create decadent desserts that taste just as satisfying as they did years ago.