Ken's Steak House is an improbable success story. Ken and Florence Hanna opened the Lakeside Cafe in 1935, the throes of the Great Depression. Bite by bite, they built a loyal base of customers (who always just called the eatery "Ken's"), and after five years, the restaurant took up residence in a small diner on Route 9, then known as Starvation Alley.
But Ken dreamed of a day when the grimly named strip would flourish. Today, it's known as the "Golden Mile"—and Ken's Steak House itself has mushroomed. The kitchen still serves the salad dressing recipes created by Florence Hanna—now a national line of salad dressings—and Ken's son, Timothy, and his wife are in charge.
Chefs broil and fire-grill prime cuts of steak, marinating the chateaubriand's center cut roast tenderloin in a reduction of port wine, or infusing the 8-ounce filet mignon with the earthy smoked notes of the warm cedar planks it's served on. Seafood options nestle up against their turf counterparts, including bacon-wrapped scallops, a full pound of lobster stuffed with crab and shrimp, and pistachio-crusted Atlantic salmon. Chicken and pasta dishes round out the menu, and diners discover Italian influences and plenty of seafood-pasta plates. The rustic wood paneling harkens back to Ken's Steak House's roots, and the upscale fare and soft light cast from chandeliers make the spot an ideal choice for an anniversary dinner or a piñata's last meal.
“It’s the next best thing to having Greek friends who put a spit in the yard come Easter,” proclaims The Improper Bostonian of Aegean Restaurant. The glowing review should come as no surprise—for one thing, Aegean’s founders Nicholas and Toula Ntasios hail from Greece, and for another, they've been working at it for nearly three decades. In 1972, the pair left their small village to chase after success in America. Their gamble paid off in 1980 when they opened the first Aegean Restaurant. As locals discovered the strip-mall eatery, a spot as deceivingly nondescript as a fortune cookie that contains the president’s phone number, business went from sparse to thriving. In the three decades since, Nicholas and Toula (eventually joined by sons Arthur and Chris) have drawn customers not with glitzy marketing campaigns, but with authentic, personalized food. The Improper Bostonian deems their braised lamb “especially worth the trip,” but Mediterranean influences shine through most in seafood dishes, such as the charcoal-grilled, lemon-kissed swordfish steak.
The staff at Tropical Café patrol the restaurant’s perimeter constantly, spears in hand. They’re not on guard duty, though. Rather, they’re servers, carving off portions of freshly roasted Brazilian barbecue. They stop at every table, offering their savory cargo to diners who have flipped their personal dining card green side up, indicating that they might be in danger of consuming plant matter from the extensive salad bar if more meat does not arrive soon.
The taste of culture doesn’t stop at the barbecue, however. Tropical Café fills weekends with live musical performances of South American and Brazilian folk music. Wednesday evenings are devoted to karaoke, the classic contest made more interesting by participants who sing with mouthfuls of meat.
Guadalajara, nestled in the state of Jalisco, was the birthplace of many of the flavors used in Mexican food. Those influences shine through in the recipes at Taqueria Mexico, where the chefs draw on family recipes brought by over from the inventive city. The dishes have helped earn the eatery very good to excellent ratings on Zagat.
As at any good taqueria, the gorditas, tacos, tortas, and burritos can be stuffed with a wide range of meats and veggies. Carnitas, pork traditionally slow cooked with green chilies, is nearly as tender as steamed beef al vapor. Lengua, or beef tongue, is also a time-tested taqueria meat. And like the dependents section of a scarecrow’s taxes, the eatery’s quesadillas brim with squash.
Chocolate changed David and Pam Griffin's lives. David was more than three decades into a manufacturing career, while his wife, Pam, was 16 years deep in a career at a major coffee chain. The two became restless in their respective careers, so they left their jobs and looked for a joint business venture. They both settled on chocolate, inspiring David to begin studying under experienced pastry chef Delphin Gnomes at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. He started to create his own chocolate varieties, often incorporating healthy ingredients. In fact, his first creation was a dairy-free dark chocolate topped with pistachio. Pam, meanwhile, wanted to come up with an appropriate name for the business that reflects the catharsis and creativity chocolate can inspire. Hence, Chocolate Therapy was born. Today, the duo continues to produce innovative treats, displaying their decadent oeuvre in their store’s glass display case.
David and Pam can also schedule parties at their store. During the festivities, adults, children, or undercover oompa loompas masquerading as children can tour the chocolate-making facility and discover the secrets behind how the Griffins create their truffles, dipped caramels, and molded chocolates.
It seems almost structurally impossible: eleven ingredients, including Chicken, bacon, calabresa sausage, hearts of palm, and mozzarella. It’s a lot for one thin crust pizza to handle, but Chef Zach Chaves pulls it off with his namesake Extravaganza pie. Built from housemade dough and sauce, his other 18 specialty pizzas likewise test the limits of dough with mountains of toppings, from steak tips and hardboiled eggs to Brazilian favorites such as malagueta pepper and catupiry cheese.
Other never-frozen Brazilian ingredients spice up Chef Zach's menu, including cuts of Brazilian steak and the X-Nervoso burger, two beef patties topped with catupiry, ham, bacon, and potato sticks. He balances his Brazilian flavors with more traditional American tastes, such as BBQ chicken sandwiches and turkey clubs. Feasts unfold inside a spacious dining room decorated with hand-drawn murals of famous American and Brazilian figures, such as Elvis and Brazilian Elvis impersonators.