From the bustling streets of Times Square to the equally vivacious streets of Hong Kong, people walk around with smiles after enjoying the japanese barbecue cuisine at Gyu-Kaku. The restaurant has more than 700 locations worldwide, each rooted in the belief that some of the strongest bonds between friends are forged at the dinner table. Groups dine on a huge variety of Japanese dishes, from popular meat and veggie dishes such as Harami Skirt Steak, Kalbi Short Rib, and Mushroom Medley - to unique Japanese-American appetizers such as the Spicy Tuna Volcano, Pork Gyoza Dumplings, and Chicken Karaage. The real excitement takes place around individual grills, however, where diners can barbecue their own slabs of filet mignon, grilled ahi tuna, or chicken with basil sauce until they are ideally tender or encircled by on-duty firemen.
At John’s Philly Grille, the best dishes come served atop all manners of buns. That’s because the staff of the eateries—inspired by the City of Brotherly Love—specializes in hoagies and deli sandwiches, filling fluffy, halved baguettes with hot and cold ingredients such as pastrami, veggies, cheesesteak, and barbecued beef. Traditional fixings are layered on top of classic or turkey burgers, which can be paired with starters such as fried zucchini or cheese fries.
The aroma of barbecue wafts well beyond Chicago Ribs' kitchen. A hint of yeast mingles with the scent of smoked meats, emerging from roaring ovens that bake pizzas with medium-thick crusts. In addition to freshly made pizzas, the menu lists two specialties—barbecued baby-back and beef-back ribs—and a "world famous Chicago feast" that brings these ribs to one platter with wings, shrimp, onion rings, and beer-battered train passes.
Strands of hanging lights illuminate the yard outside Beach Pit BBQ's low-slung bungalow, where guests gather at picnic tables to enjoy Southern–style barbecue. Pit masters smoke the meat for 12 hours over indirect heat from hickory- and pecan-wood-burning ovens that give pulled pork, beef brisket, and whole chickens rich flavors. Diners get a complete rustic meal rounded out by classic Southern sides that range from jalapeño-cheddar cornbread to sweet-potato fries. The restaurant slathers their slow-cooked selections with a variety of housemade sauces, including a golden mustard sauce praised in Orange Coast magazine.
The vibe is laid-back as patrons settle into adirondack chairs around the outdoor fire pit or inside at gingham-covered tables the perfect size for arm-wrestling contests to decide who gets the last rib. Youngsters gambol about a play area enclosed by a white picket fence and sit at kid-size picnic tables to enjoy their meals. The eatery strives to give back to the community by sponsoring fundraisers and catering local events.
It would be easy to spend an entire evening simply staring at the walls of the 2nd Floor dining room, as they are covered in striking portraits and vivid design work from local tattoo artists. Cocktails in hand, guests leave the comfort of their cushy black booths for a closer look at haunting Day of the Dead skeletons, macabre circus figures, and intricate abstracts. Every Wednesday, their art-viewing experience is enriched by strains from live musicians playing classical covers of rock music from the likes of Journey and Jimi Hendrix.
As visitors take in the music and art of the dining room, chef Wendie Huffman is hard at work in the kitchen, whipping up the innovative contemporary American dishes lauded by reporters from OC Weekly. Pulling from her years of classic culinary training and experience in high-end restaurants, the expert chef folds tangy sauces and imaginative ingredients into steak and seafood specialties, such as the blackened mahi-mahi with fresh mango salsa and the grilled filet mignon kebabs with garlic chipotle pepper. She piles natural-beef patties with mountains of decadent toppings—from teriyaki pork to chili—to craft her signature Colossal burgers. Her culinary creations take on playful names like Confused salmon and Pearl Jammin bread pudding, rather than solemn names such as Sad Jim’s Tear-Stained Spaghetti.
Tasty BBQ & Dim Sum, nestled inside the Thuan Phat Supermarket, specializes in exactly what its name describes. Relying on authentic Chinese barbecue recipes, the chefs sizzle up portions of pork belly, chicken, and duck before tossing them with rice. They stuff dim-sum dumplings with fresh ingredients such as meats and vegetables by hand, and serve them steaming fresh or freeze them for use during a future snowball fight. The small eatery rounds out its menu with classic Chinese dishes including chow mein, congee, beef tripe, roasted pork, roasted duck, sui mai, har gow, and stewed chicken feet.