Inside The Apollo Cafe's kitchen, chefs synthesize local produce and meats into lunch, brunch, and dinner menus of Southern-inspired comfort cuisine. Take a seat in the noontime sun to savor a battered and fried monte cristo sandwich ($7.95), pairing gouda, ham, and turkey with fruit compote to blur the boundary between sweet and savory and between waffles and Thanksgiving. Goat cheese and pears complement mixed greens and a house-made basil vinaigrette in The Apollo salad ($6.95). During dinner, cooks daub the honey-glazed pork chop ($12.95) with brandy cream sauce and surround it with brussels sprouts and smashed potatoes to keep feral steak knives at bay. Golden fried carrots, a creamy grit cake, and sautéed spinach accompany seared mahi mahi ($14.95) fillets on fantastic voyages to explore the inside of the human stomach.
Chef Margaret Hale, a graduate of Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College, packs a grocery cart full of experience as she teaches wannabe Wolfgangs and baby Batalis the tricks for radiating kitchen brilliance like the melody of a freshly tuned didgeridoo. The Chef Next Door makes cooking approachable by coming to your home with a class customized to accommodate personal preferences and any dietary restrictions. Using her ingredients and your cookware, Chef Hale will execute a one- to two-hour interactive workshop for you and up to three others. Jump in on the action like a stage diver at a knitting convention, learning the full potential of your own kitchen equipment and appliances, then bask in the warm, appetizing afterglow of your hard work.
For some people, the colors of red, green, and white evoke Christmastime. For regulars of Anaheim Chili, though, they just mean lunch. The red, green, and white chilies are but 3 of 10 different kinds on the menu, which lists each stew's baseball-card-like stats: base, spice, garnishes, and heat. The bases range from the home-style chili's ground beef and kidney beans to the pesole's dark-meat chicken and hominy. Toppings may include onion, cilantro, and sour cream. The large selection begs for mixing and matching—thankfully, you can order a triple cup meal and dip your spoon into three different kinds of chili during a single meal.
Balancing out the restaurant's specialty bowls is a host of appetizers and burgers, as well as baked or fried chicken wings. Mindful of its obsession with heat, the menu features a seasonal watermelon salad, whose mixture of fruit and mint counteracts fiery bites better than chili served a la mode. Draft and bottled beers also cool down taste buds with sips of Blue Pants Brewery and Straight to Ale.
The staff at Dinner by Design strips mealtime of its time-consuming components by shopping, chopping, and cleaning up for you. When visitors arrive at the kitchen for a session scheduled online, they find all the fixings for fresh, healthy meals already sliced, diced, and awaiting further preparation. After donning an apron and glancing at recipe cards, customers pile the quality ingredients into complimentary containers as they chat with fellow chefs to distract them while they steal their spatula. After patrons put the finishing touches on their chosen number of entrees, each portioned to accommodate individuals or families of varied sizes, they load them into a basket or cooler from home and stow them in their freezer. Meals can later be warmed in the oven according to included instructions, which usually indicate a cooking time of about 30 minutes. For eaters in a hurry, the staff keeps a Take and Bake freezer stocked with entrees, sides, and desserts ready for pickup, or delivers them directly to dinner tables.
At Nick's Ristorante, Nick and Sherry Mikus emulate northern Italian recipes inspired by more than four decades of international traveling. In the kitchen, Chef Gerald works from a menu featuring dishes such as the Angel Hair Pasta Nicky, with shrimp, pasta, and thyme sautéed in a white-wine sauce with oregano and tomatoes. Certified Angus beef in cuts ranging from 12 to 20 ounces—voted Best Steak in North Alabama by the Alabama Cattlemen's Association—arrive with wedge salads and garlic mashed potatoes.
To allow guests to fully enjoy the flavors in these hearty Italian entrees, Nick's Ristorante's decor features oodles of elegance. Glass pendant lamps hang above the dining room from wrought-iron columns, where they cast a soft glow over the crisp black tablecloths that double as capes for hungry Batmen. Wines from around the world complement each meal, and patrons can slip into Nick's Ristorante's lounge to sample cigars from Perdomo, Victor Sinclair, and other producers.
A smattering of 20 sauces and seasonings dripping from handspun wings coats patrons' fingers as they cheer on their favorite professional sports teams broadcast on Buffalo Wild Wings' TVs. Eyes are torn between watching teams dribble a ball, shoot a puck, and land a grand jeté, and plates of plentiful wings, burgers, wraps, salads, and ribs. For more entertainment, trivia games exercise brains, and the Blazin' Challenge offers recognition for those brave enough to down a dozen wings slathered in the eatery's hottest sauce in six minutes.