Even though Portuguese explorers couldn't pronounce the Swahili name for the African bird's eye chili—pili-pili—the sailors fully embraced its flavor shortly after landing in the region known today as Mozambique. Intrigued by the small, fiery pepper, they combined it with aromatic doses of herbs, garlic, and lemon to create the first peri-peri sauce. That sauce eventually became a wildly popular marinade for poultry, and the tasty concoction made its way to South Africa over the next several centuries. There, in 1987, two friends decided to honor this culinary legacy by founding the first Nando's Peri-Peri restaurant. The eatery continued to remain true to its South African roots, even while expanding to encompass locations in 24 countries across four continents.
Beginning with fresh chickens that never see the inside of a kitchen freezer, the chefs furtively marinate the birds in a secret peri-peri sauce for 24 hours before grilling them over an open flame. Diners dictate the heat level of their order, requesting that the grilled chicken arrive relatively mild or that wings be slathered with even more incendiary spices. The succulent chicken can be plated with hearty side dishes—such as Portuguese-style rice with herbs and peppers or peas with mint—or served in the form of a sandwich, wrap, or pita. To complement the menus' African flavors, Nando's worldwide locations collectively feature more than 4,000 pieces of African artwork.
Growing up, Chakra Café’s owner Monisha lived two different lives. At school, she was known by her given name and spent lunch hours twirling spaghetti on a fork. But at home, Monisha’s Bengali parents only referred to her by her nickname, Hashi–or laughter–and mealtimes meant scooping up lamb curry with a piece of luchi. The duality of Monisha’s two worlds–and the food she was exposed to–left a lasting impression and is the driving force behind the Café’s menu.
Inside Chakra Café’s kitchen, chefs marry Indian flavors with culinary traditions from around the world, using recipes adapted from Monisha’s mother, according to a Patch.com article. Traditional Bengali dishes such as begun bhartha–roasted eggplant flavored with green mango–are served solo or stuffed inside quesadillas with smoked fontina cheese, roasted pine nuts, and raitha yogurt sauce. Other Indian staples are also Americanized, from the tandoori chicken that tops flatbread pizzas to spaghetti paired with lamb meatballs and a whisper of ghee. Each item on the menu is clearly marked as halal, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free, making it easy to decipher the dishes without meat and the ones that require each bite to be chewed 32 times.
BGR The Burger Joint’s burgers start with high-quality ingredients—most importantly, all-natural beef from grain-fed cattle, free to run in the fields and given zero hormones, fillers, or antibiotics. The prime beef is dry-aged, blended, and ground fresh to form patties that are grilled over an open flame, and then placed atop buttery, locally made brioche buns delivered fresh each day. The menu focuses on the Legendary Burger, which includes gourmet toppings such as avocado, applewood bacon, and grilled jalapenos. For nonbeef eaters, the menu's selection of burgers also includes turkey and veggie varieties, as well as The Greek, a seasoned lamb patty topped with tzatziki and feta. Burgers are also available in a lettuce wrap or on a salad in a healthy salad bowl.
Diners can request all of BGR The Burger Joint's freshly made fries—from thick-cut yukon gold potatoes to asparagus fries—be topped with parmesan, rosemary, roasted garlic, or a tiny tiara. The staff hand-spins shakes with Gifford's or Breyers ice cream to create extra-thick treats for finishing off meals, and some shops curate their own selection of bottled vintage sodas and offer beer and wine.
Situated in a Federal-style mansion, The Grille at Morrison House's historical exterior belies its distinctly modern cuisine. Drawing on produce and meats sourced from Virginia farms, executive chef Brian McPherson and his staff translate classic French dishes into distinct, American iterations. Lavish appetizers feature foie gras pastrami torchon, scottish salmon tartare with american caviar, escargot, and selections of cheeses and charcuterie. Entrees include red-wine-braised short rib beef bourguignon, crispy duck breast in a port reduction, and Pineland Farms ribeye with cashel blue cheese butter. Conscious of diners' varying dietary needs, cooks tailor the menu to vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free specifications on request. Two distinct dining areas give guests a choice of atmosphere. The Dining Room boasts airy windows and summer tones, contrasted with The Grille's rich woods, red leathers, and piano brunches on Sundays. The venue earned accolades from the Washingtonian for its meticulously plotted wedding dinners, which invite brides to toss escargot to the next lucky lady.
Chefs use grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken, and steroid-free pulled pork that hail from sustainable sources to craft a bounty of tortilla-wrapped treats that take their names from the likes of Caddyshack, Fletch, and Seinfeld. It's this dual mindset of serious food and irreverent attitude that tinges every one of the eatery's southwestern morsels, from the Art Vandalay burrito to the John Coctostan quesadilla. As the kitchen staff crafts their daily batch of guacamole to join the lineup of six zesty salsas, diners choose from a list of more than 20 ingredients to fill out the entree that will soon be conjured before their eyes. Because dishes are made to order, each finds easy customization for vegetarian, gluten free, and low-calorie diets, and the absence of microwaves, trans-fats, and MSG keep eats wholesome. Meanwhile, a complimentary accompaniment of chips and salsa turns portions into full meals faster than an industry-grade blow-up ray.
Even though the banquet hall at Medieval Madness is eternally stuck in the 15th century, its court isn't content to perform the same show forever. Every four months, the troupe updates its production of comedy and knightly combat, swapping out nods to politics and modern life as often as kings jail their favorite jesters for disobeying the fashion police. Each evening's reverie begins with a four-course meal served family style at long banquet tables. Like the show, the menu regularly rotates, though it always includes a succulent pear sauce crafted from an 800-year-old recipe, a perfect complement when drizzled over roasted meats or smeared on an opposing clan's coat of arms. Throughout the evening, guests watch on as the duke and duchess lob insults at each other, wenches break into tawdry songs, and knights fully clad in chain mail part the tables to challenge one another in exhilarating sword fights.