One of the largest casual-dining chains in the world, Applebee's has been serving up classic bar-and-grill fare for three decades. But that doesn't mean that some locations of the family-friendly restaurant aren't ready to try something new. At 117th street, the first USGB LEED certified Applebee's serves the environment as well as hungry guests with a host of eco-friendly building features. A 30-foot living wall bursts with greenery on one side of the high-ceilinged dining area. Several trees provide shade and oxygen on the roof. Diners can investigate these and other green features via an interactive touchscreen tour before settling down to enjoy their juicy Freshburgers, Pick 'N Pair lunch combos, and other classic meals.
Harvest Table specializes in fresh farmhouse fare that, according to the New York Times, “calls to mind a just-picked bounty.” Customers gather around the counter—a long table designed, built, and sanded by the father of owner Carissa Borraggine—adding to the restaurant’s homey feel. Behind the counter, Carissa's team crafts sandwiches, salads, and smoothies based on customers' create-your-own inventions or house recipes.
Sandwiches include a club with crisp bacon and house-roasted turkey stacked between three slices of eight-grain bread. Salad-wise, shrimp, grilled pineapple, and sesame-ginger dressing flavor the High Thai'd, whereas Cajun chicken and tangy mango dressing add kick to the Aztec. Fruit smoothies like the Peach Sunrise—a blend of peaches, strawberries, honey, and soymilk—act as healthy dessert options. Patrons can round out meals with Harvest Table's generous selection of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.
Plumes of fragrant steam swirl above bowls as waiters deliver hefty portions of paella to red-linen-topped tables inside Vivo Tapas Lounge. In the paella, clamshells, shrimp, mussel shells, and pearly scallops pop amid a heap of golden saffron rice. The eatery’s paella complements a list of hot and cold tapas, all of which exemplify the restaurant's Zagat rating of very good to excellent food. On small tapas plates, chefs arrange tiny patties of spanish tuna or mushrooms stuffed with onions, bacon, pine nuts, and mozzarella cheese. After meals, the crowd can get to their feet and dance the night away amid colorful beams of light and exposed-brick walls. Sheer curtains cordon off private seating with tufted, high-backed banquettes for VIP parties and laid-back tax audits.
The layout of Rio Rodizio is telling: with a candlelit dining area in one section and a long bar lined with flat screens in another, it's as much a place to take a date for a romantic meal as it is a spot to grab a drink after work. In the dining room, gaucho chefs carve cuts of lamb, beef, and pork right at the table, forcing diners to clear plate space next to seared fish, homemade pastas, and sushi rolls drizzled in flavorful sauce. Like a home that's been decorated by robbing a furniture store in the dark, the cocktail menu is a fusion of tastes, its Asian and Brazilian proclivities represented by sangrias, tropical juices, and sake.
Sweet Retreat Boutique's palate-popular bakers curb relentless sweet-tooth cravings with made-from-scratch cupcakes and whole cakes that have flaunted such flavors as red velvet, carrot, and pineapple cream cheese. The shop's imaginative cake designers work closely with clients to assemble custom cakes that commemorate special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and the end of century-long thumb wars. Premade cakes in a variety of sizes come in round and square shapes, and proudly don top-shelf ingredients and layers of tasty frosting.