When it came time for the team at Johnny Carino’s to come up with some new recipes, they began rifling through their personal cooking histories. Executive chef Chris Peitersen took his first kitchen job at a barbecue joint when he was 14, so he was primed to create italian baby back ribs. By infusing brown sugar barbecue sauce with balsamic vinegar imported from Modena, he’s given the marinade a more acidic bite than typical barbecue sauces. As the ribs slowly roast and char on an oak grill, he bastes on his creation before finishing the dish with a dusting of parmesan.
The ribs are one of Carino’s many menu items that follow the restaurants’ approach of classic Italian preparations modified by forward-thinking flavor combinations. Diners will find a Black Angus burger capped with mozzarella and fried pepperoni, or sautéed tilapia spiced with garlic and jalapeño. Other signature dishes include the 16-layer lasagna, Skilletinis that sizzle with spaghetti and a choice of meat, and tiramisu made from scratch.
At Sahar's Gyros & Kabob, colorful plates of Greek and Afghani fare greet patrons with their fresh veggies and halal meats. Aside from dishes couched in basmati rice, pitas, and samosa dough, succulent burgers and cheesesteak sandwiches represent classic American tastes. The casual Antioch eatery is free for lunch, dinner, or just to chat seven days a week, and its staff caters off-site events.
Dad’s Cafe disseminates to diners a menu overflowing with dishes inspired by everyday family recipes. Tablemates can battle for the last scoop in a complimentary spread of chips, bean dip, and salsa, before perusing a list of burgers that costar with a choice of one of four sides ($6.99–$10.99). The All-American keeps it simple with lettuce, tomato, and onions and the California makes a splash with a wave of sautéed mushrooms, avocado, and jack cheese. A bacon-barbecue burger doubles meat doses with a juicy beef patty and strips of crispy bacon buried beneath cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce and mushrooms can fill in the holes of swiss cheese on the turkey burger. Augment the flood of flavor by imbibing gulps from a 16-ounce beer ($4.75), with taps spouting selections as varied as Stella Artois, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Shock Top Belgian White. Dad’s Cafe libation servers courteously pour each beer at a cold temperature, eliminating the need to bring along a bucket of ice or a sack of snow.