The culinary crew at Chicken Magician dunks skinless chicken, shrimp, and other savories in house-made breading and a sizzling deep fryer to craft a menu of hearty southern fare. Patrons can crunch through the seasoned golden crust of six chunks of fried chicken to reach a fresh poultry core untouched by such common preservation methods as freezing, pickling, or dunking in molten bronze. Then savor a 20-piece order of wings smothered in mild, medium, or radioactive buffalo sauce before digging into a dozen sizzling fried shrimp. Meanwhile, a selection of side orders such as french fries or coleslaw vie for attention by doing cartwheels and backflips onto waiting tongues.
Tongues of flame twist in a fireplace, hinting at the warmth filling the bustling kitchen at MK Valencia. Rail lighting spills a blue aura over dishes that draw from myriad culinary traditions. Mediterranean flavors shine through in salmon drizzled in a pesto sauce and lamb osso bucco. In the dining room, glasses clink occasionally like a xylophonist failing a performance review, setting a tempo for the wait staff, which totes roasted salmon in a pesto sauce.
A curtain of bubbles rises up through champagne cocktails in lively colors that match the crescent-shaped orange booths or electric-blue wine racks. During warmer months, the murmur of conversation spills out onto a patio draped with live plants.
When Palermo’s Bakery opened nearly three decades ago, it was a small storefront affair. Husband and wife team, Joanne and Jerry Bruno, baked small-scale confections at first, but over the years, Jerry became adventurous, constructing elaborate designer cakes that grew more intricate over the years. Twenty-five years later, thanks in part to those same creations, the small Italian bakery has grown into two custom cake shops with more than 50 staff members.
Still helmed by the Bruno family, Palermo's Bakery creates lavish wedding cakes bursting with fondant flowers, and specialty cakes sculpted into an array of improbable shapes, such as 3D champagne bottles. Though baked goods and pastries vary by location, they often include more than 20 flavors of cookies, Italian treats such as cannoli, and kosher desserts such as rugalech. All of the duo’s whimsical creations are available for pick-up or delivery.
Since its founding in 1948, the family-owned Luigi’s Restaurant has created a wide selection of Italian favorites. From house-made gnocchi in a light tomato cream sauce and imported romano cheese to prosciutto- and mozzarella-stuffed pork chops, the menu caters to the entire family’s tastes—also presenting kids’ options. Beyond the family-friendly dining room—whose padded booths look extra comfy juxtaposed with chest-high stone walls—the eatery has a bar. Here, libation-makers pour out wines and offer up a condensed food menu, which does not mean the mozzarella sticks are only 4 millimeters long. They also shake up specialty martinis, such as the flirt-tini—a fruity beverage born of the flirtations between an orange-flavored vodka and pineapple juice.
Puerto Vallarta Restaurant incorporates a taste of the Mexican coast into its menu of south-of-the-border dishes made from fresh ingredients. Bright green, orange, and blue plates hoist fresh snapper, clams, mussels, and shrimp. The kitchen’s hot grills leave their trademark lines and phone numbers across flank steak, pork, and chicken, each topped with a different accoutrement, such as jalapeños or pineapple sauce. Chefs also sate classic Mexican cravings with dinner staples, including enchiladas, fajitas, and tacos.
An innovator in cupcake design, I Am Cupcakes offers nearly 50 varieties of the hand-held treats, from simple vanilla and chocolate creations to more intricate flavors, such a french toast or lemon lovers. Stop by I Am Cupcake’s Little Ferry storefront to pick up 1 or 12 chocolate peanut-butter surprise cupcakes, filled with bits of Snickers, M&M’s, and peanut-butter cups, or walk out with moist, cream-cheese topped red velvet cakes. You can also preorder a batch of colorful cakepops, or ask the shop’s pastry artists to design full-size couture cakes for birthday parties, weddings, or to bring to a job interview. I Am Cupcakes can even host cupcake-decorating parties on-location for special events.
Gateway of India's authentic ambiance houses fragrant aromas from a wide selection of classic Indian cuisine. Tantalizing appetizers such as the vegetable pakora summon appetites with veggies battered in lightly seasoned lentil flour, and the kebab sampler dispenses spears of chicken, lamb, and fish—provided they're not touring as an alternative-country trio. Delicious flats of naan bread sop up sauces and act as makeshift bibs bursting with flavors of garlic, coconut and cherries, or unleavened whole-wheat grains. Gnaw on entrees such as the lamb korma—decadent pieces of spiced lamb swimming in onion, cashew, and almond cream sauce—or nibble the palak paneer, a dish of homemade Indian cheese and spinach. A selection of classic dishes such as chicken tikka masala and goat biryani with rice challenge exotic combinations such as lobster curry to freestyle Bollywood dance-offs.