As the sun dips below the horizon, the lights framing Taverna Opa's exterior flicker casting a warm glow. Inside, the calm lasts only a few moments at Taverna Opa: once night falls, live DJs take to the stage, furnishing belly dancers with a pulsating beat by which to shimmy and undulate. Waiters often lock arms and break into traditional zorba dancing. And, if the night reaches a fever pitch, patrons may toss their napkins in the air. This raucous atmosphere has earned Taverna Opa the spotlight in a slew of media publications. But though revelry is paramount, Taverna Opa doesn’t shirk cuisine: chefs marinate fresh seafood and lamb in fresh herbs and prepare them on a wood-fired grill, and bartenders pour Greek wines well-suited for the succulent meats or postmeal Trojan horse christenings.
In the world of Italian eating, few things pair with dinner as well as company. This is something Mama Mia's owner and head chef Joseph Franco takes to heart, and for more than a quarter century he has been striving to fill his restaurant with the best of both. Homemade pasta stuffed or tossed with Ovalini mozzarella, fresh basil, whipped ricotta, or South Florida seafood complete a mosaic of traditional Italian dining when set alongside stuffed meatballs and grandma's engraved lobster hammer. And for every entree there's a wine: reds and whites from Europe and America that line the walls on wooden racks.
Together these flavors, coupled with a breezy dining room and outdoor patio speckled in red and white, draw in guests. Mama Mia's has been host to the Miss Florida pageant as well as a range of other local events, including a special Valentine's Day celebration.
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.
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.
The aromas of spice-rubbed meats, curries, and simmering coconut milk mingle in Ginger Bay Cafe's dining room, giving visitors a taste of the tropics as soon as they enter. These vibrantly complex scents only grow stronger when orders arrive, such as plates of curried-chicken spring rolls with pineapple-ginger chutney, creole lobster, or jerk chicken with a secret blend of spices.
Inside the dining room, mottled orange and yellow walls evoke the look of an ocean sunset or really cool geometry book. The restaurant comes alive at night as live jazz bands and dance parties with reggae, R&B, and Caribbean soca rhythms echo throughout the space.
The Big Easy Bar and Grille has been showered with praise from local newspapers for its atmosphere, entertainment, and American fare infused with Cajun spices. New Orleans melodies add their spice to meals during live jazz and blues sets staged Wednesday–Sunday against a neon-lit backdrop of exposed brick. On Sunday afternoons, bands serenade brunchers, who may take their midday repast onto the outdoor patio. When the tunes die down inside, flat-screen TVs pick up the slack, and sports announcers pepper the latest games with their spice-themed metaphors.