When Zoë Cassimus would appear at a party with a bowl of her homemade chicken salad, everyone's face would light up. In between mouthfuls of creamy chicken, her friends and relatives often urged her to open up her own restaurant. Encouraged, Zoë gathered her family's time-honored Mediterranean recipes and opened the first Zoës Kitchen in Homewood, Alabama. Hungry diners flock to her restaurant in search of her chicken salad, pita bread, and pasta.
Today, Zoë's family-run eatery has branched out into more than 50 locations across the country. Within each kitchen, chefs continue to adhere to Zoë's original recipes, folding fresh ingredients into wholesome Mediterranean-inspired roll ups, sandwiches, and kabobs each day. Out on sunny patios, diners clink glasses of beer and mop up last dollops of hummus with fresh pita. Others opt to take meals to go, carrying out still-steaming four-person dinners of chicken kabobs and steak roll-ups to enjoy at home with their family or with the band of outlaws they call their family.
Dish on Market serves up a hearty, eclectic take on contemporary American brunch, lunch, and happy hour sippers. Early birds can dispel general grog from headspaces with feasts such as the market breakfast with three eggs, sausage or bacon, potato hash, and a biscuit ($4.75) or marinated flank steak and eggs ($6.25). The pineapple-laced jerk chicken sandwich ($6.75) and plantatarian-friendly spicy black bean burger ($6.25), both served with fries, appease midday meal-goers. Dish's selection of beers, glasses of house wine ($4), and well drinks ($3) help ready mouths for spur-of-the-moment auctioneering stints or the regenerative hum of communal conversation. Visitors can settle into the eatery's cozy environs with homey brick walls, rows of pendant lamps, and multiple flat-screen TVs to catch a basketball game or ESPN’s yearly attempt to re-popularize contact backgammon.
Natives of Palermo, Italy, brothers Vincenzo and Agostino Gabriele share twin passions for food and their Italian heritage. Both loves are combined under the same roof at Vincenzo's Italian Restaurant—by the owners' count, a winner of more than 20 separate culinary awards. Chef Agostino Gabriele began his culinary career at age 14 back in Palermo before moving on to kitchens in Milan, Dusseldorf, and St. Louis, commonly known as "The Dusseldorf of the Midwest." Gabriele's internationally honed cooking skills helped him become a James Beard–honored chef and win a DiRoNA award with his brother for Vincenzo's in 2007 and 2008.
Inside the kitchen, Chef Gabriele tops plates of al dente spaghetti with South African lobster tail and petite shrimp and roasts farm-raised chicken breast with asparagus tips, sun-dried tomatoes, and gorgonzola cheese. The eatery, which also offers an extensive wine list and soufflé desserts, has been visited by a number of celebs, including Muhammad Ali, Steven Spielberg, and Sylvester Stallone.
The aromas of warming butter and sugar have called to mind the Heitzman legacy since 1891, when Jacob Heitzman baked and iced his first cake. It didn't take long for his airy desserts to build a fan base, one that grew each time the bakery added to the menu with new items, such as butter kuchen and strawberry whipped-cream cake.
Today, a full-scale deli joins the original baked goods at the Heitzman Traditional Bakery and Deli. On the sweet side of the shop, spice cakes burst with raisins, pecans, and fresh jam, protected from poking fingers by a caramel coating. Fresh-made pies, signature butter kuchens, and loaf cakes teem with fruits and nuts, and specialty cakes come in classic variations such as german chocolate and red velvet. The deli satisfies savory teeth with kettle-boiled bagels from Dooley's Bagels, as well as a selection of fresh soups and sandwiches. Salads bring together morsels of chicken, tuna, and fruit cut by hand, and catering trays carry turkey and ham dinners, box lunches, and casseroles to family meetings and business sing-alongs.
A finalist for Best Sushi according to a 2012 City Voter poll, Osaka Sushi & Japanese Cuisine fills their menu with one-of-a-kind combinations. Their chefs roll out more than 50 types of maki, from basic unagi rolls to elaborate specialty rolls, such as the eponymous Osaka roll filled with spicy crab, fried shrimp, and avocado then topped with steamed shrimp and mozzarella, all served on a flaming dish. Nigiri and sashimi present fresh flavors without a protective wall of rice. The aloha roll trades savory flavors for sweets with a core of deep-fried ice cream hidden beneath strawberries and mangoes.
Gavi’s Restaurant acts as a diner diplomat, providing home-style cosmopolitan cuisine for lunch and breakfast. Sandwiches such as the chicken cordon bleu ($5.25) and the Reuben with chips ($5.50) vie for selective spots in diners’ food tanks, and the cheeseburger ($2.25) and double cheeseburger ($2.80) rely on their distinguishing grill marks to woo the hungry. Rotating daily specials such as two cabbage rolls ($5.75) and ravioli with garlic bread ($6.25, no vegetable) expertly blend Russian and Italian culture into a delicious lunchshake. For breakfast, the egg sandwich ($1.75, with meat $2.85, with meat and cheese $3.25) offers a heartily wholesome start, and three hotcakes with syrup ($3.50) silence the morning moans of a yearning sweet tooth.