Villari's Lakeside sits on the shores of Sun Valley Lake, near rustling willows and a quaint gazebo—but its menu seems to think its on the Sicilian coast. Crabmeat fills martini glasses and stuffs jumbo shrimp. Lobster tails wear coats of lemon and butter. Even the Filet Sinatra's 10-ounce filet mignon comes topped with shrimp. The creator of these feasts, Jose Zhinin, brings the Mediterranean to the US, but doesn't stop there. His yearly rotating entrees trek throughout mainland Italy as well, touching everything from chicken parmigiana to build-your-own pasta plates, mixing the traditional with the modern.
Likewise, the restaurant itself combines Old-World elegance with contemporary style. Like the halls of the coolest medieval kings, the two-tiered dining room easily hosts both sumptuous banquets and DJ-driven dance parties. But parties find their home most often at the outdoor tiki bar, whose thatched roof and glowing lanterns cast the lake in a tropical light.
The chefs at Big John’s Cheesesteaks & More grill up Philly favorites alongside American and Italian-American fare. They place 100% beef and chicken steaks on fresh-baked buns, topping them with cheeses such as mozzarella, provolone, or cheese whiz. Added toppings of bacon, pepperoni, and mushrooms melt right into customers' gooey cheese of choice. Pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and hoagies, and salads of thai-chili chicken or goat cheese, walnuts, and craisins round out the menu, and a free pickle bar displays more than 13 varieties of pickles that, like people, get wrinkly when soaked in vinegar.
The chefs at Muscle Maker Grill put a healthy spin on flavorful dishes inspired by Italian, Asian, American, and Southwestern cuisines. The chain was founded in 1995 by Rod Silva, a fitness enthusiast who grew weary of fast-food eateries that bogged customers down with unhealthy morsels and toys sculpted from butter. What began as a smoothie stand has expanded into a successful franchise that slings pastas, burgers, salads, and Tex-Mex–style wraps, and proudly displays the calorie content and relationship status of each dish on the menu.
Since the inception of its flagship location in 1973, Golden Corral has continued to load plates with an ever-expanding menu of homestyle fare served in a family-oriented atmosphere. Among the never-ending dinner buffet’s offerings, 15 types of protein, including sirloin steaks cut and aged on the premises, pair with comfort-fare staples such as mac 'n' cheese and banana pudding. At lunch, pot roast simmered for 12 hours and made-from-scratch meatloaf fill the buffet’s ranks, and breakfast promises made-to-order omelets, hearty slices of ham and sausage, and sizzling hash browns. Each of Golden Corral’s locations opens its doors to group events, seating parties of 25 or more, or one house of Congress in recess.
While the chefs at Brothers Kitchen Restaurant probably aren’t your grandma, they might know her recipes. Drawing on the classic dishes imparted by a Southern upbringing, they put an upscale spin on soul dishes. Pan-fried, grilled, or barbequed, their fish always comes with a side of tartar or cocktail sauce that adds a tangy finish to the crispy filets. The chefs also turn their hand to barbeque staples such as fried chicken, whole slabs of ribs, and fried shrimp and scallops. The honey-sweet smell of cornbread drifts from ovens, hinting at a thick crust and goldenrod interior ideal for mopping up sauces. Live jazz punctuates sated sighs, the stringed instruments drifting warmly and singers soulfully expressing how sad it is when a horse eats a rose.
One pound of sliced Angus steak topped with a mix of melted cheese and Guinness barbecue sauce, served alongside a basket of fries. For finishing this behemoth yourself, the personnel at Harper's Pub treat you to a complimentary drink and add your snapshot to their wall of fame. More often, however, the kitchen whips up smaller sandwiches, wraps, and burgers packed with ingredients ranging from ranchero sauce to mozzarella sticks. Over at the bar, bartenders draw draft beer from 18 tap lines and stock 40 types of seasonally appropriate bottled beers in the fridge. Open until 3 a.m., the pub entices night owls with free WiFi, broadcasts of Sunday-, Monday-, and Thursday-night football games, and weekly hooting lessons.