Some chefs wake up to a steaming pot of coffee, but Glenn Cockburn’s morning fix is Maine lobster, which arrives at his fish house by 10:30 a.m. each day. Informed by his training at the Culinary Institute of America and more than 35 years in the restaurant business, Glenn steams the elegant crustacean whole to release its natural flavors. He unleashes his talents on other seaborne species as well, blackening yellowfin, grouper, and rainbow trout to form dinners as healthy as a jog through a field of wheatgrass. Non-seafood specialties, such as aged new york strip steak, pair nicely with staples from the wine list, including Don Gascon malbec and Beringer cabernet sauvignon. Guests flock to the outdoor patio on sunny days, where they can enjoy lunches of mahi-mahi tacos and desserts such as key-lime pie with raspberry coulis. Lined with ocean-blue accents and reef-themed tile mosaics, the interior summons daydreams about scuba-diving trips and sojourns at Poseidon’s lake house.
Aromas of roasted garlic and basil waft from the warm ovens at Cafe Centro as chefs prepare a menu of Northern Italian seafood specialties. Beneath the dining area's rustic timber ceiling, servers deliver plates of fettuccine crowned with lobster and brandy cream sauce or fillets of grilled salmon, yellowtail snapper, and branzino. Other dishes include crusty calzones with soft, melting interiors and housemade desserts such as tiramisu. Wrought-iron chandeliers cast a warm glow over racks of bottles filled with fine wines and rolled parchment notes from the pirate who lives in the cellar.
There's an art to picking a steak. As the chefs at Prime will tell you, a steak should have just the right amount of marbling, which makes the meat retain tenderness and develop more robust flavors during cooking. That's why father-and-son duo Steven Pellegrino Sr. and Jr. insist that every steak be cut from USDA prime beef. They also insist upon fresh seafood, lining up catches such as sea bass and line-caught swordfish for their chefs to transform into flavorful entrees, as well as a roster of sushi and sashimi.
Outfitted with a supper-club atmosphere, Prime dazzles with its decor as much as its menu. A pianist lights up the ivories nightly, each scale undulating through a posh interior of chandeliers, marble floors, and a martini-centric bar. A dedicated butcher's area lets patrons take a hands-on approach to dining by picking out their own cuts of meat—a favorite feature of Zagat and other delighted reviewers. Premium spirits, cigars, and velvet feedbags can also be brought and stored in Prime's inscribed liquor cabinet for enjoyment throughout the evening.
Since they first arrived on the Mayflower in 1620, Linda Bean's family members have only ever lived in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Bean, who is the granddaughter of the famous one—L.L., not the Chicago sculpture—has traveled to four continents but maintains enormous pride in her New England heritage. She names Maine as her favorite place on Earth, and when she started a business in her 60s, she sought to convey this state pride through its tastiest signature export: lobster.
Within just a few years of its inception, Linda Bean's Perfect Maine was in front of QVC cameras, on top of Walmart shelves, and filling a 26-foot "lobstermobile" purchased when Bruce Wayne was rebranding. Of her quintet of proprietary restaurants, only one is outside Maine, but all fill bellies with sea-fresh lunches and dinners. Linda's herbed lobster roll is the star—its two buttered buns hug a quarter pound of meat that's been sprinkled with an herb blend whose classified recipe she refuses to disclose.
When Dean Lavallee opened the first Park Avenue BBQ in 1988, he had one lofty mission in mind: to serve the best barbecue ever made. Despite the seemingly impossible nature of his goal, he and his team continue to rise to the challenge, dry-rubbing their meats to smoke and char-grill on-site. They use all-natural, grain-fed, domestic pork for their traditional and Carolina-style barbecue pork—pulled by hand—and only use fresh, never-frozen ribs that are smoked daily over hickory. As diners chow down on hearty homestyle sides, seafood platters, or buffalo wings tossed in one of six sauces, they can admire the dining room's pictures of their city's most prominent people, places, and robot mayors.
Park Avenue BBQ arranges their meats into fun, hearty dishes such as the Dempublican sandwich, which combines smoked pork and beef brisket separated only by cheese and bacon to create a sizeable sandwich that the team has dubbed "porkalicious". They whip up Funnybonz, which look and taste like miniature ribs, using tender, lean pork that's prepared by cooking up regular ribs beneath a shrink ray. In 2008, their dedication to each dish caused Cityvoter's users to name Park Avenue BBQ the best barbecue in town.