For John Offerdahl, the aroma of meat sizzling on the grill stirs memories of his family's barbecues in rural Wisconsin. Even when John grew up and became a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, he couldn't escape that enticing smell?it would waft into the stadium from fans tailgating outside and the mascots who secretly stuffed their costumes with cheeseburgers. So it was only natural that, after retiring from football, John would once again find himself at the grill when he and his wife Lynn opened Offerdahl's Cafe Grill in 2000. The couple were no strangers to the restaurant business; they had previously owned a chain of bagel shops. This venture, however, would prove more ambitious?they devised menus of classic American cuisine that could be served up fast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a focus on fresh-grilled fare.
Today, Offerdahl's Cafe Grill has expanded to seven locations, but its flavorful, no-frills meals remain the same. "Johnny O's Famous Bagels" still take the starring roles during breakfast, waking diners up with flavors like cinnamon crumb, pumpernickel, and fruit-and-nut. But once breakfast turns to lunch and dinner, the grill takes over. Chefs swiftly cook up steak, chicken, and salmon, serving the proteins over rice, pasta, or salad with homemade dressings. They also grill chicken sandwiches and burgers, in a nod to the caf?'s backyard barbecue roots.
Without the use of animal products, the chefs at Gourmet Greenhouse raid Mother Nature's pantry to pile plates with healthy salads, savory sandwiches, drinks, and desserts. After discovering meat-free diets can lower the risk of disease and provide unconditional moral support to canine teeth, the founders inked a menu full of vegetarian, vegan, and raw delights. Creamy soups contain almond or rice milk instead of lacto-liquids ($4–$5), and almond-flaxseed meatballs wait to hatch in a squiggly nest of raw yellow spaghetti squash ($8).
A tree is something you might not expect to see inside a bar. But Mystic Water Kava Bar has one?and it's everywhere. Every look around yields views of the sculpted banyan tree's gnarled branches and roots tracing along the interior, giving the space the feel of being underground or in a secret lair. And the signature drink is just as unique. Kava, a traditional Polynesian drink said to have soothing properties, is served in a large bowl with small coconut shells that are used to dip into the concoction and to sip from. Beyond the drink's relaxing ways, the whole place feels like a haven for unwinding, with live funk and soul groups performing regularly, a yoga studio on premises, and plenty of space to let loose or meet up with your friend with the really calming voice.
The hearty Italian dishes and seafood of Cafe Volare earned praise from the Miami Herald this year for its “wonderful” desserts and dishes such as the “light and elegant” spinach and Parmesan ravioli. Chef Manolo Guerra often prepares whatever dishes customers request, and customizes dishes such as raviole penne and grilled salmon. Desserts range from succulent apple tart to a tiramisu made with Colombian coffee, amaretto, and Sambuca.
Early each day, the cooks at Mady's Deli & Cafe assemble more than 40 fresh ingredients for their salad bar, chopping up juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and other organic vegetables as they bubble up pots of hard-boiled eggs on the stove. They gather fresh mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, lay out bowls of plump raisins and crunchy sunflower seeds, and craft batches of homemade dressings such as blue cheese, mandarin-orange vinaigrette, and fat-free Italian. Throughout the day, the cooks fold these mostly organic ingredients into customized salads, inviting diners to pick out greens, toppings, dressings, and astrological signs for their unique creations. When not building salads, the chefs slice up a variety of specialty sandwiches, layering crusty rolls with pastrami, roast beef, and grilled chicken. They also extend their culinary expertise to homemade soups and specialty entrees, such as baked lamb and stuffed cabbage. As the cooks busy themselves in the kitchen, their guests can relax beneath colorful umbrellas on the front patio with a cold glass of wine and beer.
The faint clatter of fingers clicking keyboard keys fills in the air as patrons surf the Internet. Nearby, friends sip on kiwi and pineapple bubble teas while seated on plush red couches or at high-top table. Megabite Cyber Cafe hosts hours of relaxation and work with its combination of computers, daily open mics, and a café menu that features black-bean, portabella, and chicken burgers. Owner Adam Morgan successfully melds his business with acts of conservation by incorporating a low-voltage lighting system and writing receipts directly on patrons instead of wasting paper.