Ponderosa Steakhouse & Buffet is a 25-year-old design with family-friendly incarnations nationwide. The Lansing locale dares patrons to scale a heaping all-you-can-eat buffet, where verdant mountains of crisp lettuce and fresh toppings inspire salads, and zesty chicken wings offer to awaken taste buds that fell asleep while eating cedar mulch. Second, third, and ninth trips yield juicy baked chicken with vegetables, multiple styles of cooked potato, and the gooey seduction of bubbling pizza by the slice. Weekends unleash steaming meats from red-hot grills and invite diners to sample unlimited fistfuls of sirloin steak, shrimp, and barbecue ribs.
Not many steak houses can boast of their own market where juicy cuts of meat are swiftly transported from the nearby deli to the bustling restaurant kitchen. Knight’s Steakhouse and Grill holds this distinction in the form of Knight’s Market, an Ann Arbor deli where the steaks are painstakingly selected according to their size—each steak must be big enough to double as a shoe, if the need should arise. After the chefs cook them to perfection at the eatery’s two locations, the sizzling entrees make their way to waiting diners amid soft lighting and stone and brick accents.
Housed in one of downtown Baltimore's oldest brick buildings, the Waterfront Hotel Restaurant offers a weekend brunch menu splashed with traditional southern flavors and deep-sea delights. Fatigued longshoremen can break their fast with a crab hash skillet ($17.95), while languid landlubbers can hunker down with a traditional 8-ounce steak-and-eggs platter ($13.95). Lunch or dinner at the Waterfront may begin with undersea treats such as ginger calamari ($9.95) or buttery mussels ($9.95). Slay a grumbling gut-Grendel with a fried oyster po' boy ($11.95), or contemplate the mystic duality of lunch over a sweet-and-savory turkey-brie quesadilla ($9.95). Evening entrees, served from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m, include the scampi (blackened shrimp, scallops, and crab over linguini, $16.95) and the honey chipotle pork chop with mac 'n' cheese ($14.95).
While having a split personality is not the healthiest thing for a person, it works well for a restaurant, as evidenced by Shanghai Ichiban, where a lively Japanese steakhouse and intimate/quiet/elegant Chinese dining room happily coexist under one roof. Diners settle around hibachi tables on the restaurant’s Japanese side, where paintings of crashing waves mimic the cacophonous sounds of knives and spatulas as chefs go to work. Around the hibachi grill, chefs flaunt their showmanship and precise cooking skills by juggling their cooking utensils and maneuvering morsels of filet mignon, scallops, or chicken atop the wide, flat grill. In the quieter Chinese dining room, servers present entrees of sesame chicken or spicy chung king pork on white tablecloths. While Chinese cuisine is dominant on this side, the chefs practice their pan-Asian flair as well, serving up Korean dishes, Vietnamese pho, and cool morsels of fresh sushi.
Low lighting casts the private enclaves and brick fireplace in a warm glow at Louis Benton’s dining room. The restaurant is led by general manager Richard Kozlowski and new executive chef, as well as West Michigan native, Noah VanDoorne, who serves up Midwest cuisine with a French flair. VanDoorne is well-versed in international flourishes such as saffron fumet, citrus beurre blanc, and tiny edible berets, yet pays homage to his roots by sourcing ingredients from local farms for his newly upgraded menu. Some of those ingredients debut on USDA Prime aged steaks, which has earned the spotlight in Grand Rapids Magazine Restaurant Guide and were lauded by the Grand Rapids Press as a “nirvana-like experience."
Named one of the city's most romantic restaurants by Grand Rapids Magazine, Tre Cugini ensnares the senses by pairing its rustic décor of exposed brick walls and crisp white linens with authentic Italian cuisine. Bartenders pour from an expansive list of wines and shake cocktails to tunes from the gleaming grand piano, whetting appetites for cooked-to-order risotto and house-made desserts. Friendly staffers teach basic Italian phrases on request and host monthly wine events, allowing patrons to applaud a varietal's flavor in its native handclap. During warmer months, guests can flock to the outdoor patio to savor fruity sips beneath colorful striped umbrellas:
Under the direction of executive chef Clark Frain, the cooks at Judson's Steak House prepare steaks as well as seafood and chops. Steak cuts range from an 8-ounce filet mignon stuffed with boursin cheese and wrapped in bacon to a 24-ounce tomahawk rib eye. Grilled salmon glistens with a maple-dijon glaze, and bourbon maple syrup sweetens house-rubbed double bone-in pork chops.