You would think that a restaurant inside one of The Hill's 200-year-old historic homes would have a menu steeped in traditional American cuisine. But that's not the case with Blue Mermaid Island Grill, which instead serves the sweet, spicy food of the Caribbean. Popular dishes include everything from guava-braised short ribs to a New World paella with chicken, shrimp, mussels, and sausage in curried rice. Chefs can prepare many menu items vegetarian or gluten-free.
Blue Mermaid Island Grill also has full bar service, including eight rotating craft-beer taps and margaritas in nine flavors. Cocktails contribute to an upbeat vibe—which landed it a feature on Food Network's Rachel Ray's Tasty Travels—as does live music four nights a week with both professional and local musicians. The indoor and outdoor dining areas are decorated with pieces from local artists, adding to the grassroots vibe and relieving owners Scott and Karen Logan of trying to pull off a major museum heist.
Monkey Love Dessert Bar & Gallery's sweet-savvy staff plate primate-themed sweets and pour cupfuls of steaming espresso drinks from their extensive menu. Culinary explorers can taste the baboon dookie, a serving of miniature peanut-butter bars drizzled in chocolate, sprinkled with banana chips, and followed closely by a note-taking British zoologist ($1.65). New York–style cheesecake greets tongues with rich, creamy vanilla ($2.95), and a slice of chocolate-heaven cake ($3.95) snuggles under a blanket of mocha mousse and buttercream icing. Meanwhile, the flavored syrups in house-specialty espresso drinks—available in 12-ounce Chimp ($3.65), 16-ounce Baboon ($4.15), and 20-ounce Ape ($4.65) sizes—bugle peppermint- and cinnamon-tinged reveilles in the ears of snoozing taste buds.
The Loft bolsters its menu of fresh, deli-style sandwiches with the hardwood accents and natural lighting of a comfortable bistro. The club sandwich throws a flavor party in patrons' mouths, inviting turkey breast, ham, and provolone to join a traditional BLT in capering around a carbohydrate dance floor made of texas toast ($6.99). The portobello flatbread brings together a freshly picked cap, mozzarella, and pesto ($6.49), and the tuna melt pairs fresh tuna with swiss cheese and piquant mustard for a flavor combination as familiar as your own face stitched onto a childhood blanket ($5.99). The grilled-chicken salad combines the juiciness of an expertly cooked chicken breast with the crispness of a house salad ($6.49).
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top-five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milkshake, and Best Drivethru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through its program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
Sisters of the New South flaunts its Southern heritage with a menu that highlights fried chicken, collard greens, and other soul-food staples. The restaurant lives by the motto “real southern cooking,” and its chefs take pride in preparing each dish with the same care that their mothers would have used. Sisters even sells its unique blend of spices through an online store so that customers can re-create the restaurant’s fried chicken or season their bathwater.