Saluda's Restaurant celebrates many histories. Its solid mahogany bar was part of Philadelphia's Blakely Hotel in the late 1800s, its walls sport vintage European posters advertising festive drinks, and its menu pays homage to timeless Southern staples, from shrimp and grits to artfully grilled rib eyes. Perhaps the greatest nod to the past is the building itself, which was constructed after World War I as a VFW officers club. There, veterans would gather to carouse and reminisce, fostering a convivial tradition that Saluda's has since restored and nurtured.
Executive chef Blake Fairies fuels the animated atmosphere with dishes whose down-home roots benefit from French and Italian influences. His prime concern is freshness—in an interview with Undefined magazine, he revealed how his fish du jour is often prepped the day after his friend Mark, a member of Abundant Seafood in Charleston, lures it onto his boat with promises of a free tropical time share. Like much of the kitchen's produce, chef Blake’s flash-fried green tomatoes come from local farms, and his entrees incorporate seasonal ingredients to complement ones imported from across the world. The results are plates that blend classic taste with inventive zest: steaks in black-truffle butter, helpings of handmade pasta, and pork chops brined in sweet tea. At the bar, guests can peruse more than 300 wines as well as cocktails and small-batch bourbon.
Chef Gary Langevin is so driven to create an authentic Italian dining experience that he not only breaks up Bella Napoli's menu into multiple courses, including primi and secondi piatti, but also offers, upon request, to prepare favorite dishes from Italy that are not on the menu. The Italian ambiance extends from the kitchen into the dining room, where friendly staffers tap into Italy's warm-natured culture by mingling with guests as they feast and oftentimes singing along to the live music that fills the air on Saturday evenings. On Saturday afternoons, diners feast on expertly cooked pasta dishes or tiramisu made with imported ladyfingers while learning the cuisine's native language, courtesy of workshops with Il Tavolo Italiano, in which instructors guide pupils toward mastering Italian phrases such as "The weather is beautiful" and "Clearly, the Mona Lisa was Da Vinci's most contrived piece of work.
Although few would think to pile peanut butter and bacon onto a burger, the PB3—which has both—is a favorite of Luke 'n Ollie's Pizzeria owner Jonathan Swartz and a legion of loyal customers. According to The Island Eye News, after tasting a similar creation in New Orleans, Swartz worked on his own to add to the Luke ‘n Ollie’s menu. Swartz is an expert at adding creative twists to entrees: his chicken sandwich delights tongues with teriyaki sauce and pineapple. But his pizzeria doesn’t shy away from sticking to the classics. Its pizza crusts—made New York-style by a local baker who follows Swartz’s own secret recipe—pile with mozzarella, pecorino, and fresh ingredients, and diners can bite into traditional meatball or eggplant-parmesan subs while lounging amid the dining room’s exposed brick and black-and-white tiled floor.
Guests can also dine alfresco near palm trees on the patio, where the breeze mercifully dries foreheads as their owners take on the Steak Bomb Challenge. A fan of the Food Network and its creative competitions, Swartz decided to create his own challenge: 10 ounces of philly cheesesteak, 8 ounces of hamburger, 4 ounces of italian sausage, and a quarter pound of melted mozzarella sandwiched onto an 18-inch italian sub bun, all flanked by mountains of french fries. If diners can chow it all down in under an hour, they get it for free. Although many have tried, few brave American heroes have gotten their photos tacked up on the Wall of Winners.
Before leaving, diners should remember to get their photo taken or their portrait painted with Ollie, the 5-foot dog statue on the front patio who dons anything from bathing suits to Hazmat suits to Santa hats according to the seasons.
Fox?s Pizza Den?s cooks serve up pizza dough hand-tossed in the New York style and festooned with one of 16 toppings. Gastronomes can ignite their stomach fires by ingesting flint stones or crunching into a crisp garden salad tossed with tomatoes, fresh-cut basil, and cheddar cheese. Next, feasters can bite through hearty or crispy crusts, where gooey cheese and house-made sauce merge beneath a sprinkling of fresh toppings, such as pepperoni, hot banana peppers, or pineapple. Appetizers such as breadsticks can accompany each delectable disk, arriving at tables fresh from the oven and ready to be dunked in marinara sauce or over the head of an NBA forward.
At Peppino's Pizzeria’s four locations, crafty chefs toss, embellish, and accessorize a menu's worth of pizza pies to quash appetites. Diners can pop sodas or quaff brews as large chicken caesar salads sate taste buds or a quartet of antipasto ham, capicola, mortadella, and salami serenades old-world yens. Svelte neapolitan rounds and biana disks pit handmade tomato sauce against a tripled strata of ricotta, parmigiana, and mozzarella, each armed with 18 inches of meatballs, fresh garlic, green olives, or 1 of 13 other toppings (add additional toppings for $1.95 each). Alternatively, homebound bon vivants can transport two extra-large slabs off the premises for private pie-chart comparisons. Peppino’s Pizzeria fires up its fragrant ovens seven days a week; hours vary by location.