Donovan’s Steak and Chop House isn't out to rewrite the book on fine dining—it just tries to make sure that book is printed in the most elegant cursive possible. The restaurant largely succeeds, thanks to a few simple things it refuses to compromise on. Take, for example, the fact that Donovan’s exclusively serves USDA Prime steaks straight from the Midwest. Each and every rib eye or new york strip is wet-aged and flash-seared at 1,600 degrees to seal in the juices and leave the meat tantalizingly tender. And while beef might be the main event, Donovan’s doesn’t skimp on its non-steak menu, either, serving market-fresh Australian coldwater rock lobster and Alaskan king crab legs in a chilled seafood tower that guests can topple with their choice of a fork or trident.
It’s not everyday that, what can only be described as a hole-in-the-wall eatery, makes it onto the pages of Gourmet magazine. Yet in 2003, Mariscos Playa Hermosa did just that, landing in the mag’s Restaurants We Love edition for its fresh and authentic Mexican seafood. A spot in the national limelight is likely more than owners Jose and Maria Maldonado had in mind when they first left their small colonial town in Mexico. The couple came to the States hoping to introduce customers to the tastes of Sinaloan-style Mexican food; Jose's cooking skills, matched with Maria's hosting abilities, turned out to be a formula for success. The fresh seafood helps too, 70% of which comes from the Pacific, and 30% from the Gulf. Made-to-order items such as Seven Seas soup, garlicky octopus, crab enchiladas, and ceviche populate the menu, each laced with unique flavors from Sinaloa, Veracruz, and Guanajuato, Mexico.
The freezers at Snoh Ice conceal a sweet treat that can be traced more than 6,000 miles away to a small island in the South China Seas. The toothsome dessert known to locals as baobing, or shaved snow, combines the textures of shaved ice with the creamy flavor of ice cream to delight taste buds. To achieve this confectionery marvel, the Snoh Ice staff flash-freezes blocks of ice cream then cures the blocks to give them a light texture, finally using a modern shaver that converts the frozen cubes into millions of one-of-a-kind edible snowflakes. Guests can choose from a variety of flavors, including green tea, mango, and taro, and top their treats with sweet toppings ranging from kiwi and mochi balls to oreos and caramel glaze.
Specializing in modern island fare, Hula's brunch menu fuses Polynesian and Hawaiian dishes with worldly and supernatural influences. Recover faster than an action star after a boat explosion with Hula's hangover hash (two eggs stacked on a heaping helping of Luau pork hash over a bed of hash browns, $9). The ahi-tuna eggs benedict is a classy twist on a classic ($12), and the two-egg breakfast injects two shots of tradition into morning stomachs ($7). Purveyors of lunch need look no further than the Maui onion-smothered Hula burger ($8), shrimp tacos ($8–$14), or mango-chicken salad ($13). Add a side of fried Spam ($2.50) to show the world you haven't forgotten this beloved piece of Americana.
Guests arriving at Bamboo China Restaurant won't find MSG anywhere, since chefs eschew the disparaged additive as they slice ginger into mild brown gravies and tailor hot-pepper pomades to suit a range of spiciness preferences. What they will find is a sizeable menu of Mandarin-style fare highlighted by seafood specialties such as a pan-fried sea bass in tomato-garlic sauce, or honey-glazed walnut prawns that teem with sweet and nutty hints, like a game of Password with Jimmy Carter. Each of the more than 50 entrees—including moo shu pork and moo goo gai pan—can be ordered as combos, which pile plates with feasts of fried rice, chow mein, spring rolls, crab puffs, and fried shrimp. For even bigger appetites, party trays arrive brimming with enough steamed rice, meat, and fortune cookies to feed five to six guests, and enough napkins, paper plates, and plastic utensils to feed the in-laws who are always late.
A glass-fronted display cooler showcases J&M Fish Market's fillets and shellfish, which are flown in daily and approved by third-party inspectors for optimum freshness. Clam strips and frog legs join fillets of catfish, tilapia, walleye, and other fish, which are measured by the pound. In addition to its signature fresh seafood, J and M serves up fried chicken and fried fish, as well as house-smoked meats topped with regular or spicy barbecue sauce. They round out their menu with nachos, tacos, and burgers. They also prepare food for carry out, delivery, and catering, appeasing those who wish to enjoy tasty meals on the go or in the comfort of their own in-home restaurant.