As he passed another lazy afternoon at Purdue University?s student union, Paul Miller had a flash of sudden, delicious inspiration. He wanted to capture the feeling of camaraderie he shared with his fellow students, to create a place where people could gather for good company and good food long after graduation ended. He kept that dream with him through years in the restaurant industry, finally giving his vision form as The Union Kitchen, a joint venture in contemporary global cuisine with chef Juan Arellano.
Even though the restaurant mirrors Paul?s collegiate experience, the food within is a far cry from the typical dorm cafeteria fare?in fact, H-Texas magazine added The Union Kitchen to its "Culinary Stars" list in the Best Burger category. The menu features flavors and techniques borrowed from France, Italy, Mexico, and beyond, which take shape in dishes ranging from paremesan-crusted chicken and chophouse steaks to small plates filled with baked brie, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, or PEI mussels. To stay on top of the calendar, Paul and Juan hit local farmers? markets bi-weekly to suss out the freshest seasonal ingredients for use in their cuisine. They also borrow spare pitchforks, the best utensil with which to tackle their famed Union Burger. The monstrous tower of meat, bun, and onion rings slips other flavors in between its layers, from pecan-smoked bacon to barbecue-smoked aioli. This dauntingly delicious combination is part of what earned it rave reviews from local reporters and bloggers alike.
In 1997, friends Dena Tripp and Debra Shwetz set out to create a luscious, melt-in-your-mouth bundt cake. What began as an endeavor in their own home kitchens soon blossomed into a bustling business with bakeries in 21 states. Rich cocoa browns and soft pastels lend a nostalgic feel to each bakery, where every day ovens warm up cake batter made from fresh eggs, real butter, and cream cheese. Flavors such as chocolate chocolate chip, red velvet, and white-chocolate raspberry are favorite staples, and a new seasonal flavor makes a guest appearance each month. Cakes come in several sizes, from the standard 8- or 10-inch bundt to the single-serving bundtlet and the bite-size bundtini, all crowned with signature cream cheese frosting.
The chefs at Anothai Cuisine and Nara Thai Dining grind their own fresh herbs and spices to awaken patrons' tongues with each bite of their Thai dishes. Pungent curry coats seafood, chicken, and noodles, and on the other end of savory-to-sweet spectrum, mango imbues shrimp with flavor that evokes the tropical drinks of which ice fishermen's dreams are made. Artfully arranged garnishes complement colorful dishes to excite the eyes, which can scan the bright red and white accents between bites.
Hofbrau Steaks hogties hearty appetites in a classic steakhouse milieu. The brawny menu muscles up high-quality meats including the Hill Country rib eye ($19.99–$23.99), which is cooked in lemon butter and seasoned with the restaurant's secret seasonings, dubbed "Magic Dust". The hand-breaded chicken fried steak ($9.99 lunch, $10.99–$14.99 dinner) comes topped with country gravy and the emotional baggage of growing up as two meats. In pig in a tater, pulled pork hides from hungry eaters in a potato cave ($7.99), and bacon-wrapped Texas shrimp wraps itself up into a jalapeno-and-smoked-bacon cocoon ($12.99–¬¬$18.99, dinner only). Midday eats—such as the Hofbrau Hamburger steak, topped with brown gravy and grilled onions ($9.99, lunch only)—sate workday cravings.
RC’s Pizza satisfies patrons with a palate-pleasing menu of sumptuous New York–style pizza, pasta, subs, and salads. The restaurant's staple, an 18-inch NY Giant pizza ($13.50 plus $1.75 for each topping) treats tongue buds to a taste of the Big Apple without the hassle of licking Times Square. All disk-shaped digestibles are forged from the kitchen's fresh-made pizza dough, such as the pepperoni- and italian-sausage-laden Sluggo pie ($18.75 for 18") or the white pie ($17 for 18"), which substitutes RC's house-made sauce with a blissful blend of ricotta, mozzarella, and soft mood lighting. RC's lasagna ($8.95) and jumbo meat or cheese ravioli ($8.95) hoist the banner for pillowy pastas, and the meaty, 8-inch Italiano sub silences gossiping bellies with genoa salami, provolone cheese, and a side of chips ($7.50). Greens lovers may graze upon a spicy antipasto, greek, caesar, or chef salad ($5.79 for a full order) drizzled with one of RC's four house-made dressings and Mother Nature's happy tears.
DoubleDave's Pizzaworks serves up an assortment of hearty, hand-tossed pizzas, Peproni rolls, stromboli, and more. Choose a pie from DoubleDave's selection of specialty pizzas ($19.99 for an 18", $15.99 for a 15", and $12.99 for a 12”)—the buffalo-chicken pizza outfits its surface area in mozzarella, chicken strips, wing sauce, and ranch dressing, while the duplicitous Dave's Fave offers carnivore-coaxing meatball and sausage or veggie-baiting tomato, garlic, and spinach variations on its olive oil, garlic, and oregano sauce base. Do-it-yourselfers are welcome to design their own pies ($10.99 for a 15", plus $1.59 per topping), choosing size, toppings, and the type of crust, and diners wishing to cram their cuisine into claustrophobic confines can opt for a half-dozen Peproni rolls ($7.99), with pepperoni and cheese wrapped into dough. Or escape the boot-shaped grip of the Mediterranean with a Philly cheesesteak stromboli ($10.99 for large, $5.99 for small).