Cupcake Gallery’s pastry chefs whip up more than 30 varieties of cupcakes in flavors such as salted caramel, raspberry, and mocha. A german chocolate cake recipe—passed down through the founders’ family for more than a century—fills both cupcakes and traditional cakes, which the bakers elaborately frost to resemble cartoon characters, musical instruments, and favorite Whig Party leaders. In addition to serving smoothies and house-roasted coffee, the kitchen crew also assembles take-and-bake casseroles such as the cheesy chicken potato and Seafood Spectacular. Behind the counter, they concoct house smoothies in flavors such as banana split and piña colada and mix whole cupcakes into their signature cupcake milk shakes to create tempting combinations such as peanut butter and chocolate.
Making cupcakes from scratch with recipes you developed yourself doesn’t just attract swarms of hungry customers—it can also attract the attention of the Food Network. Kim Wood’s batches of artistic and decadent desserts landed her a spot on Cupcake Wars, where she competed with three other confection experts for the chance to be named the kitchen victor. Back in her shop, she crafts the same sweets she made on TV as well as dozens of other cupcake flavors, using only fresh, whole ingredients such as sweet-cream butter, fresh fruit, and cupcake wrappers just plucked from the garden. Her signature flavors—which include key-lime pie, italian cream cake, and chocolate mint—vary by the day, and gluten-free and vegan options are available once per week. Beyond the signature sweets, Wood keeps things interesting by modifying her cupcakes into cake balls, cake pops, and cream-filled whoopee pies.
When Mike Kantrow founded his original sandwich shop in 1979, he thought the name Byron's looked too boring. So, as he explains on his restaurant's website, he scratched the s and added a z to the end, giving birth to both a local legend with the Big Byronz sandwich and a local controversy over how to pronounce "Byronz." "If you want clarification on how to say it," Mike explains, "don't ask me."
So while regulars may fight over phonetics, few argue over the flavors infused in Bistro Byronz's southern-styled bistro cuisine. Hearty entrees anchor both the lunch and dinner menus, inviting diners to dig into the roasted potatoes that flank a French-cut pork chop marinated in Abita root beer. Comfort dishes soothe the soul, such as tender pot roast that wades in creole gravy and the signature Byronz sandwich with three types of meat, cheeses, dressing, and black olives.
Billed as "America's ice cream co-op," KaleidoScoops began doling out its signature hand-dipped ice cream at the turn of the millennium. The co-op, formed by a group of independent-minded former franchisees, now boasts several locations, reflecting the co-op's diversity with dozens of varied ice-cream flavors that include such sugarless selections as amaretto almond, chocolate mint, and coffee fudge. Customers can combine flavors in specialty sundaes and banana splits or shakes, malts, and KaleidoChill drinks. The shop's staff also creates supreme ice-cream cakes, and members of the KaleidoScoops' birthday club receive discounted cake rates and space-age party hats certified by NASA to prevent brain freeze.
Creole and Mexican culinary traditions are a natural fit for one another. Both rely on a healthy dose of spice, and both elevate comfort food. At The Oyster Bar and Grille, chefs draw on the region’s bounty of seafood as well as a range of Mexican recipes. They fill homemade tacos with hot crawfish and batter farm-raised catfish in homemade corn-meal mix. Splashes of champagne make mesquite-grilled oysters sparkle at tables in the dining room, where surfboards and lifebuoys adorn the wall. Murals of beach scenes seem to admit warming sunshine, and an aquarium lets amateur scuba divers practice looking a fish in the eye. High-top tables and stools around the full bar comfortably situate diners, who can also carry po’ boys and oysters on the half shell to the outdoor patio.
Tableside belly dancers and traditional Mediterranean dishes entertain eaters at Albasha Greek & Lebanese Restaurant. Tender, juicy lamb shanks rest atop rice pilaf and are joined by hummus and sautéed pine nuts to complete the lamb-shank plate. Thinly sliced chicken marinated in garlic, oil, and Lebanese spices populates shawarma dishes, whereas butter-broiled shrimp kabobs simmer with the flavors of garlic and lemon juice.