Only the boldest, hungriest diners dare take on A&G Burger Joint’s Creature Burger—a gigantic tower of meats, toppings, and pickles weighing in at more than four pounds. But if these intrepid eaters can polish off the hefty burger—along with a pound of fries—they are rewarded with a t-shirt, plaque, and $20 gift card.
The Creature Burger is the brainchild of chef Alex Parra, who also extends his culinary expertise to a variety of more diminutive burgers. Deep in his kitchen, the skilled chef showers Angus beef patties with imaginative toppings, such as housemade barbecue sauce, fried egg, and roasted poblano peppers. Alex invites guests to invent their own burgers from a selection of five different buns, patties, cheeses, and sauces, encouraging them to come up with a name, back-story, and favorite Beatles song for their original creations—such as “Mustard-Yellow Submarine”. Out in the retro dining room, glasses of craft brews clink over plates of truffle fries between black-and-white walls speckled with old-fashioned pin-up artwork.
Some time after Natural Chicken Grill cofounder Cesar sold off a number of his own grilled-chicken restaurants, he discovered a reignited passion for chicken while hashing out new, exciting recipes with friend and fellow grill founder, Said. Having grown up along the shores of the Mediterranean and Caribbean, the duo combined the culinary styles of their homelands and developed a medley of ingredients that would become Natural Chicken Grill’s signature flavor. With a background in architecture and city planning, Said used his natural gift for creating and organizing to propel the business’s success, and Cesar’s restaurateur background helped open the doors to their first chicken-centric eatery in the early 1990s. From those early ambitions for a chicken eatery focused on fresh, healthier eats, the team still serves poultry that is never frozen and is always marinated onsite before it hits the sizzle of the grill. Behind the scenes, restaurant chefs whip up a new batch of the duo’s signature sauces hourly, and everything from the menu is prepared fresh without the use of microwaves or Easy-Bake ovens.
Inspired by Brazilian gaucho—or cowboy—style of cooking meats, the owners and chefs of Brazaviva Churrascaria opened their restaurant and devoted its menu of endless dishes to the Old-World grilling method. As the restaurant describes it, the wayfaring gauchos roamed the expansive grasslands of Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul, skewering their meat dinners and roasting them over a fiery pit, before carving off thin slices to be shared around the fire.
Holding true to that tradition, the eatery's expert carvers bring skewers of fire-roasted beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and sausage tableside to pile plates high. Guests eat as much as they like, using a card that is green on one side and red on the other to indicate to the friendly staff carvers to keep the feast flowing, or to take a moment's savoring pause. Whatever belly room is left over after all cards go red calls for filling up with one of the eatery's unique desserts that swirl South American flavors such as passion fruit and papaya into rich smoothies and mousses. A collection of fine wines selected specially to compliment the charred flavors of the meats is available to complete the experience.
Swaths of saffron- and terra-cotta-colored fabrics hang from the ceiling, ornate rugs sprawl across the tiled floors, and elegant lanterns cast a gentle glow across the stout wooden tables. Collectively, these touches give the impression that diners have walked into a ceremonial Middle Eastern tent as soon as they enter Layali Miami's dining room. This transformation is completed by the appearance of professional belly dancers, who appear on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, and entertain crowds with their gracefully undulating moves and shadow puppets.
To help evoke even more of a Middle Eastern spirit, Layali Miami features a hearty menu of Lebanese cuisine. Chefs flavor appetizers of housemade yogurt with a dose of olive oil and mint and sizzle racks of lamb, as well as skewers of shrimp kebab, over a charcoal grill. They also stuff pita sandwiches with everything from falafel and tahini sauce to spicy sausage, pickles, and tomato.
At Ace Bartending's 40-foot bar, ice clinks against glasses and prospective mixologists chatter during hands-on courses. Instructors wax informational about the history and production of liquor before outlining state and municipal legal requirements for serving alcohol or distributing liquor to horses. As students progress, they migrate to eight functional bartending stations that feature working carbon dioxide lines, and lessons feed hungry brains tidbits of information on the use of glassware and garnishes to craft a beverage with fitting aesthetic appeal. The curriculum bounds across a bubbling, colorful rainbow of 200 different drinks and recipes.
In addition to hands-on demonstrations and role-playing exercises, courses hand down lessons on how to land a job as a bartender and give tips for job interviews. The classroom's walls, like those of a real bar, are crowded with colorful bottles, lit by crackling neon beer signs, and held together by flyers for bands seeking bassists.
Though it’s a national brand with locations sprinkled across 14 states, Chevys Fresh Mex doesn’t succumb to shortcuts at any of its restaurants. The expert chefs at each eatery gather together fresh ingredients to prepare the entire menu from scratch, whether they’re infusing chicken enchiladas with chipotles or simmering fragrant cauldrons of their homemade tortilla soup. Even though this hands-on approach harkens back to the foundations of Mexican culinary traditions, chefs also give each dish a contemporary twist—tacos meet flavorful drizzles of chipotle aioli, slow-roasted carnitas mingle with fresh oranges and lemons alongside fajita platters. Meanwhile, bartenders engage in serious agave innovation with top-shelf margaritas in flavors such as prickly pear and spicy mango.