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 burnt-orange walls of Parrillada el Gaucho echo the welcoming heat of the grills in the kitchen. There, steaks acquire charred stripes before they reach diners in several cuts, from rib eye to T-bone. Uruguayan-style parrillada meals layer impressive amounts of meats and garnishes on pans, often piling enough skewers of shrimp and crisp sausages for two. This traditional South American style of cooking typifies the warm, convivial venue, whose dining room is decorated with horseshoes and ranching artifacts. Though steaks remain its most popular offering, the menu also boasts entrees such as chicken parmesan and custom-mixed pastas, with housemade flan to bring meals to an authentically sweet conclusion. Party packages, late hours, and Friday-night musical performances conspire with tender bites, luring festive groups to tables without coaxing trails of confetti.
Flamma pairs the brisk elegance of waterfront dining with a robust menu of richly seasoned meats. Diners glide up via boat, car, or ghost horse to sup on the flavorful foodstuffs, with exotic entrees including the stew-like fish moqueca ($24), seared ahi tuna ($25), and Hawaiian pork chops ($19). More traditional steakhouse fare includes a center-cut filet mignon ($29) and New York strip ($27). Visitors with indecisive tongue brains will delight at the full Rodizio ($46.90) option, which merits entrance to a ceaseless parade of meats hewn fresh from the skewer to the diner's plate. This feast includes options such as brazilian sausage, flank steak, leg of lamb, and chicken parmesan drumsticks, which can be paired with selections from the eatery's vast wine cellar or sips from a carefully concealed flask of porpoise sweat.
Legends Tavern & Grille pairs its menu of eclectically inspired pub cuisine and hearty finger foods with a selection of craft beers from foreign and domestic breweries. Although the cooks forge familiar comfort foods, such as beer-battered Alaskan cod, they also use culinary creativity to keep the menu fresh and their spatulas motivated. Burgers come topped with everything from goat cheese to mojo pulled pork, and housemade crab cakes are served with a roasted-red-pepper rémoulade. In addition to the food and drink menus, the tavern entices patrons with special events throughout the week, including live entertainment on Friday and pub trivia on Wednesday.
When Tropical Acres Steakhouse first opened in 1949, a green palm tree festooned its simple menu of seven steaks, chops, and sandwiches. Today, the Studiale family tops tables with a vast menu of T-bones, porterhouses, strip steaks, and filet mignon seared in a bustling kitchen alongside pork chops and veal cutlets. Chefs ladle sauces whisked with horseradish and dill or lemon and capers over shrimp, scallops, and fillets of fish such as snapper and wild-caught salmon. Dark wood columns and beams encircle the dining room's tufted booths and wall-inlaid tanks filled with colorful fish and treasure chests billowing bubbles of steak sauce. Tropical Acres also caters events from luncheons to weddings with light or formal meals, and it hosts celebrations for up to 250 guests in a refined banquet room.
Though you can always drive up to the Historic Downtowner Saloon, that's not the recommended way to arrive. Instead, customers might want to take the water taxi right up to the downtown stop to get a preview of the river views granted by the restaurant's riverfront patio. Here, guests can enhance their waterside experience with expertly prepared American fare and 20 new craft beers waiting to quench to the most discerning drinker.
While new owners now helm Historic Downtowner Saloon, its chefs tend to their culinary labors, be it slow-roasting prime rib or turning out seafood specials, sandwiches, and appetizers. In the kitchen, they grill slabs of sizzling sirloins and pair them crab cakes drizzled in a Cajun remoulade. Once delivered to guests, ancho shrimp tacos do flavorful dances across palates, while a raw bar, stocked with bowls of littleneck clams and Caribbean jerk shrimp, puts appetites on ice. Most nights of the week, a live band serenades guests with tunes as relaxing as surfing on a waterbed—unless there are sharks inside the waterbed.