Smoke scented with flavors such as mango, pineapple, and cherry wafts through Aladdin Restaurant and Hookah Bar as patrons linger over waterpipes as late as 3 a.m. Besides Al Fakher and Starbuzz tobacco, skilled staffers also blend house mixes with names such as Bubble Yum and Candy Drop, and can even fit hookahs with heads made from hollowed-out pineapples, watermelons, and other fruits. The kitchen also crafts a full menu of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare, including kebabs, gyros, and Turkish coffee.
The clink of whiskey glasses, the upbeat strains of fiddles, and the mouthwatering aroma of braised lamb shank: these are the sights, sounds, and smells that envelop the senses at Claddagh Irish Pub. The lively eatery sates stomachs with a menu of traditional dishes, such as shepherd’s pie, and those with modern twists, such as the fish accompanied by fresh mango salsa or cilantro-lime rice. The chefs try to use seasonal ingredients and keep tongues from getting bored by changing their offerings twice a year and hiding firecrackers in the desserts.
Diners swig a variety of Irish beer and whiskeys and sip more than a dozen wines surrounded by dark-wood accents and stone walls that evoke the Emerald Isle. A slew of events entertain ears, including team trivia nights and live sessions of traditional Irish music.
Craig and Laura Decker seem to have a difficult time making up their minds. They also seem to have a knack for turning this indecisiveness into an advantage at every turn. When it came to opening their new business, for example, they briefly wondered whether it should feature a wine shop, a wine bar, or a gourmet bistro. Their solution? All three.
This spirit of inclusivity pervades The Wine Guy Bistro, where the Deckers pair seasonal wine varietals with globally inspired cuisine. Rather than choose between European elegance and New-American pizzazz, they settled on a compromise they describe as “Old World chic.” This label suits a menu that features small plates of housemade meatballs and bruschetta alongside assorted cheeses from around the world. The focus on small plates is in keeping with the Deckers’ have-it-all mentality and gives diners the option to sample several dishes without having to barter with adjacent tables.
From behind a pair of baby grand pianos, two pianists take audience requests each Friday and Saturday night at The Penguin Dueling Piano Bar, urging the crowd to sing along in a display of musical showmanship. The ivory ticklers hail from all over the country and belt out popular tunes from the past 50 years that they’ve memorized by heart or tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. Onlookers seated at tables around the stage or nestled into plush couches in the lounge sip cocktails, quaff brews, and dive into salty snacks. Although the show runs on Fridays and Saturdays, drinks specials pop up each night and salsa-night Wednesdays promise copious amounts of hip shaking.
Within Anand Indian Restaurant's bustling kitchen, a team of culinary alchemists carefully blends herbs and spices for its diverse range of Indian dishes. The chefs call upon North Indian traditions to craft tandoori plates, where a special clay oven locks seasoned juices inside cuts of meat better than a mime gives directions to the highway. Meanwhile, South Indian recipes forge Uttappam, Indian-style pancakes crowned with chilis and vegetables, and dosa, thin rice crêpes bundled with savory fillings. Meanwhile, more than 20 meatless dishes offer mouthfuls of creamed lentils, house-made cheese cubes, and sweet baby carrots imbued with light spices.
Creating a custom-made wine is a lot more rewarding than producing questionable homemade toothpaste. At Tino Vino Vintners, the 6- to 10-week process begins with you “researching” (tasting) wine varietals to determine what you want yours to taste like. Five tastings will introduce your palate to its options in a round of speed dating for the taste buds. Next, the desired grapes are crushed, pressed, concentrated, and mixed with reverse-osmosis-filtered water, yeast, and other ingredients under the supervision of a winemaker. The winemaker will watch over your mixture’s progress during its two to three weeks of fermentation before stabilizing the wine with an optional clarifying agent and racking (removing sediment). Once your wine has been bottled, you may either pop it open and have a party or stash it away to let it age as gracefully as Burton Gilliam.