When she was establishing Gigi's Italian Kitchen & Catering during the recession, owner Patty Pulver knew she would have to work hard to get people in the door. But her positive attitude and creative ideas—for example, clients can sign up to take the restaurant's toy-duck mascot on their family vacation and photo document their journey—were eventually overshadowed by the eatery's hearty Italian menu.
Patty's team artfully plates lunches and dinners, which include prime-rib entrees, homemade manicotti, and veal specialties, along with more than 15 paninis and sandwiches served exclusively during lunch. They also bend to their diner’s whims and assemble build-your-own pasta dishes from seven types of pasta, including a gluten-free option, and four sauces. On Wednesday nights, they challenge guests to fill their bellies with all-you-can-eat pasta, complemented by a signature red sauce, optional meatballs, and the hopes that the restaurant will let you curl up and take a nap under the table. Live guitar music serenades diners on Friday and Saturday nights, which further cultivates an atmosphere of merriment at the family-friendly hot spot.
Polska Chata boasts an impressive selection of traditional Polish and eastern European groceries and deli meats. A host of homemade pierogi (six for $6.95) are available in over 20 seasonal varieties, from the traditional potato and cheese to sweet strawberry filling, packaged frozen for family meals at home or boiled fresh for passionate partaking on the premises. Polish pros will appreciate the traditional dishes on the restaurant's menu, while Slavic supporters new to the culture will enjoy the exciting flavors of classic golabki ($8.95 for lunch, $11.95 for dinner), a bundle of boiled cabbage filled with ground beef, onions, and barley and baked in a spicy tomato sauce, or nalesniki ($6.95), cheese blintzes served with apple sauce or sour cream.
When Nord Brue and Mike Dressell began perfecting their recipe with the help of a professional NYC bagel maker in 1983, the bagel was still an anomaly in the food world—it was, for the most part, geographically and culturally isolated in New York City. Fueled by a desire to change this reality, the duo opened up the first Bruegger's deli with the hope of eventually introducing the rest of the country to the bagel. Brue and Dressell have since realized their dream, sharing their distinctive recipes and culinary traditions at 300 locations spread across 26 states. To this day, they oven-bake their center-less bread rolls every morning and afternoon, populating counter displays that also brim with daily made breads, Vermont cream cheese, and custom-roasted coffee.
Executive Chef Philip Smith and his network of gourmands use the original five-ingredient recipe for their bagel dough, which they shape into more than 20 varieties. Certain menu items may vary from store to store across the country; they draw from each region's local recipes garnered from dialogue between local consumers and store bakers, eschewing the homogenized approach to food adopted by many national chains and preprogrammed chef bots.
Sometimes staffers slather bagels in eclectic cream cheeses such as wasabi, garden veggie, pumpkin, and smoked salmon, or they sandwich them around meats, cheeses, and spreads to evoke the flavor of chipotle or a california sushi roll. Culinary crews assemble meals from local, and often organic, produce and craft bagels and breads from locally milled flour. Baristas also pour house blends of only 100% arabica coffee that is certified sustainable by the Rainforest Alliance.
The first IHOP—the dream of founders Al and Jerry Lapin—opened in 1958 in Toluca Lake, California, and was originally dubbed the International House of Pancakes. Since then, rapid expansion has led to myriad milestones across the company's colorful history, from introducing its modern IHOP acronym in 1973 to its 1,000th restaurant opening in Layton, Utah, in 2001.
Today, the company stands strong with around 1,500 locations across North and Central America, each one an enthusiastic dispenser of pancakes, french toast, and tables constructed entirely out of bacon. Though IHOP is known as a bastion of breakfast, it also stays open during the day and into the evening, delivering lunch and dinner as well.
Shogun Palace owners Peter and Kevin Sun place a premium on presentation. Besides bedecking their restaurant with eye-catching décor details—from glowing paper lanterns to an arched wooden bridge—they also hired a chef skilled in style sushi, an inventive method of plating fresh fish. Under his skilled supervision, Shogun's specialty rolls are artistically piled in towers, drizzled in sauces, and transformed into edible art. In addition, hibachi grills located in the center of the restaurant give guests up-close views of chefs flipping utensils and stoking flames as they prepare hot meals from shrimp, scallop, steak, and lobster. Patrons looking to round out meals can ask the fish in the indoor koi pond for recommendations from among Shogun's seven Chinese dishes.
Combining a full bar and contemporary menu with the amenities of a modern pool hall, Six Pockets appeals to hungry stomachs and competitive appetites alike. Eschew the finery of flatware for a more digit-friendly approach by dining on an appetizing array of finger foods, such as the five-piece potato skins ($7.99). Or, fall fork-first into a caesar ($5.99), or buffalo-chicken-finger salad ($8.99). Team sandwich produces a plate-worthy starting lineup of burgers ($5.99+), wraps ($6.99+), and clubs ($5.99+), and eight draft beers await to take the edge off of roaring-hot buffalo wings ($9.99 for 10 wings), or hair-raising run-ins with the ghost of Minnesota Fats.