Chef Imani pays homage to his Southern roots by infusing his classical culinary training with Southern flavors. He whips up sandwiches and salads for lunch and hosts Sunday jazz brunches during which guests dig into jerk shrimp with fried cheese grits or blueberry pancakes. Chef Imani’s signature dessert—a housemade bread pudding—embellishes an old family recipe with a Jamaica rum sauce and spices of his own devising.
It’s hard not to feel nostalgic at Jake’s Good Eats. For starters, the cozy eatery is housed in a converted 1930s gas station, and—with vintage Coca-Cola and motor-oil signs scattered across its whitewashed walls—it's decorated to match. But the nostalgia doesn’t hit full force until the first bite of Jake and Gordon Stegall's homestyle Southern food. Bone-in, maple-glazed pork chops dotted with candied apples, free-range chicken with andouille sausage, and blackened grouper smothered in the house's original crawfish sauce are just a few menu highlights that have made Jake's worthy of a feature on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and a place on Guy Fieri's speed dial. And that’s just the Stegall brothers’ take on what they call “more refined country cooking.” They also assemble oyster po’ boys, pit-smoked barbecue sandwiches, and even hot dogs—in homage to their days as car-show vendors—topped with chili and slaw.
Best of all, from the brown sugar to the blackening rubs, the brothers make practically everything from scratch. And what they can't handle, their Mama Jean can; according to Creative Loafing Charlotte, she bakes all the biscuits and desserts, including banana pudding and chocolate-peanut-butter pies that “are everything to make your mouth happy.”
Most American chefs never even flirt with the ingredients Cho Won Garden’s chefs rely on heavily, from the garnish radish kimchi to their popular Bulgogi dish, which consists of sliced, boneless prime beef. They also serve meat, rice, and vegetable medleys in traditional stone pots—the very vessels in which the earliest cooks in human history learned how to boil down rocks into pebbles.
At just 18 years old, Mena's Mediterranean Grill owner Mena Effat has two goals: serve delicious, yet healthy food at affordable prices, and stand as an inspiration to young female entrepreneurs. Inside her restaurant, Mena oversees a menu built around Mediterranean specialties, with a hint of Mexican for good measure. On it, shish kabobs, seafood platters, and potatoes stuffed with ground beef populate the entrée section, while sweets such as baklava and apricot pudding headline various desserts. Fruit smoothies carry Mena's health-attentive tune, including freshly cut mango, strawberry, and lemon.
Since serving up the first order of their now-famous fried squash in 1981, Crown Point Restaurant’s chefs have earned local renown for their platefuls of hearty, made-from-scratch comfort fare. Nearly every day for more than three decades, the restaurant’s kitchen counters have played host to fresh ingredients such as Virginia ham, chicken livers, and prime rib. Though the menu culls its most obvious inspirations from America’s heartland, a Mediterranean undercurrent is apparent in offerings such as baklava and chicken stuffed with feta cheese and miniature Greek soldiers.
Hibachi chefs are expected to be great entertainers, deftly flipping cuts of salmon or filet mignon from a tableside grill onto diners' plates. However, at Fujimi Sushi and Japanese Steak House—formerly Ajimi of Union County—showmanship also takes place behind the scenes. Sushi chefs arrange red salmon and succulent white tuna into sashimi roses, and red-snapper sashimi nestled on a bed of ice stays more perfectly chilled than a snowman trapped in a refrigerator. Signature rolls include the American Dream with rock-shrimp tempura, lobster, and crabmeat, as well as the Cobe, a fusion roll with tuna and filet mignon. Guests can venture farther into fusion with a tuna pizza laden with fresh herbs, avocado, and spicy mayo.