Growing up in her mother's kitchen, Sharon Wright learned to cook what she believed was healthy food. But for years, she struggled with various health problems. After witnessing her father's battle with cancer, Sharon began extensively researching the causes of diseases, and discovered a wealth of information about how one's diet affects one's body. She adopted a macrobiotic diet, but found that most of her health issues persisted, and came to the conclusion that she should commit to a 100% raw and vegan diet.
With her new diet, she experienced significant weight loss, an increase in energy and mental clarity. To share her vision of "real food" with others, Wright partnered with Scott Middleton and Danny Hutto. The result was Good Life Café. There, she helms a menu of unprocessed plants foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees, creating vibrant dishes with ingredients such as cashew nacho cheese, walnut meat, and zucchini noodles.
Michael Hicks took his first behind-the-scenes restaurant job at the age of 15 as a dishwasher for Applebee's. But since being an electronic appliance is an exhausting occupation, he soon realized his interest really lay in cooking, and he moved from the sink to the cutting board. He went on to hone his skills at Capri's and The Blue Heron before enrolling at the Culinary Institute at Carolina in 2003. At DeLucca's Italian Grill, Hicks and his tight-knit crew concoct sumptuous entrees such as slow-roasted osso buco, veal parmesan, and pumpkin ravioli made by hand. They also hand-toss pizza and whip up warm soups such as chicken with gnocchi. An inviting space with ruddy hardwood floors, candles flecking tables, and ochre walls, the dining room falls in line with the elegance of Hicks’s food.
The speedy chefs at Sonic whip up a menu of American fare, which friendly carhops deliver directly to customers’ cars. Upon arriving at the restaurant, autos park in convenient spaces, each of which is equipped with a colorful menu board. After placing orders, diners power-relax until speedy staff delivers brown-bagged orders to driver’s side windows. On the signature Sonic burger’s soft bun, crinkle-cut pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato preen atop a 100% beef-patty pedestal ($3.29). Tater tots toddle toward stomachs in small ($1), medium ($1.69), or large ($1.99) servings, and blenders whir as vanilla ice cream becomes inextricably linked to minced Oreo cookies, culminating in the Oreo Sonic blast shakes ($3.29 for 14 oz.; $3.79 for 20 oz.).
The house-turned-eatery known as The Backyard Café puts out an eclectic selection of grilled American fare. Gracious guests can get started with apps, such as artichoke spinach dip ($6.99) or the Backyard salad ($6.99+)––infused with roast beef, turkey, ham, bacon, egg, cheese, and veggies. Hearty bites include the Backyard burger ($7.89)—a half-pound circle of Angus beef bear-hugged by cheddar cheese, mushrooms, onions, and bacon, served with a choice of a side—as well as the teriyaki salmon ($13.99), which arrives steamy atop a fluffy bed of rice pilaf. Diners can complement their consumption with a bottled beer ($2.50+) or glass of wine ($4.50+), or wrap up with a cool scoop of homemade ice cream ($1.99 single scoop) and a hot cup of Coffee Cabana coffee ($1.59).
Johnny's Tony's, formerly Zia’s New York Pizza, is home to dough wizards who magically twirl and knead floured orbs into saucy New York–style pies, as well as summon a trove of meaty heros and pasta entrees. Savor the classic simplicity of a cheese pizza ($4.50–$11.65), or adorn your pie with standard toppings ($0.35–$2.00/ingredient), including pepperoni and sausage, or premium adornments ($1.50–$3.00/ingredient), such as chicken, artichoke, and feta. The signature pies, such as a bacon-and-ranch soused Hometown pizza ($6–$18.25), treat tasters to an edible amalgamation more flavorful than an oven-baked Picasso painting. Hand-breaded cuts of poultry saunter atop drifts of spaghetti to create the chicken-parmesan pizza ($7.25), while a calzone erupts cheese and marinara through a crunchy crag of baked dough ($4.85 for a small; $9.55 for a large). Wrap hands or novelty foam fingers around the baked breading of a meatball hero ($6), or satiate beefy urges by snagging a steak sandwich ($6.50). To satisfy families or air-guitar troupes of 4–6 members, Johnny's Tony's serves up a family spaghetti meal ($14 regular; $15.99 with meat sauce), which arrives at tables accompanied by eight slices of garlic bread.
The casual eatery welcomes the lunch and dinner crowd, as well as those looking to sip or slug a tropical cocktail at the full-service cantina-style bar. Each order from the varied menu is freshly prepared in front of the hungry eyes of diners and the watchful eye of Zeus. All tacos ($2.09–$2.49), burritos ($4.59–$6.99), nachos ($5.99–$6.99), and quesadillas ($4.59–$6.99) are compiled from a mixable-and-matchable array of salsas and fillings, such as guacamole, salsa, and jalapeños. The starring role is to be determined by each feaster—and the nominees are: beef, chicken, grilled steak, Russell Crowe, shrimp, veggies, ground beef, or shredded pork. Pirates dying to try out their fork-hand attachment can shiver their timbers on a customizable salad ($4.99–$6.99), and younger feasters can sink whatever teeth they have into a kid's meal served with chips, a cookie, and kid's drink ($3.49). Take the feasting fiesta to go by building a take-home value pack, which feeds four to eight hungry mouths. Simply select a meat, shell, bean, and salsa option, and add on your favorite toppings (prices vary) for a spiced-up family meal, business meeting, or Oktoberfest blowout.
Ismael and Silvia Villegas have been snipping off sprigs of cilantro and squeezing limes onto tacos inside Casa Linda Mexican Restaurant's kitchens since 1993. Beneath decorations such as papel picado and piñatas, staples such as chicken in mole sauce and tacos al pastor join specialties such as the Pollo Loco, a chicken breast topped with cream sauce and a medley of squash and other vegetables. The restaurant also shakes and blends specialty cocktails such as açaí cosmos and superfruit margaritas.