Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
Cornerstone's hefty menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, and pizza is generously peppered with creative takes on café classics and daily specials that will keep your tongue on the edge of its eat. The sandwich lover singing lonely laments from the dark corner of your stomach-tavern will settle down when it meets the Cornerstone Hero Sandwich (ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone, lettuce, tomato, red onion, black olives, horseradish and balsamic vinaigrette, $6.49), a Cajun roast-beef sandwich (lean Cajun roast beef, lettuce, tomato, red onions, jack and pepper-jack cheese, and a Texas petal sauce, $6.59), or a handsome, vacation-tanned Caribbean chicken sandwich (marinated chicken breast, red onion, lettuce, tomato, pepper-jack cheese, and homemade sauce, $6.59).
Founded in Portland, Oregon, in 1953, The Original Pancake House ran the original pancake house, The Extremely Local House of Pancakes, out of business by using only the highest-quality ingredients such as 93 score butter, pure 36% whipping cream, and a secret spy-guarded sourdough starter recipe to craft each delectable breakfast dish. Menu items vary by location, but the Cincinnati-area Original Pancake House's egg-juggling cooks whip up freshly made sauces and batters into tasty specialties such as the signature golden brown Dutch baby ($7.99)—an air-filled delight dusted with lemon, whipped butter, and powdered sugar—and the apple pancake ($8.19), a single pancake oven baked with Granny Smith apples and glazed with pure Sinkiang cinnamon. The evocatively named Tahitian Maiden's Dream ($7.39) slices golden ripe bananas in sour cream, drizzles it in Triple Sec, sherry, and brandy, then bakes it in a tender crepe before topping it with more nanners and an apricot sauce, while the Danish kijafa cherry crepes ($7.39) do something similar with Montmorency cherries and homemade kijafa sauce.
As a young Lebanese man living in Cincinnati, Andy Hajjar found himself longing for the tahini, mint, and feta flavors of his family’s home cooking. Once his mother and brother joined him in the US, the three of them decided to start a deli. Their corner establishment quickly burgeoned into an award-winning restaurant, Andy’s Mediterranean Grill, where they continue to share family recipes without asking relatives to adopt every diner first. Their talent with seasoning lamb—which they grind, chop, marinate, and even serve tartar, if a diner orders in advance—landed Andy on WCPO Channel 9, where he showed the audience how to make lamb burgers. When preparing skewers of charbroiled tenderloin, cilantro-flavored sea scallops, and flatbread pizzas, the kitchen also relies on fresh ingredients and house marinades. Diners can also sip dozens of beers or wines, including some from Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey, as they relish the old-fashioned coziness of a wood-burning stove and the modern joys of a flat-screen television. On weekend evenings, belly dancers appear, and on any evening guests can lounge on black-and-red striped cushions in the wood-paneled hookah room. The Hajjars also sell marinades, salad dressing, and Turkish coffees through Andy’s International Market, which helps customers stock the pantry in their own apartment, home, or sandcastle.
At It’s Just Crepes, you’re encouraged to eat with your hands. That’s because every crepe on the menu is folded into what Soapbox Cincinnati calls "a convenient to-go style," eliminating the need for knives, forks, or tiny plate-side catapults. Instead, diners bite straight into the golden-brown bundles, which are stuffed with fillings both savory and sweet. The smoky BLT, for instance, oozes with pepperjack cheese and chipotle mayo, while sweet crepes pack in classic flavors such as Nutella, strawberries, and brown sugar. Utensils can come in handy, however, when attacking one of the eatery’s fresh salads, which meld fresh spinach, chopped romaine, and other greens with diced veggies, cheese, dried fruit, and slices of meats.
Co-owner Keven Paizannoglou founded the first It’s Just Crepes with his wife and partner, Karrah, after realizing how much he missed the crepes he’d enjoyed in his native Greece. Now, more than 20 employees serve up the delectable treats from three trendy dining spots decorated with blue and orange hues and contemporary white furnishings.
The chefs at Blue Elephant Restaurant craft Thai curries, Japanese sushi, and Italian pasta dishes, tying them all together with the common thread of fresh ingredients and careful preparation. They specially order ingredients that are not available locally to ensure that each dish contains the freshest possible items. Basil leaves flavor the Thai-style basil chicken, and cashews add salt and crunch to mango chicken. Within sushi rolls, thinly sliced fish such as tuna and salmon complement the silky texture of cream cheese and avocado.
Prior to establishing the restaurant, the owners committed themselves to observing environmentally responsible building practices. As a result, the entire building is constructed from sustainable and recyclable materials. Energy-efficient light bulbs illuminate the dining room, and a geo-thermal heating and cooling system regulates the temperature. On stormy days, an onsite pond directs raindrops into the soil, preventing them from falling into a gutter or discarded chip bag.