Mary and Shelly Withers let more than two decades of cooking together shine through in the kitchen, which fills with the crackling of hot oil and the slower contralto bubbling of stews and gravy as the two work in concert. Flanked by berry-colored walls, diners take seats at raw-wood tables and benches to dig into soul-food favorites such as baked mac 'n' cheese, fried catfish nuggets, and jerk chicken. Caterers laden with trays bound for weddings and other events rush past diners slowly working through cups of coffee and Mary's red velvet cake, which lets feasts end gradually, unlike picnics in wind tunnels.
Visible from far off, the billowing sails of Buccaneer Bay BBQ flap in the wind over the white, barn-shaped hull of the restaurant below. There, the pit master oversees slow-and-low smoked ribs and chicken, which emerge from the heat tender and juicy, brushed with a homemade barbecue sauce. Plates present offerings of spicy sausage hoagies, pulled pork sandwiches, and barbecue quesadillas with cheese, barbecue sauce, and a choice of meat. In addition to sides such as chili, macaroni and cheese, and corn bread, visitors will find homemade, hand-dipped ice cream and cool italian ice.
Behind The Brook's modern exterior lies a vintage burger joint and soda fountain. Here, the cooks serve classic burgers alongside those dressed with innovative ingredient combinations such as The Hangover's pork roll and fried egg, the Baja's avocado and chipotle mayo, and the Athens' lamb burger with hummus and feta. And any burger can be altered with a veggie or turkey patty. Their hot dogs mirror the iconic tube-steaks from cities including Chicago—slathered in pickles and peppers—and New York—covered in sauerkraut.
And, if The Brook staffers have anything to say about it, every meal ends with ice cream. Scoops can be sprinkled in the shop's 18 colorful toppings, piled into banana splits and belgian-waffle sandwiches, or spooned directly into diners' pockets for later snacking.
At Empire Kitchen, chefs tuck char-grilled, natural-casing Sabrett dogs into warm, fluffy buns, building the perfect edible canvas upon which to load a heap of tasty toppings. Cooks might ladle hearty helpings of chili on top, then cheese, all over chopped onions. Or they might dress dogs up Chicago-style, adding sport peppers, celery salt, tomatoes, onions, relish, and a pickle, before stuffing the whole thing in a Cub's jersey. Other popular styles include Coney Island dogs topped with mustard and sauerkraut and even chili dogs that have been wrapped in bacon. And beyond hot dogs, Empire Kitchen serves up other iconic American eats such as corned beef sandwiches, cheesesteaks, burgers, and ice cream sundaes.
With its dining room, pub with live music on weekends, seasonal patio, and two private banquet rooms, Rolf's Restaurant offers patrons multiple ways to enjoy a meal or grab drinks within the same space. Private banquet rooms include the Sun Room, with airy windows that let light flood in and keep pet cacti happy while diners relax at four-seat linen-clad tables, and the Warren Room, where purple chairs, matching walls, and regal curtains glow in the light of chandeliers whose shapes mimic flower petals.
The restaurant’s aesthetic elegance extends to the menu, which has enjoyed a rebirth thanks to a new executive chef, Glenn Arnold. A Rolf’s veteran for nearly a decade, Arnold left the establishment to hone his gourmet talents at The Culinary Institute of America. With his victorious return, the chef adds a new twist to old standbys and devises new items for the menu while endlessly looping "Eye of the Tiger" over the kitchen speakers. Diners can now savor a selection that ranges from traditional German specialties such as kasespaetzle, jagerschnitzel und pommes, and sauerbraten to more casual fare, such as gourmet sandwiches and pizzas.