Equal parts sports fanatics and wings enthusiasts, Wildcat Wings owners Gordon and Emerie Duke create a culinary environment that mirrors the vibrancy of a live sporting event. The idea for Wildcat Wings came to them while rooting on Kentucky versus UCONN in the 2011 NCAA basketball Final Four game. Sensing that wings were the missing ingredient to celebrating the game properly, they quickly discovered the area was lacking an eatery to meet that need. The next thing they knew, both Gordon and Emerie were in their own restaurant slinging more than 20 sauces to slather golden-fried wings in everything from a bourbon glaze and mango habanero to honey mustard and peanut butter and jelly. They also pour frosty brews such as Kentucky Ale with which patrons can wash down feasts of wings and chicken tenders. To keep Gordon and Emerie’s inspiration ever-present, the venue’s TVs air all UK games, as well as broadcasting other sports, including baseball, football, and full-contact Connect Four.
Connected by an asphalt web of highways, state roads, and thoroughfares, blocky yellow signs gleam nonstop, casting a dandelion glow from the words “Waffle House.” The booths at the eateries fill 24 hours each day with the aromas of sizzling pork chops, Jimmy Dean sausage, and endless mugs of coffee. Line cooks brown shredded potatoes on a grill as waiters shout back in a language all their own for hash browns “smothered,” “covered,” or “topped”—served with onions, cheese, or chili, respectively. Angus burgers and steak melts share space on the rippling-hot surface at all times of day, allowing tired drivers to stop for food when they are on a long journey or just listening to an 11-hour drum solo on the radio. The first Waffle House switched on its lights in 1955, and some menu items still bear the names of Waffle House staff of the past, including Bert's chili from Dallas and Alice's iced tea.
Casanova Italian Restaurant's owner Leo Capezzuto is one of eleven siblings, so it's no surprise that he has made Casanova a family affair. Leo is the proprietor, and the restaurant features cheeses made by hand by his brother and ingredients sourced from his sister's store, Sapori D'Italia. All of these factors culminate in a menu of authentic Southern-Italian cuisine that showcases more than fifteen different types of pasta, such as the scialiatielli con gamberi—artisan handmade egg pasta tossed with shrimp that chefs sauté with garlic, olive oil, and fresh cherry tomatoes. To prepare the filetto al pepe verde, they simmer a dry-aged Angus filet mignon in butter, and then top the delicacy with green peppercorns and cream brandy sauce. The menu also sources seafood from renowned fish regions, culling cuts of Atlantic salmon, Pacific swordfish, and Pacific cod. Like a DJ's closet, the wine list features more than 35 labels, collecting red, whites, and sparkling wines under the same roof.
The iconic comic-strip character and namesake of Dagwood’s Sandwich Shoppes peeps out from the first “o” in the deli’s logo, embracing not his wife, Blondie, but the signature Dagwood sandwich. With its four meats and pair of cheeses, the delicious (if slightly intimidating) sandwich represents the more than 20 signature subs and clubs that grace Dagwood’s menu. Meats ranging from premium roast beef to tender pork loin share slices of bread with cheeses, crisp pickles, and all the condiments one might expect of an old-fashioned deli. Those too young to appreciate the shop’s Sunday-paper references will at least enjoy kids’ meals such as the classic grilled-cheese sandwich. Aside from their in-store selections, the deli caters events with colorful trays of meats and sack lunches served by a curiously cartoonish wait staff.
An open-flame hearth is at the heart of Cosi's kitchen space, giving sandwiches and pizzas their toasty crunch. But there's a lot more to the menu than what happens under the flame. The T.B.M. sandwich piles tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella inside warm flatbread and the tandoori chicken sandwich brightens up grilled chicken breast with red peppers. Even salads are hearty meals here, with choices such as the cobb mixing greens with grilled chicken breast, bacon, and gorgonzola in a sherry-shallot vinaigrette. The crown on top of any meal here is undoubtedly the s'mores, in which two to four diners roast their own marshmallows over a tabletop fire pit, then sandwich the sugar cloud with chocolate and graham crackers before dragging their sleeping bags into the kitchen for a night's rest.