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).