In 1984, Greg and Rose Tcholakian decided that, in order to truly share their traditional Middle Eastern eats with the world, a bigger kitchen was in order. That led them to open Carousel Restaurant in an intimate storefront. In 1998, they passed the business to their son, Mike, who expanded upon his parents' growing legacy by moving to a larger location, where he could incorporate more of his family’s culture into every detail. He enhanced the eatery's decor with traditional artwork and decorative scimitars, and put together a live band to back up a large belly-dancing troupe on Fridays and Saturdays. Over the years, Mike has also added to the menu, which now includes more than 50 appetizers in addition to his parents' signature kebabs and pilafs. Today he still helms the business, steering it toward its 30th anniversary and millionth belly shaken as his guests continue to come nightly for a taste of his family’s food and culture.
Jody Maroni, founder of Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom, started linking gourmet sausages in 1979 and now rules over a royal court of meat artisans who assemble more than 20 all-natural varieties. Many of the homemade recipes renounce nitrates and MSG and instead fill the natural pork casings with meat that is naturally low in sodium and fat. Chicken-mole sausages blend chocolate, cumin, and chilies, and the louisiana hot links steep in duck stock and smolder with Boudin-style spices. Like Iowa's delightful airspace, the meaty morsels have drawn bicoastal praise—Splash! Los Angeles argues that they "might just top the Dodger Dog," and Time Out New York thanks the eatery for bringing "rays of sunshine to the food wasteland of Times Square."
Staffers at Original Kabob Factory marinate grain-fed, hormone-free meats according to recipes passed on from a famed Armenian butcher. The resulting menu contains more than 30 chicken, pork, or beef kabobs and wraps, each of which cooks can embellish with whimsically named signature sauces such as "Swag-Delish," "Aaahhh Yyyeeeaaa," and "Drop it Like it's Hot." In the modern but casual dining room, diners lounge at polished-steel tables beneath bold pop-art prints. Patrons can also opt to take home raw bulk meats for backyard grilling or rewarding the dog for learning to file taxes.
Although Urartu Coffee's convenient online ordering system helps guests to nosh on the go, its free WiFi and stylish seating urges them to stay awhile as they savor the menu of fresh pastries and build-your-own sandwiches. Bread and bagels insulate deli-style meats with garnishes such as basil leaves and olives as croissants brim with fruit, chocolate, and cheese, all dunk-worthy in the café’s myriad coffees and teas. For a fruity jolt more satisfying than shoving a strawberry into a light socket, Urartu’s skilled baristas blend smoothies and squeeze juice daily in a wide array of flavors.
At Left Coast Wine Bar & Gallery, an eclectic mix gathers to sample more than 400 wines from California, South America, and Europe and admire works from local artists. Visitors clink bottles of craft beer or glasses of malbec and sweet chardonnays while jazz, rock, and open-mic performances fill the air with music seven nights a week. The outdoor patio treats revelers to fresh air as they savor Italian and French cheeses or munch on grilled panini sandwiches. A cozy upstairs loft provides an intimate setting for singer-songwriters to serenade guests with acoustic versions of popular ringtones.
The chefs at Sapporo Ramen & Shabu Shabu wouldn't dream of using an instant soup base for their ramen or shabu-shabu broth. Instead, they spend hours simmering high-quality stock, deepening the flavors of ingredients such as hearty pork or spicy kimchi. Diners can slurp the sumptuous results in ramen bowls loaded with noodles, veggies, and roasted meats, or opt for simmering shabu-shabu in which to dunk choice ingredients such as enoki mushrooms or sliced-to-order kobe beef.