Tongues of flame twist in a fireplace, hinting at the warmth filling the bustling kitchen at MK Valencia. Rail lighting spills a blue aura over dishes that draw from myriad culinary traditions. Mediterranean flavors shine through in salmon drizzled in a pesto sauce and lamb osso bucco. In the dining room, glasses clink occasionally like a xylophonist failing a performance review, setting a tempo for the wait staff, which totes roasted salmon in a pesto sauce.
A curtain of bubbles rises up through champagne cocktails in lively colors that match the crescent-shaped orange booths or electric-blue wine racks. During warmer months, the murmur of conversation spills out onto a patio draped with live plants.
The cooks at Feelgood Italian Fusion Grill split their time between preparing traditional Italian fare and familiar American comfort foods. Sautéed orders of veal scaloppini and chicken marsala can emerge from the kitchen alongside grill-seared burgers and 16-ounce cuts of New York sirloin steak, which are gently tenderized by the kitchen's own massage therapist. The dining room evokes a similarly casual ambience with its sconce-lit, neutral-toned walls and plush booths.
In 2004—on a mission to bolster its community’s wellspring of art, creativity, and education—the nonprofit Bergen Performing Arts Center took over the former John Harms Center, an art deco–style movie and vaudeville palace built in 1926. Today, in the same antique theater where Shakespeare screened his first car-chase movie, the Bergen Performing Arts Center hosts 150 yearly events that bring dance, music, and theatrical productions to an estimated 250,000 annual audience members. Networks like HBO, PBS, and MTV all have filmed international broadcasts on Bergen Performing Arts Center’s stage, which has seen the likes of Tony Bennett, Woody Allen, and the Dixie Chicks.
True to its name, Just Grapes Lounge focuses on wines, with more than 30 vintages poured by the glass and 18 more varieties sequestered on a reserve bottle list. Microbrews, champagnes, and ports round out the lounge's full bar, complementing a Mediterranean-tinged tapas menu. Small plates, ranging from hummus and crostini to stuffed baked clams, are ideal for smothering appetites or boosting a tiny table's self-esteem. Three styles of rustic pizza artfully pair tomatoes with cheese, whereas molten fondue, served in a bread bowl, comes in varieties including gorgonzola and double-cream brie.
Combining coffeehouse cool with club beats, Sip Bar entices patrons with an inventive array of international eats for brunch, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant delights morning diners with rise-and-shineables such as granola and yogurt ($7) or eggs in a basket, a more portable alternative to orange juice in a butterfly net ($10). Tongues in need of a tasty wakeup are treated to frothy, creamy cappuccinos ($4). Later in the day, small wooden tables cheerily grumble beneath the weight of roasted eggplant sandwiches, stuffed with garlic, roasted red pepper and mozzarella ($9), garlic shrimp ($17), and Hungarian-style goulash with potato dumplings ($20). Sip serves its full menu every day until 4 a.m., ensuring that hungry night owls needn't gnaw on coasters or deep-fried napkin rings.