At first glance, South Coast Pizza Parlors might look like an ordinary family pizza joint. The requisite video and redemption games chirp and ring near the entrance. Six big-screen televisions flicker with sporting events. But the difference is in the pizza--the kitchen crew crafts dough and sauce fresh every single day, drizzling pies with classic toppings such as green peppers and pepperoni, as well as more non-traditional options including vegan cheese and soy chorizo.
A disc of dough floats down from above, its trajectory halted by a pair of nimble hands. Such is the scene at Rafael's Pizza, where each pie is made to order by hand, not defrosted by a chef with very warm hugs. The staff has made pizzas this way for more than 35 years, strewing Wisconsin mozzarella and fresh veggies atop each one. Specialty dishes include the signature Rafael's Pizza with pepperoni, ham, and bacon. Diners boost their meals with plates of pasta or hot and cold subs.
So successful were the three original Lamppost Pizza establishments that the eatery has grown to 37 locations since its inception in 1976. Friendliness and fun unite with the pizzeria's penchant for sports to make visits memorable. But as nice as big-screen TVs can be, the real magnetism of this haven for sauce and cheese lies in the pies spun in the kitchen. Beer and wine complement the menu, which also includes pastas, sandwiches, and grill fare.
Grab a bagel ring for all 12 fingers ($10.95 a dozen), or grab an individual for a baby bracelet ($1.14 per bagel). Many toppings, cream cheeses, and spreads are also available. Although Bagel Me!'s name is both direct and delicious, the menu expands beyond the realm of the round. Breakfast items such as gooey cheddar and egg melts served alongside cinnamon baked apples ($4.19) and freshly blended smoothies ($4.39) will cause smiles at sunrise. Afternoon diners can hang fangs on tri-tip steak sandwiches such as the jalapeno-pineapple pairing, loaded liberally with caramelized onions, Tillamook cheddar, and monterey jack cheese ($7.49). Or fork up a variety of starters, such as Irish nachos based in French fries and topped with bacon, onions, cheddar and jack cheeses, and lucky wishes ($5.79).
Linguini, penne, spaghetti, and fettuccini—the chefs at Carolina’s Italian Restaurant have been preparing pasta in its many incarnations for more than three decades. But their time-tested cooking techniques aren't the only reason for the robust flavors in their classic Italian cuisine. Ingredients are delivered five times a week, ensuring that each tomato is as fresh as the day its life coach finally coaxed it off the stem. Quality seafood and meats such as Atlantic salmon and new york steak put a finishing touch on many entrees.
After diners polish off their meals, they can indulge in a dessert such as housemade tiramisu or cannoli drizzled with chocolate syrup. Then, they can lean back and admire the wall murals of Italian countryside and verandas, or watch confused airplanes circle the ceiling's painted blue sky.
Satisfying meals and handcrafted beer intersect with premium sports viewing at Lamppost Pizza and Backstreet Brewery, founded in 1976 by Angelo Barro and his sons, Dan and Tom. Today, the franchise welcomes patrons to 37 locations in three states, and the philosophy remains the same at all of them. Seven big-screen TVs broadcast football, basketball, and baseball games from around the leagues to entertain patrons sipping small-batch draft beers brewed onsite. Fans munch on traditional sports-viewing snacks, such as jalapeño poppers, potato skins, and buffalo wings. Chefs also prepare heartier entrees including garlic-chicken pasta, Pesto Supreme pizzas covered with artichoke hearts, and The Linebacker, a pizza loaded with pepperoni, salami, ground beef, sausage, and two types of bacon.