Rich Hicks and Todd Istre are the masterminds behind many a national food concept?from Rich's southwestern taco at Tin Star to Todd's spicy seafood dishes at Boudreaux's Cajun Kitchen. When the duo joined forces to create Mooyah, however, they cleared the tortillas and crawdads from their mind in order to focus on formulating a quintessential American burger.
Today, within scores of Mooyah locations throughout the nation, chefs bustle behind counters, grilling up burgers in accordance to Todd and Rich's formula. Cooks pile beef, turkey, and veggie patties onto white or wheat buns before loading on cheeses and toppings of bacon, fried onion, and avocado. Meanwhile, freshly cut potatoes simmer in fryers, and blenders whirl with ice-cream shakes. Out in the dining room, tabletops and booths sit atop checkered floors beneath walls of chalkboards, where customers can write messages or draw portraits of what they wished they looked like, could they only grow a beard.
The chefs at Azúcar Latin Bistro don't limit themselves to any one type of cuisine. Instead, they explore the spectrum of Latin American cooking, celebrating the bold flavors of Central and South America. They give equal attention, however, to more traditional dishes, including arroz con pollo, ceviche salvaje, and camarones a la diabla. The restaurant welcomes groups and families to celebrate its fun, tropical roots.
In either location's expansive lounge, bartenders whip up frosty mojitos and margaritas, which pair with a range of small plates. These lounges—and their dance floors—host live bands and DJs, as well as special events ranging from Monday-night salsa lessons to Wednesday-night bilingual karaoke to Thursday-night all-triangle jam sessions.
From alongside steaming ceramic coffee pots, gluten-free Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes at Abyssinian Ethiopian Restaurant radiate imported spices. In the golden glow of wall sconces, sautéed beef and chicken morsels marinate in butter, cardamom, and fresh ginger. Patrons sop up savory remnants with warm injera, an East African flatbread made from high-protein teff flour that lets fingers grab food, unlike trying to grab a frustratingly realistic painting of fruit. Meals flanked by complimentary portions of collards parade to tables, and caterers cruise past with brimming portions for meetings and shindigs.
The chefs at Masala rain Indian and Nepali seasonings down upon succulent meats slow-cooked inside a tandoor clay oven and simmered veggies flooded with sauce. Divided into two, Masala’s menu features Indian favorites such as curries, skewered lamb cubes, and 13 types of Indian bread, including hand-stretched garlic naan, as well as Nepali dishes such as mo-mo cha steamed dumplings filled with veggies or chicken. Within the eatery’s yellow-hued walls, a full bar cohabitates with a daily lunch buffet, which arranges tasty eats in a row, like a police lineup of the California Raisins.
"Decadent." "Sumptuous." "Perfectly cooked." These are just a few of the ways the New York Times described the food at Dish Bar & Grill, a stylish gathering spot in downtown Hartford. Years ago, patrons of the Sage-Allen department store roamed this same property in pursuit of deals. But silverware has since replaced shopping bags, and diners now come to the industrial-style building to sample chef-owner William Carbone's handiwork. His upscale interpretations of classic comfort foods include meaty dishes, such as chophouse-style steaks and pork, as well as crisp salads and fresh seafood. Away from the dining area, a large bar invites guests to sip on barrel-aged cocktails, and musicians often fill the space with live tunes so you don't have to hire a full brass section to follow you around for the evening.
Sorella's chefs prepare a diverse menu of fine Italian-inspired plates: grilled Spanish octopus, veal and ricotta meatballs, and classic steak florentina, to name a few. The crowning jewels of their menu, though, are their hearty Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas and pasta dishes. House-made ravioli, for example, come stuffed with roast chicken, Fontina, and arugula, while rigatoni might be tossed in a veal saltimbocca sauce. The pizzas, meanwhile, come in styles both classic and inventive, ranging from the simple Pizza Margherita, a basil- and tomato-topped pie, to the Mystic Whaler, a sauce-less white pie made with regular or gluten-free dough and topped with Mystic Melville cheese, and speck.