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 café's backyard barbecue roots.
In 1954, Gino's Italian Market's founder, Anthony Paparella, moved from the teeming fisheries of Bari to Hoboken, New Jersey, where he married a fellow Italian and worked as a builder for nearly 20 years. After retiring to South Florida in '73, Paparella brought a taste of his homeland stateside by opening a bustling bazaar filled with fresh produce, succulent meats, and sweet desserts.
The market's commitment to tradition and family can be found in all of its business practices, from its catered feasts of traditional baked pastas and rib roasts, to e-mail correspondences from the resident Nonna that contain expert advice on party planning, recipes, and optimal angles for cheek-pinching. Shoppers consult Nonna Anna and handy recipe guides to concoct rich sauces and tasty entrees from the store's bountiful selection of cheese, wine, ripe tomatoes, and imported Italian goods.
In addition to rounding out dinner plates with house-made prosciutto bread, fresh chicken, and juicy cuts of beef, Gino's graces weddings, desserts, and banquets with custom cakes and pastries.
As the sun dips below North Lake, strings of lights bordering Taverna Opa’s patio flicker on, casting a warm glow on the water below. The crepuscular calm lasts only a few moments at Taverna Opa: once night falls, live DJs take to the stage, furnishing belly dancers with a throbbing 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 smash their plates and 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 roast them on a wood-fired grill, and bartenders pour Greek wines well-suited for the succulent meats or postmeal Trojan horse christenings.
Mongolian-style hot-pot dining originated centuries ago, when embattled horsemen repurposed their shields and helmets into pots for preparing meaty stews over open flames. Over time, this modality of cooking has been adopted and remixed as a communal dining event throughout Asia, and the chefs at The Hot Pot put their own spin on it with their family-oriented dinners. Servers first lay out tables banquet-style, arranging plates of raw meat, seafood, veggies, rice, and noodles around centerpiece boiling pots of homemade broth, which comes in flavors ranging from Thai-influenced hot and spicy to a chicken and vegetable house broth. Tablemates joust for morsels of flank steak, mussels, and tofu and then settle the pieces in the simmering broth until they’re tender. But the bubbling cauldron doesn't have to be the focal point of the proceedings; The Hot Pot also prepares a fresh seafood boil and Vietnamese entrees.
Beneath the colorful toques on their heads, hibachi chefs flip and sauté meat and vegetables on their tabletop grills, smiling as they conjure the occasional bursts of flame during lively cooking routines. That’s just one scene at SooWoo Japanese Steakhouse—across the restaurant, sushi chefs slice ribbons of fish and vegetables and roll them into California and spicy tuna rolls. Basketball fans can celebrate the city’s 2012 NBA championship with the specialty Miami Heat roll, which includes slices of shrimp tempura, crab, and cream cheese. SooWoo also whips up Korean dishes, such as bulgogi and pork belly.
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.