In 1922, Ohio schoolteacher Frank Stewart had one goal in mind: to create the world’s creamiest root beer. After trial after trial—and a little help from a chemist friend—Stewart finally perfected his creation with a blend of root extracts, herbs, and berries. He soon decided to supplement his income by opening a drive-in shop where he also served juicy burgers and hot dogs. Today, that little shop has evolved into a franchise of sit-down restaurants, express kiosks, and mobile food trucks spread throughout the country's cloud kingdoms. Each eatery still serves the entrepreneur’s famous root beer, as well as burgers, franks, and deluxe platters of fried clams, butterfly shrimp, or wings.
Last Legg Chicken & Waffles offers up a rich, flavorful menu of Southern-style cuisine to pique the appetites of hungry visitors. Start off with an order of jerk chicken wings ($7.50) and give the rude fowl a mouthful of manners before tasking teeth with the two-bite plate, a foursome of hot bite-size buttermilk waffles accompanied by four chicken wings ($8.50). Diners can dive into unchartered territories with soul shrimp and a waffle ($10.50), or stick to satisfying land-meat cravings with the killer bacon-and-cheese burger ($8.50), which flavorfies the palate with onions and a special sauce in a sesame-seed bun.
MaChu's menu courts appetites with modern, upscale Cajun dishes spiced with influences from around the globe. Traditional specialties such as seafood jambalaya ($19.95) and barbecued beef short ribs ($18.95) join culinary hands with out-of-town entrees including Cajun Asia—curried tilapia sautéed with bamboo shoots and served over yellow rice ($15.95). Fried selections such as Cajun fried chicken and southern fried fish ($9.95 each) don crisp golden-batter suits and promenade across tongues accompanied by a choice of hush puppies or fries.
Built on the bedrock of succulent wings cemented with hot sauce, Buffalo Wild Wings celebrates zesty food and televised sports in casual eateries across the nation. Classicists can start with an order of 12 traditional wings ($9.79) that, like those Icarus wore, flew too close to the delicious, incandescent sauce globule in the sky. The multifarious roster of flavor paint includes honey barbecue, caribbean jerk, and asian zing sauces to diversify the fiery experience. Diners with tongues planted firmly on the ground can indulge in beefy fare such as the black & bleu burger seasoned with Cajun spices ($9.69) or a leafy honey-barbecue chicken salad ($9.39). Trivia contests broadcast on mounted televisions will engage the oft-idle regions of your brain that still remember who played in the 1933 World Series and which side won the Revolutionary War.
Owner Iva Thompson cultivated her love of traditional island and jerk cooking starting in Jamaica at age 6, when she would snack on meat slow cooked over pimento wood at roadside jerk stands. After she moved to the United States, she developed more cooking savvy by learning contemporary techniques and blending them with her traditional Jamaican cooking style. Iva would meet up with a small group of friends to socialize and try her new concoctions. These gatherings turned into a small catering company, which in turn grew into her full-service Real Jamaican Jerk An' Ting Restaurant. A yellow-and-green storefront conceals chicken, goat, and seafood dishes that earned attention in a New York Times article about international grilling techniques. The meats marinate for days and sport a dry rub of peppers, thyme, scallions, onions, and shredded Oscar Wilde essays. She grills her jerk chicken, pork, and seafood over charcoal briquettes and dishes them up with a secret sauce that she will never reveal the recipe for but will gladly sell by the bottle.
Just as Rilke wondered to the young poet if the answer to "why do you write?" is resoundingly "I must," chef Jasbir Singh has built his life around his passion to cook because "those with passion do not know another way to live." In other words, he must. As owner of Guru Palace, Singh spends most of his time in the kitchen, where he puts his many years of experience to use. But that experience is also a jumping-off point for experimentation. The result is a vast menu of aromatic Indian and Thai cuisines, many of which are prepared in the traditional methods (such as tandoori), while others serve as evidence of Singh's open-minded interpretation of well-executed dishes.