Nearly 15 years ago, Lollicup Coffee & Tea founder Alan Yu helped introduce America to a drink popular in his native Taiwan: boba milk tea (a.k.a. bubble tea), named for the chewy tapioca balls known as boba that hang suspended in the beverage. These gummy treats make the drink something of a snack, too—people slurp them up using oversize straws, chewing them between sips or collecting them in their cheek pouches.
Lollicup's specialty is milk tea flavored with almond, jasmine, coconut, or other infusions, but boba can also be added to most of Lollicup's other colorful drinks, from grapefruit green tea to watermelon juice and signature soy pudding. There's food, too: shareable morsels of fried meats and veggies, or rice plates if a well-rounded meal is in order. Thanks to word of mouth and a spot on the Food Network's Unwrapped, Lollicup has expanded to dozens of locations across the country and has outposts opening soon in Europe and the Middle East.
The traditional Japanese dish shabu-shabu translates to “swish-swish” after the sound of thinly sliced meat or seafood cooking in a pot of broth populated with cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and other vegetables. Tokyo Shabu Shabu specializes in this edible onomatopoeia, giving diners the opportunity to customize every part of their meals as they cook each bite themselves. Beginning with the broth, guests can build their pot around a savory miso, spicy kimchi, or 12 other liquid bases. Certified-Angus beef, delicately marbled Kurobuta Berkshire pork, or unique Japanese seafood selections such as fish cake cook swiftly in the flavorful broths. Patrons can pair their bowls with eight different styles of sake and Japanese bottled drinks such as Kirin tea or melon soda.
Tucked away in the kitchen of each Paris Baguette, bakers trained in French techniques craft buttery, flaky croissants and tart crusts, and their success at this has earned attention from the likes of the New York Times. In addition to pastries and sweets such as mocha rice balls, the bakers knead bread for their namesake baguettes and yeasty creations that hold an Asian twist, such as red-bean-paste-filled donuts. The experts also create fondant-cloaked cakes that venture beyond classic flavors into green tea, cappuccino, and sweet potato, delighting partygoers bored of the same laminated sheet cake that makes its appearance at each year’s birthday celebration.
To wash down these treats, patrons sip cups of java or more exotic drinks such as wheatgrass and black-sesame lattes, persimmon smoothies, and bubble tea. At lunchtime, many locations layer sandwiches, filling hungry stomachs with croque monsieurs and baguettes stuffed with chicken and pesto.
Tea Bar Cafe’s menu is stuffed with Asian-style cuisine and a large selection of boba teas, slushies, shaved ice, and other delicious treats. Fend off a malicious appetite with stinky tofu ($4.75)—the popular and odoriferous dish of fermented tofu—or a serving of fried squid balls ($4.25). Plenty of entrees are available to silence a belly button that won’t stop yapping, such as teppan pork ($6.99) or a fried chicken filet rice set served with black pepper and mushrooms ($6.99).
Cafe Terrace celebrates its grand opening as a staff of crêpe-crafting wizards puts 14 sweet and savory spins on the French disk. Indulge in the banana-caramel crêpe or the savory SoCal, whose sunny disposition of avocado, roma tomato, and lemon aioli makes diners wish that all crêpes could be California crêpes. Six sandwiches transport their fresh cargo, and soups simmer in the kitchen's pots, awaiting the chance to warm bellies with flavors of butternut squash or tomato bisque. Italian sodas carbonated with air from Mediterranean breezes infuse culinary travels with more than a score of flavors, including mango, raspberry, and passion fruit. While enjoying café fare, patrons lounge in a casual environment strewn with chessboards, available for playing a round against a friend or merely admiring the checkered surfaces.