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.
Everyone knows there's no place like home. Which is why the owners of Steel City Pizza Company decided to bring their hometown down South with a menu of Pittsburgh-inspired eats. They fly in hoagie rolls from Cellone's Bakery—an official partner of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Pirates—to ensconce their submarine sandwiches. They have staffers roll out house-crafted pizza dough to the particular thickness they recall from their childhood memories. And they make sure their extensive selection of craft beers includes bottles and drafts from Pittsburgh's own Iron City brewery. But the eatery's Pittsburgh theme isn't its only draw; creative recipes and quality ingredients back each item on the menu. Cooks craft both pizza sauce and sweet, bubbly sodas in-house, and carefully sprinkle crusts with quality Grande cheese from Wisconsin. They also concoct original dishes such as Weggies, oven-baked sandwiches in which slices of bread, like the wheels on most pizza delivery trucks, are replaced with disks of crusty baked dough.
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.
As they enter under the hanging wood sign bearing a carving of grapes and shuffle past the gray stone and golden stucco façade, patrons at Kozani Restaurant & Bar find themselves transported to the warm kitchens and rolling vineyards of the Mediterranean. Aromas from spices imported from Italy, Greece, Israel, and Lebanon waft through the dining room, signaling the arrival of Mediterranean dishes, including recipes from head chef Tim Robinson's favored region of Emilia Romagna. While he focuses on Northern Italian dishes, the chef also consistently snares an eclectic blend of local ingredients, such as produce and seafood, and crafts gluten-free versions of every dish on the menu. He often appears on the floor to meet clientele, roaming the dining room to chat with diners and make sure their forks have the proper number of prongs. To compliment his dishes, the serving staff often pairs meals with more than 80 wines hailing from Europe, South and North America, and Australia.