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.
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.
Boasting the largest patio on Fourth Street Live and a fully stocked bar, Sully’s puts its party out in plain view on the thoroughfare, where it lures in passersby like a gaggle of entrancing sirens rebounding from a bad break-up. The menu offers myriad pub grub pairings with a frosty draft brew or three. Start with an appetizer such as crab cakes with spicy remoulade and tomato relish ($11) or prime beef fillet sliders with seasoned fried onions ($8). Premium, handcrafted burgers and sandwiches, meanwhile, look great in your non-beer hand but feel better in your stomach, though not quite as good as in your eardrums. Try the Newcastle-battered Atlantic cod sandwich with dill tartar ($10) or an 8-oz. Black Angus burger ($7) with toppings ($0.75 each) such as sautéed onions and blue cheese. Or dine with gusto thanks to a butterflied grilled pork chop glazed with sweet chili sauce and paired with mashed potatoes and vegetables ($19).
Maker's Mark Bourbon House serves upscale cuisine and, of course, a long list of Kentucky-distilled bourbons. From the classy comfort of the wood-topped bar, warm your whistle with a flight of low-rye bourbons (Jim Beam, Knob Creek, and Woodford Reserve, $12), high-rye bourbons (Bulleit, Four Roses Small Batch, and Fighting Cock, $12), single-barrel bourbons (Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, and Elijah Craig 18 year, $15), or a rich palate of millionaire's row bourbons (Jefferson’s Presidential Reserve 17 year, Pappy Van Winkle 23 year and Parker’s Heritage Collection 27 year, $60). There are more than 60 creamy, smooth, oaky, toasted, and roasted flavors from which to choose.