In a dining room decorated with Egyptian-inspired artwork, visitors to Exotic Bites enjoy a tableau of Mediterranean dishes that range from tender gyros to rich and creamy hummus. Warm pita wraps around sizzling shawarma, lamb kebabs, or kebah, a combination of minced beef, pine nuts, and ground lamb, and stuffed falafels are comprised of a crunchy chickpea patty filled with minced beef, chicken, or sautéed vegetables. The occasional tendrils of hookah smoke spiral into the air, spun from the lips of friends chatting at a table or reclining in a cushioned corner decorated with a vivid wall hanging. More hookah pipes line up against a wall shelf, spaced between the chalkboard menu of daily specials and framed pictures.
Pool sharks and bar flies can play out their own personal film noir against the slinky backdrop of Lucky Pocket Billiards. Figures around Russian-imported pool tables chalk their cues while their companions send colorful balls whizzing across the felt to clack into pockets. Against the other wall, the sound of bubbly chatter rises up from groups seated on black-leather couches. Over the bar, Christmas lights twinkle, sending kaleidoscopic colors glinting off pints of Samuel Adams, Budweiser, and AmberBock. A television mounted on the wall broadcasts sporting events or the latest report on the theft of a famous ornithological statue.
Mickey Byrne's boasts an Irish-style pub menu, combining traditional favorites with more contemporary American fare. Curry fries ($4.50) and crispy calamari served with garlic aioli and Creole mayo ($8.95) encourage tongues to fold in half and enthusiastically clap. Main dishes include traditional tastes such as Flynn's shepherd's pie ($9.95), bangers and mash (a combination of Irish-style sausages with creamy mashed potatoes and onion gravy, $11.95), fish 'n' chips ($12.95), and corned beef and cabbage ($12.95). The menu also features everything from a veggie burger ($8.95) to a traditional Irish breakfast chockfull of black-and-white pudding, two eggs, baked beans, Irish bacon, and banger sausage ($11.95, subject to availability after 3 p.m.).
Voted "Best Bar" in 2011 by the New Times, Whiskey Tango All American Bar & Grill whets appetites with an eclectic menu of dishes inspired by America's culinary topography. Chef Elliott’s spaghetti sandwich gives dizzy forks a whirling respite with its buttery loaf of toasted garlic bread stuffed with juicy chicken, mozzarella, tomato sauce, and cascading ringlets of spaghetti ($8.95). Pursed lips can slurp spoonfuls of Georgia sweet vidalia onion soup, crowded with caramelized slivers of vidalia petals and capped with melted cheddar cheese ($5.95) before bare teeth shred tender morsels off a main course of St. Louis–style ribs ($13.95 for a half rack; $16.95 for a full rack). Like eating steak with chopsticks, the San Diego tuna nachos synthesize distinct food identities by topping fried wanton chips with slices of sushi-grade tuna cooked rare, seaweed salad, and pickled ginger ($13.95).
Eggs, ham, and bacon not only make a great start to the day, but also a fine end to it when they top Alley Cat Bar and Grill’s breakfast burger. It’s one of the bar’s many evening edibles, which range from local Gulf Coast oysters to Angus steaks or grilled chicken paired with housemade chimichurri sauce. The bar's cooks showcase their versatility, too, by preparing vegetarian-friendly main dishes such as pizzas crowned with spinach and Alfredo sauce.
These feasts unfold amid nightly entertainment, from 8-balls sinking into pool table pockets to big-screen TVs showing much-touted games. Throughout the week, guests can also croon karaoke, rock out to live bands, and groove to tunes spun by live DJs, rather than iPods wearing hoodies.
"Irie" is a word commonly used in Jamaica to describe a feeling of peacefulness and oneness with the world. At Nk Bistro, it's used to describe pasta dishes. This might sound like a bit of hyperbole, but it makes a lot of sense after a bite of shrimp, tender chicken, or beef sausage. In fact, pretty much every Jamaican-inspired dish here can be described as "irie," from the traditional oxtail to the spicy jerk chicken. Live reggae music creates a festive atmosphere on Thursday nights, making the dining room feel more like a sunny beach or a session of the famously laid-back 84th Congress.