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.
With only the freshest meats, cheeses, produce, and bakery items, Harvest Thyme delights delicatessen devotees with a full menu of breakfast and lunch options. In addition to fresh breakfast options, Harvest Thyme crafts a lunch menu full of midday masterpieces. Try an albacore-tuna apple-melt croissant with granny smith apples, melted jack and cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sprouts ($7.25), or a grilled caribbean chicken wrap with jerk sauce, melted jack-and-cheddar cheese, fresh pineapple, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, and carrots in a sundried tomato wrap ($7.50). Arrive early to acquire a fresh-baked muffin ($1.95) or surprise a loved one with a fresh-baked bouquet of a dozen bagels ($8.95) instead of thorny and inedible roses. Harvest Thyme strictly uses Boar's Head meats and cheeses, which do not contain any fillers, gluten, trans fat, or artificial ingredients, to construct its sandwiches, wraps, and life-size statues of William Taft.
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.
With a coy grin, white toque, and thumb and forefinger pressed into a "perfecto," the Paluzzi Pasta mascot gives his chef's seal of approval to the Italian dishes served there. Whether two-handing a hot sub for takeout or seeking delivery pasta for home spooling, patrons can count on Paluzzi’s for a real taste of Italy without the brackish aftertaste of licking a Venetian gondola.
Executive chef Andy Fass—trained at the New England Culinary Institute—shares his passion for classical Italian cookery and fresh ingredients. After receiving bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Florida, Fass followed his dream of becoming a chef, using his culinary skills to delight diners in the home of his alma mater. Eschewing the heavy dishes that stereotypically define Italian cuisine, the kitchen instead crafts lightly seasoned recipes from fresh, local ingredients, harkening back to Old World suppers cooked atop Mount Vesuvius. Video recipes and cooking tips on Amelia's website help educate aspiring chefs or robots attempting to learn human customs. Fronded palms and leafy bushes line the secluded patio courtyard where guests and canine companions can relax on an idyllic afternoon. A pair of recently renovated dining rooms entertains eyes with Tuscan paintings, exposed-brick surfaces, and jazz photographs that depict crowd-surfing tenor saxophones.
In the kitchen at Mark's Prime Steakhouse, cherry and pecan flicker and pop in a wood stove. The smoke penetrates into thick cuts of U.S.D.A. beef and fresh seafood brought in from Mayport in Jacksonville. For filets, strips, or bone-in rib eyes, chefs singe a flavorful crust over each chop's juicy center before plopping it onto a plate sizzling with butter.
Servers with black vests and bow ties escort the prime proteins to diners' tables, where their conversations dance over dinner music by mid-century crooners, and light from the ceiling's stained-glass dome splashes onto dark woods. Nearby, martinis, classic cocktails, and a wine list—which has garnered Wine Spectator's "Award of Excellence" every year since 2004—rest on a vintage bar. Salvaged from the La Concha Inn in Key West, the tiger mahogany bar was built in 1873 during an era when bars were called saloons and bears were called mega-squirrels.
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.