Since April, 2003, the chefs at North End Caf? have championed a focus on local, seasonal ingredients with a healthy approach to cooking. North End Caf?'s menu features traditional meals from around the world, ranging from grass-fed beef burgers and flatiron steaks to grilled fish and scallops to stir-fry and cakes. For sharing, chefs build eclectic small plates such as crab cakes, fried goat-cheese ravioli, and almond-crusted brie. They also prepare a range of vegan and gluten-free dishes, taking care to avoid the pyrotechnics that result when steak and tofu touch.
To accompany these meals, bartenders pour American and international wines, and blend cocktails from fruit and old-fashioned ingredients. At the Highlands location, a brand-new tap system spouts 23 craft beers, including imperial IPAs and peppery black porters. In warmer months, the aromas of cooking and laughter of clientele also fill the Highlands location's outdoor deck, an expansive wooden patio surrounded by vines and flowers.
At Zen Garden, many of the Asian dishes sound familiar, with adjectives like "orange," "sweet ‘n’ sour," and "kung pao." However, rather than tossing chicken or beef in with these classic flavors, the kitchen has adopted a meat-free credo. Chefs mix masterfully seasoned bites of tofu and other meat alternatives with fresh veggies, creating entrees such as green beans stir-fried with mock duck and the barbecued-soy sandwich. Noodles tangle around shiitake mushrooms in both the udon-noodle soup and the shiitake mushroom lo mein, and curry sauce imbues eggplant and shredded tofu with a spicy kick. Guests can pair their meal with a cup of green tea, prepped hot, iced, or in its purest form: emeralds that have not yet been juiced.
Reopened in 2010, the Meadowthorpe Cafe is a quaint cafe with maple-colored wood floors, soft yellow walls, and booths constructed from fresh butter. The menu hangs over the cozy dining room, prophesying the day’s offerings of veggie-stuffed omelets, meatloaf, and buttered grits. Meadowthorpe Cafe's signature dish is the bacon, egg, and cheese Spaulding burger, a delicacy book-ended by a freshly-baked Spaulding donut.
Growing up in Guinea, Mamadou Savané—"Sav" to his family and friends—loved watching his sisters prepare family meals. He learned to cook himself, and, after marrying a Peace Corps volunteer, packed up his recipes and moved to Lexington. The change of scenery continued to fuel Sav's culinary passion, inspiring him to open Sav's Grill & West African Cuisine. Here, he combines Southern specialties with the traditional food of his youth to create a unique dining experience.
Visitors to Sav's find a wealth of global flavors at their finger- and fork-tips. Simmering stews arrive loaded with savory chunks of local goat meat, eggplant, and potatoes, and plantain-based fufu rounds out plates. Besides West African classics, Sav whips up a few staples of Southern American cooking, such as pork ribs with sides of cheesy grits. A locally roasted blend of Ethiopian, Mexican, and Brazilian coffees can complement feasts, which unfold in a casual space adorned with paintings of African landscapes.
When the cooks at Brick Oven Pizzeria pull their specialty pizzas out of their eponymous ovens, the smell of sizzling sauce, crispy crust, and flavorful toppings pervades the entire restaurant. Guests sitting at tables turn heads expectantly toward the kitchen as waiters bring out orders, carrying plates piled with meatball grinders, baked spaghetti marinara, or chicken bacon ranch pizza. Cooks can sprinkle the crispy crust with toppings ranging from four styles of pork to chicken, spinach, and mozzarella. They also offer gluten-free options for customers who have food allergies or who are abstaining from bread out of respect for their brother-in-law, who is half gingerbread man.
Inside a sizzling tandoor oven, naan, paratha, and roti soak in the heat until they start to take on a slight char. 4 Spice Indian Cuisine's chefs then pull them out of the oven, serving them hot as an accompaniment to authentic tandoori meats and curries. Vegetarian options abound as well, from palek paneer and channa masala to vegetable samosas, all of which can be washed down with the cool, fresh flavors of a mango lassi.