Columbus Grill was named for legendary explorer Christopher Columbus?an apt moniker, given chef Nuno Duarte's own trans-Atlantic voyages. The culinary maestro manned his own restaurants and catering companies in Switzerland, the United States, and his native Portugal before founding Columbus Grill as a way to flaunt his diverse epicurean skills locally. Today, he helms a team of chefs who boast similar international aptitude, drawing from their know-how of French, Greek, and Italian cuisines to sprinkle eclectic influences into Columbus Grill's eclectic recipes. Each member calls upon unique skills and talents to whip up Mediterranean, Portuguese, and Spanish dishes punctuated by classic American steak house fare and fresh, housemade desserts.
Columbus Grill's chic environs evoke elegance via custom-made furnishings, exposed beams that support a lofty ceiling, and a full bar surrounded by flat-screen TVs. A dark wooden wine rack looms above the dining area, where rich hardwood floors extend out to semiprivate dining enclaves carved into the room's walls. Further inside, a chic banquet hall hosts up to 140 revelers, and outside, a covered patio cushions diners during good weather or local mockingbirds' annual symphonies.
In 2002, Mike Southard took a leap of faith worthy of The Dukes of Hazzard. He left a career in the elevator industry and decided to pursue his true passion: stock-car driving. Southard launched Try It Racing and On Track Racing Experience, determined to share with others the thrill he had felt many times in the victory lane of late-model stock-car races. His business has grown from a few humble events and clients each year to a fully packed schedule at some of the country's longest running and most renowned racetracks. Some things haven't changed, however—you can still find Southard behind the wheel of the two-seat ride-along car, taking patrons around curves and straightaways at top speed.
Adrenaline fiends satisfy their cravings while driving or riding around tracks such as Orange County Speedway, where industry legends Jeff Gordon and Scott Riggs have burned their share of rubber. A professional photographer and in-car video cameras can capture the excitement at each event, memorializing guests' wide-open eyes, exhilarated smiles, and high-intensity games of I Spy.
Chefs use grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken, and steroid-free pulled pork that hail from sustainable sources to craft a bounty of tortilla-wrapped treats that take their names from the likes of Caddyshack, Fletch, and Seinfeld. It's this dual mindset of serious food and irreverent attitude that tinges every one of the eatery's southwestern morsels, from the Art Vandalay burrito to the John Coctostan quesadilla. As the kitchen staff crafts their daily batch of guacamole to join the lineup of six zesty salsas, diners choose from a list of more than 20 ingredients to fill out the entree that will soon be conjured before their eyes. Because dishes are made to order, each finds easy customization for vegetarian, gluten free, and low-calorie diets, and the absence of microwaves, trans-fats, and MSG keep eats wholesome. Meanwhile, a complimentary accompaniment of chips and salsa turns portions into full meals faster than an industry-grade blow-up ray.
The Wahla brothers have spent the past 25 years perfecting their spin on authentic Punjabi cuisine, opening restaurants throughout Scotland and the United States. Inside the kitchen of their latest venture, Tandoori Village, clay tandoors bake skewers of chicken, beef, and shrimp while chefs marinate jumbo prawns in yogurt, knead soft balls of dough for baking buttery disks of naan, and deep-fry chicken and goat samosas. An ornate carved door with golden embellishments looms at the entryway of the restaurant, giving way to the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges that accent the walls and drape across ceiling timbers, and elegant archways that house traditional lanterns and clay pots. Outside, the patio's additional seating encourages outdoor dining and easier hitchhiking on passing tractor beams.
Typically, the only time a public bar is lit like a cozy living room is when patrons bring chandeliers with them. But at Jake's City Grille's Plymouth location, homey lamps illuminate a wooden bar, which competes with the elegance of the fireplace inside Eden Prairie’s dining room. Red umbrellas, meanwhile, keep the sun in check on Maplewood’s outdoor patio. Each location cultivates its own one-of-a-kind ambience, such as the warmly lit interior of Eagan’s space and the rustic feel of Gull Lake’s confines. These finely tuned atmospheres create a welcoming place to enjoy seared Ahi tuna, marinated chicken breast sandwiches, and cowboy ribeye steaks so fresh they still have the lasso on them.
Romance is in the air at Carmello's, where diners perch on ivory padded chairs surrounded by the warm tones of exposed brick walls, dark wood, and golden accents. In crafting its dishes of seafood, pasta, and chops from scratch, the kitchen draws on Italian and Portuguese influences. The ingredients are fresh from local purveyors, so the offerings change with the seasons. These dishes can be complemented by selections from the eatery's wine menu—its more than 50 Portuguese wines earned it Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence and two thumbs up from Bob.