Though it’s a national brand with locations sprinkled across 14 states, Chevys Fresh Mex doesn’t succumb to shortcuts at any of its restaurants. The expert chefs at each eatery gather together fresh ingredients to prepare the entire menu from scratch, whether they’re infusing chicken enchiladas with chipotles or simmering fragrant cauldrons of their homemade tortilla soup. Even though this hands-on approach harkens back to the foundations of Mexican culinary traditions, chefs also give each dish a contemporary twist—tacos meet flavorful drizzles of chipotle aioli, slow-roasted carnitas mingle with fresh oranges and lemons alongside fajita platters. Meanwhile, bartenders engage in serious agave innovation with top-shelf margaritas in flavors such as prickly pear and spicy mango.
The chefs at Empire Lounge & Pizzeria toss dough into thin, circular canvases before slathering them in red or white sauce, topping them with handfuls of mozzarella cheese, and crowning them with vegetables and meats. Red and white sauces also make an appearance on pasta dishes such as spaghetti and lasagna. Along with classic Italian eats, Empire Lounge also serves up a selection of Mediterranean items including fried lamb and marinated chicken kebabs.
A local landmark for more than 50 years, Duffy's entertains patrons with 20 draft beers and an eclectic menu of hearty pub fare staples. A selection of 16 burgers anchor the sumptuous spread, with selections ranging from the jalapeno-topped Mexicali burger ($7.25) to the Italian burger ($7.25), smothered in marinara sauce and parmesan cheese. Fish fans can incite a feeding frenzy with an appetizer of fried shrimp ($9.99) perched next to a choice of onion rings, potato salad, or steak or cheese fries, while fried clams ($6) escape an otherwise chowdery death in the company of fries and homemade tartar sauce. Though a food purchase is required with this Groupon, Duffy's offers a full drink menu including domestic, imported and craft beers.
Cinco Cantina & Tequila Bar's agave-savvy staff pours artisan tequilas at a bar softly lit by punched-tin lanterns. Duos or quartets of tasters sample three shots of blanco, anejo, and reposado tequilas crafted in small batches by respected distillers such as Don Julio and Tres Generaciones. Spiced chips surf creamy waves of classic guacamole between sips as patrons strain to overhear salsa-themed knock-knock jokes whispered by brightly colored masks on the walls.
At Ace Bartending's 40-foot bar, ice clinks against glasses and prospective mixologists chatter during hands-on courses. Instructors wax informational about the history and production of liquor before outlining state and municipal legal requirements for serving alcohol or distributing liquor to horses. As students progress, they migrate to eight functional bartending stations that feature working carbon dioxide lines, and lessons feed hungry brains tidbits of information on the use of glassware and garnishes to craft a beverage with fitting aesthetic appeal. The curriculum bounds across a bubbling, colorful rainbow of 200 different drinks and recipes.
In addition to hands-on demonstrations and role-playing exercises, courses hand down lessons on how to land a job as a bartender and give tips for job interviews. The classroom's walls, like those of a real bar, are crowded with colorful bottles, lit by crackling neon beer signs, and held together by flyers for bands seeking bassists.
Executive Chef Massimo Giannattasio's career has taken him all over the world, cooking meals in Los Angeles, Northern Italy, and Miami, but perhaps the most important kitchen in which he worked is his mother's. At a young age, she taught him that a chef's intuition is as important as any measurement and that if a chef wears another chef's apron, he withers and dies. Chef Giannattasio and his staff rely on those early lessons in the kitchen of Cibo Wine Bar, where they've curated a menu of both traditional and modern Italian dishes.
Surrounded by columns of neatly stacked Chicago bricks, diners take their seats at tables made of sealed butcher block. Servers produce a wine list to rival a French baron's, and waiters bring out appetizers such as polenta fries or carpaccio. Pastas such as ravioli and gnocchi are hallmark dishes, and the chef prepares seasonal risottos year round. Tender cuts of veal and braised beef short ribs are served second. In addition, the kitchen can bake one of 15 gourmet pizzas for the table, with whole wheat options available.
Cibo Wine Bar won the Miami New Times' Best Wine Selection award in 2012. And once you step inside, it's easy to see why. A huge wine rack soars to the top of the restaurant's vaulted ceiling along one wall—it's so tall that Cibo's wine girl uses a harness and rope to reach the top. A vast, full-service bar pours wines and mixed drinks in the front. In the open kitchen, which is framed by exposed brick walls, chefs scurry to prepare meals, and curing meats hang in full sight of the diners.