Aji Japanese Restaurant has garnered praise from the local Hopkins Patch and Lakeshore Weekly News for its menu of colorful sushi rolls and hibachi-seared meats. Artful presentation underscores each concoction—rolls proudly bearing ruby-colored crowns of tobiko or sweet drizzles of eel sauce and hefty steaks and pan-seared seafood sizzling beneath bouquets of leafy garnishes. Imported Japanese beer and sake unite sushi with the flavors for which it was meant, much in the way milk complements cookies or peanut butter complements its secret soulmate, actual butter.
Inside the dining room, white dinnerware contrasts against rich wooden tables. Overhead, carved crimson lanterns dangle from the tin ceiling and golden bulbs illuminate delectable morsels and the gold-plated chopsticks of diners looking to impress their dates. During the warmer months, an outdoor patio mixes meals with fresh breezes.
Wild Boar Restaurant takes grilling and barbecue seriously. With a menu of smoked brisket, juicy hamburgers, and bacon-wrapped hot dogs, the grill sates any carnivore's craving. They don’t undervalue the contributions of the plant kingdom, however, and also toss fresh salads and bake personal pizzas with a wide range of toppings. Their meat-centric mentality finds its way onto signature sandwiches, such as the Sassy Sow with shredded pork and Jim Beam bourbon sauce. Adventurous diners feast on the Piggy Burger's shredded pork, which is sandwiched between two hamburgers and slices of bacon on a toasted bun.
Those same adventurous diners can also look beyond the menu for a thrill, with a mechanical bull tossing customers nightly and live music—accompanied by only mildly awkward dancing—filling the halls on the weekends. Throughout either event, a wide beer selection fuels further merrymaking.
The Depot’s baristas percolate an array of organic beverages and serve up tasty treats in a friendly environment. A beverage menu replete with brewed delights sates caffeine cravings with coffeehouse mainstays such as espresso ($2.20+) and cappuccino ($3.25+), as well as specialties such as the Orange Blossom Depoccino, a fusion of orange, white chocolate, and espresso ($3.89+). Sippers who believe beans are for eating, counting, or bronzing can slake their thirsts with a freshly chocolized hot cocoa ($3.09+) or one of The Depot’s Minnesota blended loose-leaf teas ($1.89+). An assortment of locally produced café fare quiets bellicose bellies with offerings of various pastries ($1–$2.45), soups ($2.50 for a cup; $4 for a bowl), and mouthwatering Pumphouse Creamery ice cream ($3.50 for a single scoop; $5 for a double scoop), the envy of ice cows near and far.
The vittlesmiths at Ham's Sandwich Shop carefully craft gourmet deli sandwiches using fresh baked bread from the New French Bakery and succulent specialty meats. The menu finds its flagship in the unctuously mush-mouthed Godfather ($6.49)—Italian salami and ham tucked under a duvet of pepper jack cheese, garlic spread, and tart vinaigrette. The Texas beef brisket ($6.99) layers an ultra-thin cut of smoked beef brisket with tangy barbecue sauce and sweet red onions on a hoagie roll, and the fiery grilled Guillermo ($6.49) satisfies spice-connoisseurs with roast turkey, jalapeno bacon, habanero sauce, and pepper jack cheese on a chewy focaccia roll. For $2, add chips and a drink to any sandwich or create a decorative garnish of two origami dollar swans kissing. Able to whip up gourmet meals in fast food time, these deli denizens provide fast, friendly service in a casual atmosphere.
Inside HoneyBaked Ham & Cafe, staffs uphold the same traditions that Harry J. Hoenselaar created more than 40 years ago. Back then, he chose individual hams, cured them in his secret recipe, and smoked them over hardwood chips before offsetting the earthy flavor with a crisp, sweet glaze. To this day, the staff makes the signature bone-in hams one at a time and glazes them in the shop.
To go with the meats, the kitchen whips up classic side dishes and desserts, such as the sweet-potato souffl?. For less formal feasting, party trays and packed lunch boxes fuel business meetings, backyard grad parties, and lengthy end-zone celebrations.