To get a sense of The Greene Turtle's commitment to the neighborhood, one need only sit at the bar and look up. Dozens of mugs hang above the counter, emblazoned with the pub's logo and a unique number—each one belongs to a recurring patron. The Mug Club awards its members with draft-beer discounts and other specials, but more importantly, it allows loyal patrons to feel as though they own small slices of the venue without tattooing their names on the bartender's arm. This sense of shared familiarity is what fuels the entire franchise, which refrains from calling its locations "restaurants" in favor of friendlier terms: gathering places, communities, havens.
Many of the locations contribute more than mugs to their districts. Staff members who participate in the annual Tips for Tots program donate the entirety of one day's tips to a nearby Toys for Tots initiative, and Tuesday Funds for Friends events benefit local organizations. These efforts have been chronicled by press sources such as Food and Drink magazine, with features that liken The Greene Turtles' philanthropic generosity to the generous portions of comfort food that leave the kitchens.
From cheeseburger sliders and flatbread pizzas to handmade lump-crab cakes, the offerings on the menu embrace barroom traditions along with ingenuity. The steak and chicken entrees arrive with classic sides of green beans and yukon gold mashed potatoes, whereas the eastern shore mac ‘n’ cheese updates a comfort staple with chopped bacon, lump crab, scallions, and Old Bay seasoning. Diners can enjoy their meals by the glow of private flat-screen TVs—there's one in every booth—or beneath one of many larger televisions broadcasting sports games throughout the venue.
In 2002, Mike Southard took a leap of faith worthy of The Dukes of Hazzard. He left a career in the elevator industry and decided to pursue his true passion: stock-car driving. Southard launched Try It Racing and On Track Racing Experience, determined to share with others the thrill he had felt many times in the victory lane of late-model stock-car races. His business has grown from a few humble events and clients each year to a fully packed schedule at some of the country's longest running and most renowned racetracks. Some things haven't changed, however—you can still find Southard behind the wheel of the two-seat ride-along car, taking patrons around curves and straightaways at top speed.
Adrenaline fiends satisfy their cravings while driving or riding around tracks such as Orange County Speedway, where industry legends Jeff Gordon and Scott Riggs have burned their share of rubber. A professional photographer and in-car video cameras can capture the excitement at each event, memorializing guests' wide-open eyes, exhilarated smiles, and high-intensity games of I Spy.
Bensi co-owner Genci Previzi helms an immense menu of classic Italian cuisine, including hearty homestyle dishes with roots in Calabria, Italy. Entrees, joined by a house salad or cup of comforting housemade soup, range from spaghetti and meatballs to gluten-free grilled chicken in a lemon-garlic marinade served over a veggie medley. The chefs also prepare an array of specials such as pignoli-crusted goat cheese and arugula salad, barolo-braised veal osso buco, pan-seared Chilean sea bass with eggplant caponata, and nutella chocolate pizza with fresh strawberries. The dishes are served in a modern dining atmosphere where minimal table settings and simple dark-wood furniture keep the focus on the vibrant cuisine.
In 1977, Jack Fulk and Richard Thomas had a vision to open a restaurant chain that combined fast service with made-from-scratch comfort fare. They labored to perfect Bojangles’ signature blend of seasonings to flavor its menu of fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, and homemade sides.
Though the eatery has ballooned to more than 500 locations, each one still uses Jack and Richard’s 35-year-old biscuit recipe. The flaky, buttery morsels germinate in a multi-phase process that involves 15 mixing steps, 18 rolling steps, and 2 years of intensive wilderness training.
The creative spark in the New American Asian cuisine at Ippin Mono Kitchen is down to one man: Chef Sylva Senat. Trained at New York City restaurants like Aquavit and Buddakan, the French-speaking Haitian native brings an upscale, international sensibility to the restaurant's menu of sushi, noodles, and fusion dishes. Citrus panko adds extra bite to a shared plate of beef short ribs, while fresh oysters from the raw bar pair with the delicate flavors of champagne-yuzu mignonette sauce.
Tria Terra Restaurant Tapas & Bar's super-powered chefs leap culinary oceans in a single bound, forging authentic cuisine ranging from handmade italian pastas to spanish paellas to french steak au poivre. The dinner menu, featuring a plethora of fresh ingredients arriving from Spain via teleportation capsule, kicks off with vegetarian, seafood, and meat tapas such as the flor de arca chofa, a baked artichoke with whole garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and parsley ($8.50). Taste buds are tucked in for sweet dreams with the gnocchi con salsiccia e finocchi, homemade potato gnocchi pillows blanketed with a fennel tomato sauce, pecorino romano cheese, and peppers ($14.99). To satiate a minimum of two people and unlimited imaginary friends, inquire about the paella del dia ($38.00), a multi-flavored feast 35 minutes in the making. Favorites include the paella a la basque, a world summit of proteins loaded with rings of calamari, bits of imported chorizo, sausage, and langostino, slices of chicken, and morsels of shrimp, clams, and mussels.