It's been more than a half-century since the first Char-Grill opened its doors on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, but not much has changed at this beloved local chain. Whether in the original cinderblock building or one of the 10 locations that have been added since, people still approach the counter to jot down orders, pass them through the window, and then look on as cooks grill half- and quarter-pound steak patties over charcoal flames.
In addition to the signature smoky-flavored burgers, Char-Grill also fires up grilled chicken, chili dogs, and pulled-pork sandwiches. Milkshakes and fries add to the eatery's classic feel, helping land it on USA Today's list of 51 Great Burgers and reminding guests of simpler times when hamburgers were used as currency.
For the hibachi chefs at Mitchikia Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi, playing with their food is a requirement. Over the heat of the traditional teppanyaki grills, their knives slice through seared steaks and shrimp, sending food flying with spatulas and catapults made of carrot sticks. In addition to the entertaining hibachi dinners, the kitchen prepares a host of Japanese-influenced dishes, in addition to freshly constructed maki rolls and sushi.
Mandarin oranges. That's just one of Amante Gourmet Pizza's 50-plus toppings. Customers can take advantage of that plethora of choices building their own pizza with the likes of goat cheese, pickles, capers, and jerk chicken. Or they can take toppings such as pecans, imported prosciutto, and zucchini and construct a crispy, golden calzone. The menu also quells cravings with mango habanero wings, baked penne pasta, and cheese steak sandwiches.
Whether it's contained in a small cup or a 2.5-gallon bucket, the italian ice of Sunset Slush tastes smooth, flavorful, and refreshing. Thirty flavors, all of which are free of fat, dairy, cholesterol, and gluten, emerge from colorful pushcarts at community events and from behind the counter at the North Raleigh location. The shop pairs its italian ice with other cold and sweet treats, including hand-scooped ice cream sourced from local farms and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies.
Sandwiches come funneling out of the kitchen doors, spreading brushstrokes of steam that hint at grilled chicken, spinach, and prosciutto. Those mulling over the menu to build their own creations consider six styles of bread including wheat, caraway-studded rye, and sunflower. In the morning hours, croissants, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches prepare diners for stressful shifts as a manager or a hammock-catalog model.
Blues and reds fill the dining-room walls at Tokyo House Japanese Restaurant, which features a menu of Japanese favorites, including nigiri and maki sushi, many types of noodle dishes, and hibachi entrees. Diners can watch the chefs at work at a sushi bar as they craft special rolls such as the Scary Jerry with mild or spicy yellowtail, tuna, and salmon on top of a crunchy roll with scallop.