When Dean Lavallee opened the first Park Avenue BBQ in 1988, he had one lofty mission in mind: to serve the best barbecue ever made. Despite the seemingly impossible nature of his goal, he and his team continue to rise to the challenge, dry-rubbing their meats to smoke and char-grill on-site. They use all-natural, grain-fed, domestic pork for their traditional and Carolina-style barbecue pork—pulled by hand—and only use fresh, never-frozen ribs that are smoked daily over hickory. As diners chow down on hearty homestyle sides, seafood platters, or buffalo wings tossed in one of six sauces, they can admire the dining room's pictures of their city's most prominent people, places, and robot mayors.
Park Avenue BBQ arranges their meats into fun, hearty dishes such as the Dempublican sandwich, which combines smoked pork and beef brisket separated only by cheese and bacon to create a sizeable sandwich that the team has dubbed "porkalicious". They whip up Funnybonz, which look and taste like miniature ribs, using tender, lean pork that's prepared by cooking up regular ribs beneath a shrink ray. In 2008, their dedication to each dish caused Cityvoter's users to name Park Avenue BBQ the best barbecue in town.
Italian chefs Giordy and Raffaele recreate the experience of dining in Milan, not just by following authentic recipes, but by serving those dishes in a bistro-style dining room rich with dark hardwood floors and wooden wall paneling. Elegant chandeliers with individual fez-like lampshades dangle above beige tablecloths, grape-hued napkins, and a piano tucked into a corner. The chefs work in the open kitchen as diners dig into mountains of squid-ink gnocchi and homemade tortelli accented by sage and nutmeg. While individual pizzas bake in the oven and whole Mediterranean sea bass debone tableside, diners can sip on a La Scaletta signature skinny cocktail, shaken and poured into a martini glass by a trained Pilates instructor.:m]]
Picasso’s Pizzeria spins out a menu of classic pasta dishes, hearty subs, and pizza pies crafted with fresh-made dough, homemade sauce, and 100% mozzarella cheese. Baked to crispy sublimity and desired by lonely bicycle wheels, Picasso’s round, gourmet pizzas range from the Carolina pizza with pepperoni, genoa salami, and tomatoes ($12.95–$17.95) to the margherita pizza with fresh basil and mozzarella ($10.95–$16.95). Bask in the simple goodness of a cheese pizza ($9.75–$13.75), or upgrade that simplicity with a choice of delectable toppings ($1.35–$1.85 each depending on pizza size). Diners hankering for a savory dose of carbohydration can dive into a traditional plate of spaghetti and meatballs ($10.95) to hit the spot, or they can relish in the ocean flavors of the shrimp parmigiana ($14.95), served with ziti or spaghetti. Dine-in for a delicious outing with family and friends or order takeout and bury the meal in the backyard to teach a newborn child the survival skills of sniffing out and digging for one’s food.
When The Melting Pot originally opened in 1975 just outside Orlando, the location was cozy and quaint, but diners had only three options: swiss-cheese fondue, beef fondue, or chocolate fondue. However, as the restaurant grew in popularity, so did its menu selection and atmosphere. The restaurant first expanded four years later under the leadership of a Melting Pot waiter and enterprising college student named Mark Johnston, who teamed up with his brothers Mike and Bob to open a new outpost in Tallahassee. This location grew in reputation to pave the way for future franchise expansion. Today, the company—now owned by the trio of siblings—reigns as the premier fondue, wine, and drink restaurant, stretching across North America with more than 140 restaurants linked by underground tunnels. The restaurant's menu has also ballooned, and patrons can now expect six varieties of hot dipping cheese paired with salads, meats, and molten chocolate.
On a given night, groups of foodies gather around tables to nosh on signature four-course meals, from cheese-fondue appetizers and various salads to steaks and seafood cooked in a choice of healthy broth or oil. Birthday revelers and couples can share decadent evenings at private tables, capping off meals with chocolate desserts that have defined The Melting Pot for decades.
Hunkered down within a plaza in North Palm Beach, Allora Pizzeria & Ristorante engages appetites near and far by sending hand-tossed pies out the door for local delivery and simultaneously seating customers in a homestyle dining room. The menu's notoriously fresh fare serves up southern Italian staples with more than 20 entrees that weave pastas, poultry, and seafood in and out of bold marinara, alfredo, and wine sauces. To accentuate its homey atmosphere, the eatery employs a friendly staff and boasts warm décor, including a wood bookcase and wall-mounted light fixtures that give off a romantic glow. Allora pairs its meals with the authentic sounds of instrumental Italian ballads played over a speaker system that learned Italian from a native speaker.
"It took them five years before they would let me handle the fish," says sushi chef Jo Clark about his extensive training. He began his culinary journey at 13 years old and spent a decade in an apprenticeship at the Japanese restaurant Yama. There, he honed an ability to prep rice and sauces, wield a knife, and select sushi-grade fish while shadowing chefs from different regions of Japan. In his spare time, Jo enjoys paddle-surfing and once skillfully maneuvered alongside a lively school of sharks.
At the restaurant, however, he deftly manages cuts of salmon, flounder, hamachi yellowtail, and shellfish to craft more than 40 inventive sushi rolls. He toys with the traditions of sushi, wrapping some rolls with thin slices of European cucumber and creating a sashimi pizza on a tortilla crust. The aromas of ginger, eggplant, and garlic wander from pots of Thai-style dishes in the kitchen and out into dining rooms. Though each location has distinct decor, diners mingle among elements such as exposed-brick bars, hardwood floors, and hanging Japanese paper lanterns in the exciting bright colors of a furious traffic cop viewed through a kaleidoscope.