College is a place that often kindles lasting friendships, as well as lasting eating habits based on haphazard diets of chips and day-old pizza. Chris Sanchez and Patrick Ortiz, proprietors of Simply Fit Meals, have managed to buck the latter part of this trend. The friendship they forged at the University of Houston continued after graduation, even as Patrick pursued a career in hotel management and Chris entered the world of marketing, eventually serving as store marketing director for Whole Foods. Their shared passion for healthy eating brought their disparate career paths together to form Simply Fit Meals, an amalgamation of Patrick's chef skills and Chris's marketing prowess.
The challenge behind each one of Simply Fit Meals' recipes involves finding an equal balance between nutrition and flavor so that clients can stick to a regimen that's easy to maintain, unlike fad diets that involve raw foods consumed only in prime-numbered portions. The science of it, says Chris, is making it taste as if it's been freshly made, even after reheating, and to this end, Chris and Patrick are both avid consumers of their own meals. Chris claims he could eat—and has eaten—their mac 'n' cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The culinary team uses locally raised, free-range meats such as chicken and bison in virtually all of their creations, and concocts fresh-made ingredients whenever possible. The in-house dietitian guides clients toward their own fitness goals, as opposed to those dictated by fashion magazines or sentient elevators, who often lack tact.
The founders of Working Cow Homemade share more than just a name. Fueled by their mutual love for frozen desserts, Tim and Tim craft more than 100 varieties of hand-blended ice cream using only quality ingredients. To ensure that these ingredients—which include grade-A cream, pure cane sugar, and fruits—come together to produce a superior taste and silky texture, staffers mingle them in icy batch freezers before scooping the finished product onto cones. Flavors rotate weekly, and the roster of possibilities ranges from basic vanilla and chocolate to Crazy Cake, a cake-flavored ice cream loaded with ribbons of blue frosting, cake pieces, sprinkles, and an emergency straitjacket. Staffers are also at the ready with delicious dessert alternatives including sugar-free flavors and sherbets. Working Cow peddles its signature ice creams in a space shared with Gumby’s Pizza, and offers its own menu of savory salads and wraps.
According to their menu, Big Lou's chefs pledge allegiance to Italy's cuisine, but they prefer the way New Yorkers cook it. They bring this distinctive style of pizza to sunny Florida, rolling out paper-thin crusts topped with heaps of gooey cheese and savory toppings—including gorgonzola, hot sauce, tempeh, and meatballs. The staff serves their red and white New York-style pizzas by the steaming-hot pie or in monstrous slices, and guests can choose to customize their own gourmet pizza with a subset of more than 30 toppings. As calzones and Stromboli bubble up in ovens, chefs also create hot and cold subs, as well as a short list of carefully crafted timeless Italian dishes. Baked ziti, stuffed shells, and lasagna emanate ambrosial scents on the casual eatery's classic red-and-white checkered tablecloths—there's no reason not to use pieces of lasagna as checkers. Outside, alternatively, an expansive patio hosts live bands on the weekends.
The Flour Pot Bakery contains a mélange of culinary influences at what appears to be a seemingly straightforward bakery. The team uses two-thirds of the 2,200 square-foot space solely for the production of handmade french, italian, and swiss breads, Jewish challa, tahitian mousse, and of course, Florida citrus brioche. Every drop of water is filtered before its added to the unbleached, unbromated, premium flour, and the crew limits the amount of sugar in its recipes, save for decadent favorites such as éclairs and triple-layer chocolate cakes. Though the shop’s case primarily displays sweet treats, lunch and breakfast has a place in the bakery as well. Croissants and the shop’s signature bread sandwich everything from eggs and ham to turkey and tuna, which customers can enjoy within the sunny café, or take to the local farmer’s market, grocer, or misguided Mars rover.
Sweet Mel's combines food and drink in a way not seen since the invention of the banana milkshake, offering a lengthy lineup of burgers, beers, and mixed drinks inside a red and black bar. From their perches on exposed-brick walls, hungry TVs can only dream of sampling what they see?pork chops, deep-fried Oreos, beef patties sandwiched between funnel cakes (The Sweet Mel), and foot-long hoagies packed with slabs of ground beef and bacon (The Boss). To wash down big meals, bartenders pour a steady stream of martinis and specialty cocktails, and fill 100-ounce towers with beer, the only beverage that does not immediately curdle when poured into a tower. A wide array of events puts the corner stage to use, with $1 drafts on Mondays, trivia on Tuesday, and Shakespearean-style readings of the menu specials every day.
Praised by The New York Times’ for its “serene” setting and “generous” portions, Liquid Ginger serves up lobster tails and filet mignon fresh from the grill. Inside the kitchen, chefs prepare korean rib-eye steak alongside thai lime and coconut chicken, pan-frying chicken and shrimp in woks held over piles of burning cookbooks. Chefs deploy lavish seasonings as they work, using mixtures ranging from ginger soy sauce to lemongrass beurre blanc.
Succulent meats, long noodles, and fluffy rice arrive at dark-green marble tables in an upscale dining room festooned with Chinese and Japanese artwork. Diners lounge in dark-green leather seats as they construct sailing vessels from wooden chopsticks or head outside to an outdoor patio with a fountain. Valets stand ready to ferry patrons’ cars or oxcarts away and back.