When Ronn Teitelbaum opened the first Johnny Rockets location in 1986, his goal was to create a restaurant where people could escape the postmodern blues of everyday life and experience a taste of time-honored Americana. The name itself is a nod to this ideal—it combines the star of a classic American fable, Johnny Appleseed, and a classic car, Oldsmobile’s beefy Rocket 88. The chain now makes itself at home in America's cultural landmarks, including Yankee Stadium and the Flamingo Hotel.
During dinners at the famous burger joints, you’ll see signs of simpler times, starting with the cooks and servers—dressed head to toe in white, including white paper hats, they look like they’ve fallen out of a wormhole from the 1950s ready to sling shakes and cook up some eats. Behind a stainless-steel bar lined with red leather stools they tend to their traditional diner fare, including burgers and melts with sides such as chili-cheese fries and onion rings. Riding sidecar to each meal is a collection of hand-dipped and hand-spun floats, shakes, and malts topped with whipped cream.
The brother-sister team behind Rudino's Pizza and Grinders incorporated an onsite bakery into the restaurant's design, keeping the kitchen full of fresh, homemade dough for pizzas and sandwiches. After coating crusts with a sauce based on the duo's family recipe, cooks layer on any number of ingredients—including fresh basil, jalapeños, and bacon—as well as a blend of mozzarella and provolone cheeses that melts as beautifully as a box of crayons in a kiln. They also slide open-faced grinders into ovens after loading them with such sandwich fixings as italian sausage, salami, and fresh vegetables that are never frozen or canned. After ordering at the counter, guests can enjoy their meal at one of the many tables scattered throughout the yellow- and red-walled dining area. A mounted television broadcasts sports games, and two walls of floor-to-ceiling windows help to keep the space illuminated with enough natural light to jumpstart a solar-powered monster truck.
Japanese, Chinese, and Thai cuisines fuse together in Miso Asian Grill & Sushi Bar’s dishes. Its chefs hand roll sushi and prep entrees that are free of additives and preservatives and loaded with hand-cut seasonal vegetables. They slather eggplant with chili-garlic sauce and smother whole fried red snapper in red curry sauce before setting them to simmer atop the kitchen’s wok or grill. Elsewhere, chefs manning the sushi bar craft abundant hand and classic rolls alongside 20 specialty rolls, such as the spicy Crab Killer, which is served with a detailed description of the wanted crustacean’s likeness. Each of the chef’s creations can be served to waiting patrons in Miso’s contemporary, art-adorned dining room or on its outdoor patio, which is nestled beside a tranquil pond.
Gleaming hubcaps, old-fashioned Coke signs, and garage memorabilia decorate the walls inside The RumbleSeat Grill, creating a vintage vibe that conjures up memories of the past. The menu aims to do that, too: cooks prepare such favorites as fried catfish and meatloaf, using fresh ingredients and typically making everything from scratch. At Sunday brunch, they whip up midday treats, such as lump-crab benedict and made-from-scratch sausage gravy over biscuits, as Rumble Seat signature concoctions and classic drinks flow behind the bar. Antique cars are often parked by the entrance, extending the restaurant's automotive theme to the outdoors.
On a map, Thailand may not share any borders with Vietnam. But on the pages of Lemongrass' menu, the cuisines of the two countries are happy neighbors. Back in the kitchen, bowls of coconut milk-spiked tom kha soup simmer alongside cauldrons of noodle-rich pho, while spicy Thai curries and Vietnamese broken rice fill waiting plates. Both culinary traditions tout plenty of vegetarian options, keeping non-meat eaters appeased with sauteed dishes and stir-fries.
Cool sips of creamy green-tea frappes and thai iced coffee balance the fiery curries and delicately seasoned stir-fries at Elephant Thai Short Pump, whose chefs import their spices from Thailand each week. This touch of authenticity is palpable in the seasoned chicken, pork, and shrimp inside the kanom jeeb thai dumplings as well as in the spicy chili and garlic sauce that drowns helpings of vegetarian drunken noodles.