It didn’t take long for Brian Kozak to discover his passion for food: at the age of three, after he first tried shrimp cocktail and crème brulee, he would spend hours leafing through cookbooks and family recipes in his parents’ kitchen. His fascination with food led him to build an impressive culinary resume: after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu, Brian spent four years cooking for Bon Appetit, opened his own catering company, and learned how to fold a puff pastry according to army-bed making standards. Today, he demonstrates his culinary prowess as the resident Chef at Sage Restaurant and Lounge. Kozak’s influences span the globe: try the Spanish saffron paella with chorizo and shrimp, or any of six 10-inch pizzas. The dining room also has global flair, from its Tuscan yellow walls to its terra cotta tile floors.
Despite their restaurant's moniker, the chefs at Johnny Rebs' Southern Roadhouse aren’t averse to local ingredients. In fact, all their produce comes from California growers. But rather than recreate Southern flavors, they prefer going straight to the source, relying on Virginian and North Carolinian farms to send country hams and Delta farms to send catfish. Said catfish simmers beneath mountains of slaw in po’ boys, one among Johnny Rebs’ many housemade Southern staples, which range from creole shrimp over cheddar grits to pulled pork slow-smoked up to 12 hours.
Though steeped in traditional Southern cooking, Johnny Rebs’ critically acclaimed culinary team puts its own twist on Southern and American staples alike. To wit: grilled cheese made with pimento and jalapeños, as well as deep-fried apple pie, which bubbles in a deep fryer stolen off a Georgia windowsill. Complemented with “suds” and “squashed grapes”—Johnny Rebs’ speak for beer and wine—feasts unfold amidst a rustic dining space made to resemble a cozy, wood-paneled home. Before the table fills up with smoked and fried meats, guests can snack from a bucket of peanuts. They're free, but any quarters diners donate in return go straight to charities such as the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
At Maderas Steak & Ribs, kitchen commanders craft a menu with hefty steaks forged from Kansas prime Angus beef. To sustain flavor throughout meals, in-house pastry chefs fill crumbly crusts with pie or cheesecake swirled with fresh fruit and juices.
Neon lighting grants old-timey-diner appeal to the spacious tables and cushy booths of Maderas's big, kid-friendly room, through which live music occasionally wanders on Friday and Saturday nights and whenever forks happen to clang melodically against glassware or mom's glass chewing-gum dispenser.
The aroma hits you first. It could be the brisket fresh off the smoker, or the candied yams carmelizing similar to how grandma use to make them. No matter the dish, D's Original Take Out Grill makes sure it's menu carries the soulful essence of owners Damon and Wendy Stalworth's southern roots. He whips up Louisiana-style chicken sausages, and coats St. Louis-style ribs in a sauce inspired by his grandmother's recipe, which is now sold at Whole Foods. Diners can also enjoy the signature sauce on wings or take bottles of the sauce home to paint edible murals on open walls.
At Sura Korean BBQ & Tofu, meat and tofu put aside their differences in the name of cooperating to create savory Korean feasts. Bulgogi—sliced beef marinated in 12 flavorful ingredients—stars in many dishes, from japche rice-paper wraps to custom-made bibimbap served in a hot stone pot. Instead of sculpting faux turkeys from vatfuls of guacamole, vegans can build feasts from meat-free dishes such as tofu soup and sushi-like kimchi kimbap. The restaurant's popular korean tacos encourage meats and greens to hang out together, housing combinations of bulgogi, pork, chicken, veggies, or tofu. Outdoor seating invites patrons to dine amid verdant plants, whereas comfy indoor booths honor nature with sunny lights and bamboo wall coverings.