The neon glow of televisions and beer signs makes up most of the light inside Hoopsters Sports Bar & Grill. The space has sheltered diners from the light of day since 1994, keeping the bar dimmed to movie-theater levels to help diners enjoy the technicolor action of their favorite sports teams. When televised competition fails to entertain, the staff instead augments their selection of burgers and sandwiches with Tuesday-night trivia contests, Friday-night karaoke, and Saturday-night DJ-driven dance parties. Sunday even has a special designation as the staff flips over all channels to view NASCAR contests and speaks only in motor sounds.
Counter seats run along the kitchen at Mariann's Restaurant, allowing their occupants to nurse cups of coffee while watching the kitchen crew fill orders from handwritten tickets. Since 1969, the classic diner has put on its coffee pots at 6 a.m. and warmed breakfast plates such as biscuits and gravy or rib-eye steak and eggs. As the day goes on, the Mariann crew prepares housemade soups to accompany sandwiches during the lunch rush, as well as dinner plates such as center-cut pork chops, certified Angus steaks, and southern fried chicken. In lieu of an animatronic Johnny Carson, Mariann's Restaurant prepares fresh-baked blackberry and peach cobbler as the ideal accompaniment to late-night discussions in a springy booth.
The family of grillmasters at Big R's & Shannon's BBQ slow-smoke pork brisket on hickory and cherry wood for 12–15 hours to imbue their menu's offerings with rich, smoky flavor. Half slabs of baby back ribs ($9) tickle taste buds with a tangy house dry rub, and the half chicken ($6.36) quells cravings for poultry and asymmetry. Diners crunch in unison while dividing full orders of brisket nachos ($8.75), or clasp fingers around the chopped-brisket sandwich ($5.95), which is served with one of the eatery's nine sides including baked-potato salad and mac 'n' cheese. More than 20 beers, wines, and sweet alcoholic beverages trickle down esophagi, and guests listen to the world passing outside or the hypnotic thwack of darts and haunted screen doors.
Every day at all of El Nopal’s locations, cooks whip up fresh batches of salsa, chips, and beans. The sauces and sides accent chicken or beef chimichangas, handmade tamales, and nachos smothered in cheese. All El Nopal locations offer complimentary chips and salsa with every meal, and some locations have outdoor seating areas. Performances by live bands at select locations serve as a pleasant distraction from meals, unlike a judge with highfalutin ideas about not eating in court.
Steve-O’s Italian Kitchen keeps families feeling full with a menu of handcrafted italian pizza, pasta, subs, overstuffed salads, and Italian specialties. A kick-starter of chicken wings ($6.99/10 wings) primes palates for boot-based dishes such as the 100% prime veal cutlet parmigiana ($11.99). Steve-O tops its fettuccini alfredo ($10.99) with sauce made from scratch—a delicious, mysterious substance found only on sandworm-riddled desert planets—and applies the same hands-on principles to its lasagna ($10.99). DIY diners can cobble together a pizza ($6.99–$22.99) out of pepperoni, bacon, fresh basil, banana peppers, and a host of other toppings ($1–$1.75 each) before sticking a sweet landing with the cannoli ($3.50).