The owners of North End Café don't just purchase local produce: they also grow vegetables and herbs in their own garden in Simpsonville. Since April, 2003, their chefs have championed this focus on local, seasonal ingredients with a healthy approach to cooking. North End Café's menu features traditional meals from around the world, ranging from grass-fed beef burgers and flatiron steaks to grilled fish and scallops to vegetarian lasagnas, 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 new outdoor patio, an expansive wooden deck surrounded by leafy plants and tall, wispy trees.
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.
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.
At Pete's Wok, the eponymous Pete Spencer and his staff serve up savory, mouthwatering dishes of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisine. Guests chow down on vegetarian plates of napa cabbage and mushroom, slurp pad Thai and Singapore noodles, or dig in to meaty dishes of beef pho soup or spicy Hunan and Sichuan-style chicken and pork.
When a bell tolls across Shelbyville, stomachs rumble. Hungry diners who follow the chime find themselves at Bell House Restaurant, a stately, recently renovated pink house where the centuries-old bell—originally part of the city's firehouse—faithfully heralds lunch and dinner each day. Once guests are inside, owner Sue Andriot or one of her experienced hosts cheerfully leads them to seats in one of the cavernous manor's four dining rooms. Sue and her husband, Bob, designed the restaurant's interior themselves, drawing from years of decorating experience to transform the rooms into rustic, Tuscan-style dining halls, where vibrant paintings speckle the walls and vases of fresh flowers sit on every table.
Once seated, dinner guests nibble freshly baked bread and sip glasses of fine wine while the aromas of rosemary, lemon, and garlic waft around them. In the kitchen, Executive Chef Tracy Gibson folds fresh ingredients into savory pasta and fine French- and Italian-inspired specialties. She extends her culinary expertise to American favorites such as the Cajun blackened chicken and Henry Bain pork. Seasonal flavors characterize the dessert menu, with warm apple cake making an appearance in the fall and cheesecake making an appearance when the moon explodes each summer.