Cafe Bravo edifies flavor-craving tongues with an expansive menu of sophisticated tastes served up in a casual dining atmosphere. Adventurous eaters can tour the deserts of the Middle East without succumbing to dehydration or endlessly chasing mirage camel caravans with a selection of succulent shish kebab plates, including chicken, beef, lamb, and pork, paired up with charbroiled vegetables and pita bread ($6.50–$8.50). Hug meaty delights in an embrace of fresh Armenian bread with a kebab sandwich, a choice piece of skewer candy smothered in cilantro, tomatoes, and a drizzle garlic sauce ($4.75–$6). Herbivores and brontosauruses lost in time can mash a smattering of vegetarian delicacies between their molars, including a veggie kebab ($6) or a falafel wrap ($5).
Burgers are the star at Habit. No, not the typical fast-food patties, but 100% fresh ground-beef burgers that are char-grilled over an open flame, placed on a just-baked bun, and topped with local produce. The chefs don't mess around too much with this recipe for success, either. In fact, the Charburger only comes in five varieties, including a barbecue-bacon version and a teriyaki version crowned with grilled pineapple. After it comes off the grill, diners can head to the toppings bar to customize it with fixings such as banana peppers, jalapeños, and worcestershire sauce.
Habit's start was unassuming: in 1969, a burger joint quietly opened in Goleta Beach. But its fate forever shifted when two entrepreneurial brothers bought it out with money they borrowed from their mom. Since then, Habit has not only blossomed into a national chain with dozens of locations, but it has also launched a fleet of 33-foot-long food trucks. Yet for all its growth, Habit has kept its formula simple: burgers + fries = happiness.
As Habit expands, it keeps an eye on the communities it enters. Along with programs that help young people find careers in the culinary arts, the restaurant regularly donates to local nonprofits including the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. It also partners with Share Our Strength, which fights childhood hunger by bringing nutritional programs into schools and teaching underserved families how to stretch their food budgets.
By the time Francisco and Patricia Jimenez opened their small restaurant, La Cabañita, in 1989, they were out of funds to buy food for the kitchen. No matter—they were so certain of their eventual success, they sold many of their personal effects to finish opening. Their dedication has decidedly paid off: in 2002, La Cabañita moved from a space that seats 40 to one that seats more than 100, fueled by the popularity of its boldly spiced, traditional Mexican specialties. (More recently, it's also added breakfast.) A luminous mural covering Mexican history spans one long wall, adding a sense of depth to a room filled with rustic wooden furniture and framed photos.
Most of the family recipes at La Cabañita come from Francisco's mother. Starting at 7 a.m., the kitchen turns out homey dishes that, unlike stirring your coffee with a jalapeño, start the day off on a deliciously spicy note—chilaquiles, eggs with chorizo, and chipotle omelets. The rest of the day brings staples such as stuffed poblanos and fajitas, along with soups and stews; the chicken soup and the pozole with hominy broth are perennial favorites. In 2011, LA Weekly had special praise for the tacos at "the pride of Montrose," noting: "Eating a meal of tacos at La Cabañita is the rough equivalent of a tasting menu: you get the opportunity to sample the kitchen's wide variety of excellent dishes."
Intent on capturing as many farm-fresh flavors as possible, The Wooden Fork indulges patrons with a healthful menu of casual, café-style meals made with fresh, nourishing ingredients. The breakfast selection of wraps, omelets, and fresh toast competes for visitors' attention with a variety of lunch options, which includes creative salads as well as sandwiches topped with everything from oven-roasted turkey, brie, and granny smith apples to eggplant caviar, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and pesto. To accompany these hearty meals, the staff members also spend their days blending juices and smoothies using an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The Wooden Fork's decor mirrors the eatery's casual vibe by featuring a variety of rustic and modern elements. Mismatched chairs surrounding stout wooden tables, chandelier-like light fixtures, and giant chalkboards on the wall all combine to lend a distinctively homespun vibe to the space. At the same time, the dining area includes a handful of modern touches—meticulously placed wall tiles create the appearance of exposed brickwork, and the staff cools baked goods in the glass display case by regularly shooting them with a freeze ray. This inviting ambiance finds even more reinforcement in the live music, book readings, and cooking classes that regularly occur.
Like its grownup sister location—Polentoni—Piccolo Polentoni offers refined versions of Old World Italian cuisine. The chefs keep the flavors familiar by importing prosciutto from Italy, hand-rolling meatballs, and making every strand of fettuccine in-house. Likewise, pizzas feature classic toppings such as basil, grilled vegetables, and pepperoni tinged with red chili pepper. Some dishes, such as polenta in meaty bolognese sauce, are a tad more complex, combining northern and southern Italian influences onto one plate. The wine list shows a similar appreciation for Italy's culinary imports and features bottles from Piemonte and Puglia.
An ascending ribbon of exposed brickwork runs along one dining room wall to the next, providing a rustic touch in the softly lit space. Metallic sconces adorn the walls beside each booth, which surround tables lit by flickering candles.
There's something for all tastes at Eat Well, from Baja fish tacos to country-fried chicken. The cozy diner serves homestyle breakfast until 3 p.m. daily, including such day-starting entrees as a hickory-smoked ham and eggs, and a vegetarian Buddha bowl made with tofu, broccoli, zucchini, and enlightenment. Later in the day, guests enjoy a high pile of ham, salami, swiss cheese, and Italian dressing in the Hobi Sandwich, and the herbivore-friendly Garden Melt with a meatless patty, grilled red onions, and soy cheese on a marble rye.