Every day at all of El Nopal’s locations, cooks whip up fresh batches of salsa, chips, and beans. The sauces and sides accent chicken or beef chimichangas, handmade tamales, and nachos smothered in cheese. All El Nopal locations offer complimentary chips and salsa with every meal, and some locations have outdoor seating areas. Performances by live bands at select locations serve as a pleasant distraction from meals, unlike a judge with highfalutin ideas about not eating in court.
Situated across from Indiana's former state capitol building, within walking distance of many unique shops, antique malls, and historic sites, Magdalena's is the perfect spot to relax and unwind while sampling savory café fare and sipping delicious java drinks. Comprised of both a full-service eatery and coffeehouse, Magdalena's boasts an extensive lunch, dinner, and drink menu. Warm up taste engines with grilled portabella mushrooms, marinated in pesto, olive oil, and garlic and topped with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and melted swiss ($8.99). Once primed, try one of Magdalena's signature sandwiches and burgers, such as the cranberry walnut chicken salad croissant ($8.99) or the Minnesota melt, a grilled burger buried in a sautéed avalanche of onion, monterey-jack cheese, and sliced jalapenos ($7.99). Dig incisor shovels into the prime-rib pasta with asparagus ($16.99), or get stuck in the greenatational pull of an herbivore-friendly dish, such as the creamy vegetable lasagna ($12.99). Arid maws can find aqueous reprive at Magdalena's Café on the Square, a coffeehouse serving up freshly brewed coffee, espresso, and specialty drinks made from 100% locally roasted Arabica coffee beans. Grab a hot, iced, or frozen brew and settle in at one of the café's cozy leather sofas, or pod-people watch on the outdoor patio, which overlooks the town square.
Joe’s OK Bayou claims to be “da best Cajun,” but there’s also a humility to the enterprise—starting with the playful name and extending to decor that alludes to a low-country shack with a sheet-metal awning and rough wooden walls. Home-style cooking comes naturally to owner Joe Wheatley, whose father farmed grain and raised hogs before opening similarly rustic restaurant The Feed Mill with other members of the family in a former feed-storage building.
Since 1995, Joe and his team have striven to introduce Louisiana flavors to a northern audience, seasoning crawfish étouffée and chicken-and-sausage gumbo with spices that are bold but not painfully hot. Visiting in 2008, the Courier-Journal’s Marty Rosen found that this mission succeeded, with “bold, accessible flavors, friendly, quick service and extremely affordable prices.” He also found oysters “big and glossy with fine, firm textures—as fresh-tasting as any I've eaten along the Louisiana or Alabama coasts” on the menu’s wide selection of simply prepared coastal creatures—fried gator tails, catfish filets, and frog legs among them. Abita beers, the star of the drinks menu, hail appropriately from Louisiana, and join wines and other domestic and imported brews at the full bar.
As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon’s piano players, explains on the club’s website, “Every night…we try and throw a party, regardless of whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night.” The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. Servers stand over patrons to plunge jello injectors into their mouths, and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 86-ounce booze buckets filled with sangria or other fruity libations. Pomegranate liqueur and honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
The owners of North End Café don't just purchase local produce: they also grow vegetables and herbs in their own garden in Simpsonville. Since April, 2003, their chefs have championed this focus on local, seasonal ingredients with a healthy approach to cooking. North End Café's menu features traditional meals from around the world, ranging from grass-fed beef burgers and flatiron steaks to grilled fish and scallops to vegetarian lasagnas, stir-fry, and cakes. For sharing, chefs build eclectic small plates such as crab cakes, fried goat-cheese ravioli, and almond-crusted brie. They also prepare a range of vegan and gluten-free dishes, taking care to avoid the pyrotechnics that result when steak and tofu touch.
To accompany these meals, bartenders pour American and international wines, and blend cocktails from fruit and old-fashioned ingredients. At the Highlands location, a brand-new tap system spouts 23 craft beers, including imperial IPAs and peppery black porters. In warmer months, the aromas of cooking and laughter of clientele also fill the Highlands location's new outdoor patio, an expansive wooden deck surrounded by leafy plants and tall, wispy trees.
Famous for their burgers, Dish on Market's chefs hand-form perfectly seasoned patties throughout the day, loaded with top-shelf fixings that include applewood-smoked bacon, housemade bourbon-barbecue sauce, and fried eggs. While the menu recommends trying the sweet-potato fries as an accompaniment to any of their burgers, they also offer a special option for those that would rather sip their side than eat it: the Bourbon and A Burger. This dish pairs a juicy cheeseburger with a shot of any of Dish on Market's bourbons priced under $6.
The rest of the enormous menu is available in the morning and afternoon, with classics such as veggie omelets and bread-pudding french toast. But the star of the breakfast menu is the Presidential Breakfast, described by the Smithsonian as an "ode to Harry Truman," a man of routine who ate this very breakfast every single day. The plate comes with everything one might need to start their day off right: an egg, toast, bacon, milk, a shot of Old Grand Dad whiskey, and the presidential nomination.