The neon glow of televisions and beer signs makes up most of the light inside Hoopsters Sports Bar & Grill. The space has sheltered diners from the light of day since 1994, keeping the bar dimmed to movie-theater levels to help diners enjoy the technicolor action of their favorite sports teams. When televised competition fails to entertain, the staff instead augments their selection of burgers and sandwiches with Tuesday-night trivia contests, Friday-night karaoke, and Saturday-night DJ-driven dance parties. Sunday even has a special designation as the staff flips over all channels to view NASCAR contests and speaks only in motor sounds.
Counter seats run along the kitchen at Mariann's Restaurant, allowing their occupants to nurse cups of coffee while watching the kitchen crew fill orders from handwritten tickets. Since 1969, the classic diner has put on its coffee pots at 6 a.m. and warmed breakfast plates such as biscuits and gravy or rib-eye steak and eggs. As the day goes on, the Mariann crew prepares housemade soups to accompany sandwiches during the lunch rush, as well as dinner plates such as center-cut pork chops, certified Angus steaks, and southern fried chicken. In lieu of an animatronic Johnny Carson, Mariann's Restaurant prepares fresh-baked blackberry and peach cobbler as the ideal accompaniment to late-night discussions in a springy booth.
Shiny golden spheres congregate by a cozy fireplace inside Arata Sushi's dining room. Though they're attached to the wall, they seem to drift across space like tiny suns or undersea bubbles. Perhaps they're an homage to the fish that comprise the restaurant's colorful sushi lineup, which the Courier-Journal has dubbed "highly imaginative." In the kitchen, chefs whorl fresh seafood with rice and veggies to form more than 45 types of maki. Several rolls, such as the Cardinal, showcase fruits such as kiwis and strawberries alongside savory ingredients such as fried shrimp and cream cheese. At the bar, diners can sip wine and sake while watching the chefs slice bright-orange salmon and tuna as red as a comet wearing a clown nose.
Succulent aromas and a symphony of sizzling meat emerge from Cast Iron Steak House's kitchen, where sirloin, rib eyes, and T-bone steaks sear inside of cast-iron skillets. For each of these steakhouse favorites, the staff personally ages, cuts, and rubs slabs of USDA beef in house. Though it's their specialty, the chefs expertise extends beyond just steaks and steak-related mythology.
Burning Bush's menu takes tongues on a trip to Greece without them having to endure endless views of ancient ruins. Vegetarians will salivate over falafel ($4.01) and quinoa lavanini, lavash bread topped with pepper-jack cheese, avocado, and quinoa ($5.42). Meat junkies and professional bodybuilders can choose bison kebabs cooked over an oak charcoal fire, a gyro ($5.66+), or a Balkan burger ($5.89), which blends beef, pork, and lamb into an unholy union of succulence. Youngsters under 10 can order off the kids' menu or nag their parents for one of the restaurant's thin-crust pizzas. Burning Bush also serves sweet, creamy meal endings from Gelato Gilberto, a local gelateria in Norton Commons.