Row upon row of baked, fried, and shredded dough line the glass case at Baklava Factory, tantalizing customers with a bounty of honey, walnuts, and custard cream. The factory?s pastry experts concoct more than a dozen kinds of baklava each day alongside other European and Mediterranean sweets, such as fried balls of dough dipped in honey. Customers can sip espresso or cappuccino as they peruse these confections and the bakery?s array of elaborate gift boxes and baskets filled with Belgian chocolates, cookies, and, of course, baklava. Baklava Factory also does corporate gifting and enlivens events with custom cakes embellished with edible butterflies, cartoon characters, and rhinestones capable of fooling amateur jewel thieves.
Cooking enough food for family reunions, community events, and other large gatherings can be a laborious, time-intensive process. Fortunately, the chefs at Aslan Mediterranean Cuisine are accustomed to feeding the masses?they've been whipping up bountiful spreads of Armenian, Lebanese, and Greek cuisine since 1988. Their menu brims with hearty meat options as well as a variety of vegetarian-friendly selections, such as silken hummus prepared with a special mix of seasonings, and slow-cooked grape leaves stuffed with aromatic seasoned rice. From the grill, chefs also serve filet mignon and chicken kabobs in addition to their signature dish, arais?pita bread stuffed with lean ground beef and then roasted above an open flame. And no matter the size of the event, the chefs won't be intimidated since they are equally comfortable cooking for a party of 1,000 as they are cooking for one insatiable rhinoceros.
Sushi Gp & Izakaya's menu unites sushi with other Japanese cuisine and internationally inspired fare. The tapas-style dishes include barbecue short ribs bento dinners and salmon sashimi. Each dish is carefully crafted, and then served by friendly waitstaff.
Parking can be tough to come by at this smallish Eagle Rock sandwich shop, which specializes in Americanized versions of the popular döner kebab. So named because of the rotating vertical spit that holds its cooked meat, Spitz is the result of two friends who fell in love with the ubiquitous European snack food, but couldn’t find it anywhere in America. The sandwiches – mostly layered with roasted slices of beef and lamb, though chicken is also available – come topped with a variety of fresh ingredients and a tangy white cucumber sauce. Vegan and vegetarian items are available, while regulars opt for the messy street cart fries, topped with garlic aïoli, feta, onion, green pepper, tomato, olives, pepperoncinis and chili sauce. The tight, colorful dining area holds only a few wooden tables, making takeout a popular option.
The complexity involved in the creation of traditional Polish cuisine presents an overwhelming obstacle for many new restaurants. Not so for Polka Polish Cuisine, where husband-and-wife team Andrew and Katherine Dabrowski turned the savings from Andrew's big rig career and staggering credit-card loans into a success story. Now in the capable hands of Katherine's relative Mike Budny, the medium-sized strip mall eatery has blossomed into an area gem featured in a segment on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Budny's chefs grill up regular and spicy kielbasa, marinate beef stew gulasz (goulash) for 24 hours, and hide sauerkraut, potatoes, or cheese inside pierogies' doughy pockets. Amid Polka's kitschy, playful décor of trophy buck heads, whimsical signs, and multicolored ceiling tiles, patrons slake thirsts with 10 varieties of herbal tea and end meals on a dulcet chord with nalesniki, crêpes stuffed with sour cherries and cheese, drenched in vodka, and set ablaze as a tribute torch to a memorable meal and to the infamous flaming peaks of Poland's Carpathian Mountains.
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.