The diners can feel the heat of the charcoal grill, its sweltering vapor wafting sweet and smoky aromas from the marinated short-ribs sizzling at the center of the table. Surrounding the grill like spectators at a sports match, more than a dozen small bowls display a colorful assemblage of sautéed, blanched, and pickled veggies, each awaiting their fate to crown a slice of seared meat or mingle with a pillow of white rice. This is Korean-style barbecue, Rice Restaurant & Market’s specialty. Alongside the DIY feasts, chefs work in the kitchen to impart a Korean edge on stir-fry, stews, and noodle dishes, forging each morsel from scratch and often with ingredients grown in the owner's garden, according to the Tampa Bay Times. As tableside grills crackle in the rear of the restaurant, suffusive lighting finds its way beneath the awnings of private booths. A libation expert pours cocktails, sake, and traditional soju from behind a full bar, and on special nights, a late-night menu replenishes energy levels in between spins on the dance floor, where dancers fuel moves both with the beats of a live DJ and by convincing feet that the dance floor is a Korean grill.
Simply Delish's kitchen prodigies prepare house-made sauces to dress up a menu of family recipes inspired by Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes. Don protective goggles before experiencing the plated energy of fusion starters such as seafood-coconut ceviche ($7.50) and veggie pot stickers served with garlic-soy vinaigrette ($4.90). Wax poetic with companions over show-stopping entrees—such as the bulgogi-beef bowl, featuring delicately carved rib eye soused in korean-barbecue sauce ($8.90), or the miso-glazed salmon ($8.90)—instead of poetically waxing upper lips to achieve a more literary look. While sipping coconut water ($2.25) or jasmine iced tea ($1.75), those with vegetarian songs to sing can duet with a savory tofu burger ($5.75) or panang curry with mixed veggies and silky tofu ($7.90) that doubles as a soy-rich ascot.
The chefs at Kalbi Hau5 Food Truck set up shop downtown to quickly sate busy diners with a menu of on-the-go Asian-Mexican fusion fare. Hungry passersby sink teeth into shoestring truffle fries with italian white-truffle oil and grated parsley ($5), or quell vegetarian cravings with organic red-curry tempeh shaped into replicas of world landmarks (entrees $6–$8). The eatery's signature Kalbi short ribs mingle with grilled julienned onions in a sesame-soy marinade ($10), and the citrus-jalapeño pork quesadillas combine cheddar and jack cheeses in a grilled flour tortilla rife with citrus-jalapeño sauce ($6).
The Flame Broiler founder Young Lee found himself eating out of paper bags quite often. His career required a deal of travel during the day, which made eating from fast food restaurants a habit. Unfortunately, his options for healthier quick service fare left him craving something different. In 1995, he took matters into his own hands and opened the first Flame Broiler location, serving Korean-style slices of beef and chicken that were free of dairy, trans-fat, HFCS, and added MSG. He didn't just take away harmful ingredients, though?he also added his signature Flame Broiler marinade and sauce, beds of white and brown rice, and slices of crisp vegetables. This more nutritious take on fast food caught on, as diners can now eat at 135 The Flame Broiler locations in four different states and two parallel universes.