Behind the horseshoe-shaped bar, Cedarcrest Tavern's bartenders pop caps from beer bottles, pull draft taps, and shake cocktails with top-shelf liquors. More than 20 televisions broadcast sports games throughout the tavern, from their ceiling mounts above the bar or tucked into individual booths. Elegant candelabras, framed mirrors, and wood accents contrast the utter modernity of the sprawling flat-screen monitors.
The TVs aren't the only sizeable rectangles at the restaurant—the large menu presents hand-cut fries, burgers, and steaks, which can be enjoyed over games of trivia on Tuesday nights. Other events—such as ladies' and guys' nights, college football celebrations, and live music or DJ's—make Cedarcrest a leisurely destination, unlike Accounting World, where you get to ride rollercoasters, but only while filling out 1040 EZ forms.
Toting an arsenal of fresh ingredients and time-honored recipes, Paisano’s Italian Restaurant serves an extensive menu of authentic old-world dishes, including oven-baked pasta and hand-tossed pizza. Starters of mozarella fritte ($7) mask triangles of mozarella cheese with breading to sneak up behind ravenous appetites and give them a soothing massage. Pizza pros channel culinary secrets of the original Italian pizzerias to hand-toss the freshly made dough that lays the foundation for specialty pies, including the Meat Lovers ($18.50 for an 18”), a shrine devoted to pepperoni, italian sausage, and sliced meatballs. Sautéed chicken, spinach, garlic, and mushrooms swim laps around chicken florentine's ($13.90) miniature Olympic pool of wine butter sauce, and layers of meat and cheese bedeck Paisano’s baked lasagna ($12.95).
El Porton Mexican Restaurant has sated cravings for fresh, healthy ingredients for more than two decades, serving up authentic Mexican lunches and dinners that complement the bar’s array of 85 tequilas. Amid golden walls that evoke a warm afternoon in a tropical cantina, guests kick-start stomachs by watching chefs craft lime-infused guacamole tableside. From the kitchen, beef and shrimp fajitas sizzle, wafting aromas of onion and bell pepper that transform into cartoon hands to lure in noses. Warm days open El Porton's patio, where sunshine heightens the flavors of make-your-own combo platters spread with chile rellenos, tostadas, and burritos, as well as USDA steaks aged a minimum of 21 days. Tequila shots arrive in flights or individually, and customizable margaritas in flavors such as mango and classic lime pour forth from salt-rimmed glasses to accentuate entrees and fuel conversations about Mexico's hidden agave rivers.
Pacific Spice’s friendly staff members guide patrons through a multicultural menu, sending diners hurtling mouthfirst through the varying cuisines of Japan, China, and Thailand. Groups of four or six searching for a dinner that's more entertaining than a kleptomaniac with a hole in his pocket can sample the theatrical steaming hibachi dinner. Tableside experiences begin with a round of shrimp appetizers and salads. Single-protein entrees such as salmon fillet offer concentrated flavor, and combination platters of filet mignon, shrimp, scallop, and lobster tail hit all of the different taste receptors—sweet, salty, meaty, and lobster. All entrees stick triple-axel landings onto waiting plates to the delight of hibachi vegetables, steamed or fried rice, and an array of ecstatic dipping sauces.
Exuding a family-friendly aura, Rodney's BBQ churns out a delectable menu of southern specialties to quiet rumbling food pouches. Smother tongues with a succulent sandwich such as the barbecue beef brisket ($4.99+) or kielbasa sausage blanketed in grilled peppers and onions on a hoagie roll ($4.99+). A savory trio of barbecue sauces waits in the wings for drowning chosen meats or playing a very messy round of three-card monte, and main orders find their soul mates in side dishes like baked beans, fried okra (both $1.99), or a steaming fresh plate of fried green tomatoes ($2.99). Nab a southern feast such as the baby back rib plate, dry rubbed with Rodney's seasonings, painted with barbecue sauce, and slow smoked ($13.99+), then add a bottomless sweet tea for crisply cleansing the palate before the imminent intake of yet more barbecued meat ($1.99).
Named after the Japanese word for happy, Genki Noodles & Sushi captures the feel-good delicacies enjoyed by owner Reid Zeising during his childhood in Tokyo. Reid now oversees three locations that dish out a signature menu of traditional and experimental sushi rolls, tuna specialties, and Japanese barbecue bowls packed with grilled meats or tofu mixed with noodles or rice. In many dishes, classic flavors of spicy tuna and fresh water eel mingle with unusual additions such as parmesan cheese or mango.
Though each location sports its own distinct décor, all three locations glow under flat screen TVs and the blue light of fish tanks populated by ocean critters and a merman trapped in the body of a hermit crab. The Virginia Highlands location mingles exposed brick with a covered outdoor patio replete with breezy fans.