A crackling brick fireplace, woodwork, and warm walls with black wainscoting add an air of rural elegance to The Big A Grillehouse, where chefs fire-grill substantial cuts of meat and twirl Italian pastas in savory sauces. After guests cartwheel up the porch steps and settle around white-draped tables to peruse the menu, servers whisk orders back to the kitchen, then bring back seafood-laden appetizers, traditional pasta dishes, and hand-cut, beautifully marbled USDA Choice rib eyes. Karaoke enlivens the bar on Saturdays from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., and singers can stumble back in on a Sunday morning to have servers pour throat-soothing juices before they scope out a stuffed breakfast buffet or request one of chef Ron's made-to-order omelets. Lushly landscaped grounds feature brick paths, low-draping trees, and a front-side pond whose fountain frequently breaks into a beluga imitation. The space's seven dining rooms are ideal for events from weddings to The Big A Grillhouse's popular murder mystery meals.
The staff at Marley's Gotham Grill makes diners feel at home by serving up an extensive lunch and dinner menu of home-style entrees and grilled favorites. Handcrafted burgers are taken up a notch as hot sauce and pulled pork crown the beef patties, while paninis hold grilled and breaded chicken with marinara sauce and mozzarella between buttery slices of bread. The laidback eatery also puts a spin on traditional chicken wings by slathering them in forty types of sauce, from savory garlic parmesan to spicy red thai curry.
When not sating diners' appetites, the wood-accented restaurant stays busy sponsoring softball teams, hosting holiday parties, and running Texas Hold 'Em games, which involve using a deck of cards slathered in castor oil.
For Sean Ulley, the owner Smokehouse Barbecue in Somerville, grilling meats is a family tradition; his father runs his own barbecue joint in Andover. To infuse ribs, brisket, and pulled pork with deep flavor, Sean seasons the cuts with a dry rub and smoke them for up to 17 hours—as deliciously described in the Somerville Today. The cooks also make good use of their fryer, deep-frying everything from corn on the cob to Oreos. Patrons can also opt for fried chicken, burgers, or Creole dishes such as the Louisiana Steampot—a medley of clams, mussels, crawfish, and shrimp served over rice and garnished with a strand of sautéed Mardi Gras beads. In the summer and spring, diners can head to an outdoor patio to eat in the warmth of the sun.
Speaking with Barbara Aichem-Koster, it's pretty clear that Black Forest Inn is a family business. "My father is head chef Heinrich. My brother is Heiner––short for Heinrich––and his two children are Heinrich and the other, Hansi. They're cooks too." Barbera and her kitchen full of Heinrichs have helped feed Stanhope for more than 34 years with what she calls German continental cuisine––a product of the elder Heinrich's rich culinary education.
"My father was born in Germany, learned to cook there and across Europe," she says. "He worked his way up in different restaurants. Then my brother went back to Germany and did the very same thing." It's this attention to tradition that Barbera credits to the freshness of the ingredients. "We try to use a lot of local produce in seasonal menus and specials. … We don't buy prepared items." Luckily for diners, that also means that the wurst sausages and the German-style pasta, or spaetzle, are housemade.
The elegantly rustic dining room has hand-painted stained-glass ceiling panels, exposed brick, and a hand-crafted bar stocked with a multitude of imported German beers. This, along with periodic live music, has helped bring a younger clientele to Black Forest. "I had a group of 20 young people in here for the Friday-night buffet. The staff pointed out what everything was, explained it to them. And one of the girls, she called later that week, wanted to say how fabulous it was. I grew up in this restaurant, so that was really nice to hear."
There are a lot of smiles in the restaurant photo album of J. Michael's Northern Cucina. Customers, cooks, and the Dicataldo family?who own and operate the eatery with a little help from their tiniest member?all showcase shining grins. It's clear J. Michael's is a friendly place, and with dishes like beet-leaf-topped white pizza, it's clear that it's also unique. Specialty pizzas, pastas, and Italian entrees inspire nostalgia and anchor dining-room gatherings. The chefs also cater, whipping up trays of chicken saltimbocca, as well as party subs crammed into pi?atas. "Make our kitchen yours," say the Dicataldos, and between the grins and the classic flavors, many diners do just that.