While technically and metaphorically a chain restaurant, Houlihan's bedazzles its chain with glitter and winsome intrigue, boldly preparing every last bite of its savory fare by hand. Hosts of diverse ingredients culminate inside one open kitchen where professional food handlers slice, sauté, marinate, and arrange food to its tasty and aesthetic best, allowing each meal to display its individuality before being broken down into individual nutrients for absorption in the body. Casual dining is elevated by meticulously designed restaurants that pepper a patron's experience with a playlist of hand-picked tunes and customer-designed coasters that give a voice to condensation-catchers.
The interiors of The Lion & Rose pubs emulate the convivial atmosphere of British and Irish settings, with each corner of the restaurant ornamented with vintage wall sconces and handmade wood decor. The draught list overflows with imported pints such as Boddingtons and Smithwick's, while the menu includes unusual specialties such as chips and curry alongside shepherd's pie and bangers, mash, and beans. As befits a sports bar, locations boast plasma TVs tuned to the biggest games as well as dartboards where friends can challenge one another.
Hearthstone BakeryCafe covers half of a hobbit's daily meals with an extensive menu of morning, midday, and midevening eats. Hungry humanoids who use their Groupon on breakfast will receive a free small coffee (normally $1.39), so start the ante meridiem with an energy surge of pastries ($1.79 or $1.99) or a wrap, panini, or bagel sandwich ($3.99 each) stuffed with spinach artichoke spread, bacon, and egg. Likewise, evening eaters will be treated to a complimentary dessert anytime after 5 p.m. Lunchtime office escapees, meanwhile, can indulge in the grown-up grilled cheese ($3.99)—a melty mass of American cheese, bacon, and tomatoes held together by two crispy pieces of wheat or white bread—and wax nostalgic for the days of Red Rover and recess before getting back to another tedious day testing playground equipment. Otherwise, test out Hearthstone's best-selling turkey artichoke panini ($6.99)—whose nude tender artichoke hearts pose gracefully atop a chaise lounge of turkey breast draped in a spinach-artichoke spread, fresh tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese—or the cranberry balsamic salad's ($5.89 for a full portion) garden of artichokes, shaved onion, tomatoes, candied pecans, and dried cranberries lightly dewed with a creamy balsamic dressing.
At Genghis Grill, cooks stir-fry more than 70 fresh ingredients to make healthy, flavorful bowls loaded with proteins and vegetables. Diners can mix and match ingredients to create customized feasts, or choose signature dishes such as the Thai Chicken bowl with chicken, veggies, and udon noodles in red curry peanut sauce. Nutrition-focused heart-healthy bowls, developed with the help of a dietitian, feature flavor combinations such as Sichuan-style bamboo beef or ginger-citrus shrimp.
Bright-red walls surround the inside of Flaco’s Burgers & Tacos, which serves a menu of hand-formed burgers given a satisfying crust from a flattop grill and a variety of intriguing sauces and toppings. The Texas burger comes with barbecue sauce and bacon, and a burger named after a mysterious Eric fellow belies his hearty appetite with double meat, two cheeses, and bacon. Tough taste buds rise to the challenge of the Flaming Flaco burger, which is stuffed with grilled jalapeños, cheese, and grilled onions before getting a topper of standard burger fixings—mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. The eatery also folds tacos and burritos full of fillings such as carne asada, chicken fajita, or pork chop. Fresh-cut fries and free WiFi accompany meals, eaten while patrons chat among themselves or gaze at a large flat-screen TV along the wall.
At Tazas Coffee, diners sink fangs into fresh paninis, crisp salads, and 11 varieties of 3-ounce gourmet cookies. Chefs press warm paninis that envelop pesto chicken or sweet italian sausage, which gets its sweetness from being pollinated by Tuscan bees. Tazas crafts all salad dressings from scratch, such as the orange marmalade vinaigrette and the caesar salad with fresh lemon and garlic. Cookies punctuate café repose with an array of flavor choices such as peanut butter, oatmeal raisin, and white chocolate lemon coconut. Patrons can enjoy meals on the wrap-around patio’s umbrella-topped café tables or indoors beside the fireplace.
Given Biff Buzby's penchant for classic cars and vintage airplanes, his classic take on another all-American staple, hamburgers, comes as little surprise. Each patty weighs in at a half- or quarter-pound of 100% ground beef, sandwiched between a homestyle bun along with its fixings—crispy bacon and grilled onions for The Q burger, house chili on the Chili Cheese Burger—and served up with a helping housemade pinto beans.
Elsewhere on the extensive menu, a deep roster of comfort staples vie for second billing. These include starters such as the beer-battered mushrooms or the housemade cheesesticks, as well as the chopped steak and chicken-fried chicken platters. Matching the loaded menu is a calendar chock-full of weekly events, including Cruisin' Night every Friday evening, when souped-up hot rods and confident station wagons alike collect in the parking lot so their owners can bond over burgers and car-talk.