Rifle through the pages of the menu at Nirvana Cafe, and you'll see dishes inspired by cuisines from across the globe—there's tender gyros and kebabs from the Mediterranean, plump perogi from Eastern Europe, and tangy Korean-style carrot salad. But there's also a variety of American favorites, such as chicken salad wraps and creamy new york cheesecake. As chefs bring these dishes to life in the kitchen, diners lounge on banquettes amid the bold red walls of the bright dining room, sipping freshly squeezed juices and imported Russian beers.
Named for gangsters and criminals such as John Gotti, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde, Wise Guys Pizza Cafe's slate of deli-style sandwiches arrest hunger with fillings such as roast beef and cheddar, tuna salad, turkey, and meatballs. Chefs also hand-toss New York-style pizza crusts, topping pies with such ingredients as bacon, black olives, and pepperoni. Burgers, wings, and stromboli round out the menu, and calzones hide ingredients inside gooey pockets of ricotta cheese, where they are eventually uncovered by forks that have become FBI informants.
The acclaim for Wild Wing Cafe's wings is almost as wide ranging as the various inspirations behind its 30+ wing sauces. Readers of Augusta magazine and the Charleston City Paper routinely vote the wingery to the top of those publications’ Best Wings lists. Beyond that, countless magazines, newspapers, and "Best Of" lists from Knoxville to Myrtle Beach praise the delicious bites of sweet meat. Much of the praise is heaped on the unique glazes, which include everything from the mesquite-tinged Ol’ Smokey to the honey-lime-cilantro trifecta of the Loco Bueno. With orders ranging from 8-piece plates to 50-piece platters, diners can feast on wings or use them as appetizers. Once wing-satiation sets in, diners can explore the rest of the restaurant's all-American menu that, unlike a good space suit, is made up of sloppy joes, ribs, burgers, and potato skins.
Grinders American Diner on Atlantic Blvd in Arlington serves up hearty-sized breakfasts and lunches, including classics like meatloaf smothered in brown gravy and country fried steak. The unassuming little diner offers plenty of counter seating and simple wood grain tables, complete with black leather chairs. A chalkboard above the counter clues patrons in to the soup of the day, daily specials and a rotating sandwich option. Drop by often enough and you’ll start to hone in on favorites like the tuna melt, fried green tomatoes or build-your-own omelets. And while you’re there, be on the lookout for old timers squatting over a coffee and the morning paper, fast talking businessmen grabbing a bite before work and a sizeable lunch crowd that runs the gamut from regulars to hurried first-timers.
If you could ask the Zodiac Bar & Grill its star sign, it might say the notoriously enigmatic Gemini. At lunch, the meals are decidedly casual—full of Italian-style paninis or wraps stuffed with gyro meat. As night falls, however, the menu transforms into a more elegant dinner spread. Diners can order from a selection of Mediterranean-style tapas, which includes calamari and wine-splashed shrimp scampi, or commit to a kebab entree. Along with beef and chicken, skewers also come loaded with aquatic meats, such as swordfish or scallops. On Friday nights, the restaurant stays open until 2 a.m. DJs spin beats as loungers smoke hookah while sipping on top-shelf cocktails or one of six house wines.
Café Nola, located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) downtown, is an upscale Southern-infused bistro that accommodates museum goers, downtown employees and a host of professional and personal lunchers. With a focus on the plentiful seafood located in Jacksonville, the menu’s Mediterranean style shines in its shrimp and fish dishes, while artisan breads and cheeses and fresh produce come to hand in a roasted chicken salad. With selections like gnocchi, quiche and a meatloaf po’boy, there’s something for every palate at Café Nola, where the contemporary-retro feel includes white linen table cloths, lime-colored chairs, eclectic art and pendant lighting.