Chef Jonathan Mah is out to prove that it doesn’t take an army to run a restaurant. Mah, who started working in the food industry before he was old enough to drive a car, runs SideStreet Burgers all by himself as the head chef, dishwasher, waiter, and cashier. He does have a little help, though—his dad, who also runs his own one-man restaurant, is often on hand to give advice.
There are a few simple steps to ordering the perfect SideStreet burger. First, place orders with Mah at the counter and then wait a few minutes while he sizzles up beef or turkey patties and tops them with a cheddar-, mozzarella-, and parmesan-cheese blend, sautéed onions, or a fried egg. Next, head to the toppings bar to dress burgers to the nines with veggies, housemade sauces, and sesame-seed cufflinks. Finally, enjoy your creation—and sides such as garlic potato wedges or cincinnati chili—at a pair of wooden picnic tables inside the dining room.
Aromas of marinated T-bone steaks hitting the grill alongside caramelizing onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes waft from the kitchen of El Amigo toward guests sipping margaritas in the dining room. In the kitchen, cooks prepare their full menu of Mexican dishes including burrito, fajita, and enchilada mainstays alongside inventive house specialties such as pork ribs deep fried to a golden brown and cooked with red hot sauce. As meals progress and patrons continue to take bites of nachos or secret notes, they sip imported or domestic beers, wines, and specialty margaritas in raspberry and peach.
The pizza chefs at Johnny Brusco’s pack a menu full of saucy dough disks, which can be customized with a lineup of fresh veggies and meats. Warm up appetites with an order of garlic knots, which come tinged with a crisp golden brown color and carefully tied by an accomplished Eagle Scout. The restaurant's skilled pie personnel sling large New York–style pizzas in a full regulation size of 16 inches. Add personality to your pizza without the hassle of assigning it a Social Security number by decking the crust out in any of 15 regular toppings, which include minced garlic, pineapple, or zesty italian sausage.
The Neighborhood Grill’s kitchen team expertly prepares home-cooked breakfasts and lunches; flipping stacks of pancakes onto plates with city or country ham and carefully attending to hot plate lunches. For breakfast, the cooks transform eggs into fluffy omelets and pile them onto a Poor Man’s Plate that serves them on a split biscuit with gravy, sausage, and cheese. At lunch, slices of texas toast clasp fried bologna, club sandwiches, and patty melts. Other stacked fare includes chicken with honey mustard or spicy sauce and half-pound burgers with barbecue sauce and homemade slaw. The staff takes particular pride in its coffee and tea, so patrons can either perk up with java or be British by imbibing tea—because all British people drink tea at all times, even when they’re drinking coffee.
At K & J Food Express, the aromas of fast food greet guests when they enter. Behind the counter, the fryer sizzles with pieces of chicken and okra, and pots of jambalaya or red beans and rice percolate flavor as they stew. Sandwiches are stuffed with barbecue pork or steak, and a picture of the eatery's jambalaya on the counter spans several feet, which means you can swim in it.
The cooks at Pho Vietnam Restaurant freshly craft more than 90 authentic Vietnamese menu items complemented by bubble teas and other specialty drinks. Generously portioned specialty entrees, including the braised short ribs of the suong rang mang ($14.95), land on white tabletops flanked by sleek black booths and a colorful aquarium filled with more fish than an overindulgent grizzly. Sure-handed chefs craft stir-fries that include xao xa ot, a mixture of chicken and lemongrass ($11.95), and shrimp pad ka pao, which lets shrimp get cozy in a spicy basil sauce served with jasmine rice ($14.95). Soft red light emanates from tasseled globe fixtures, and palates become entranced by heaping bowls of pho, a soupy staple that combines rice noodles with the diner's choice of meat. The pho soup is diligently crafted over 10 hours, eschewing bullion in favor of all fresh ingredients, with options including eye of round steak, brisket, chicken, and crab ($6.95+). Mouth gears can stay lubricated for munchathons and congressional filibusters with 16 different flavors of bubble tea ($4) as well as time-honored Vietnamese beverages such as ca phe den nong (Vietnamese black coffee) ($4) and sinh to trai bo (avocado shakes) ($4).
Using family recipes that emigrated from Marigliano, Italy, to the United States in 1901, Pa Pa Pia’s fills bellies with flavorful heaps of Italian favorites. Give the brown paper bag a day off and make a midday meal of the meatball sandwich, served on italian bread and topped with provolone cheese ($8–$9), or gently shove a sharp utensil into a small portion of formaggio manicotti, stuffed fat with asiago, parmesan, mozzarella, and provolone cheeses ($6.50–$7). Because teleporters have yet to be approved for civilian use, Pa Pa Pia's uses its pizza, which is grilled over an open flame in traditional Italian style, to transport taste buds across the Atlantic ($8.50–$29). After a dinner of spagettini bolognese ($9–$10) or a sovereign meal of chicken saltimbocca ($14.95–$15), patrons should demand the dessert tray, lay claim to the chocolate-covered ricotta cheesecake ($6), and scan the wine list for illegal words. Though as much produce is sourced locally or grown in the restaurant’s own garden as possible, Pa Pa Pia’s imports its atmosphere straight from Italy, complete with rich yellow walls, rustic booths, and a patio for devouring innocent pastas outside.