At Zarza Eclectic Cuisine, co-owner Jose Landa commits to “giving people an experience … Something that can't be found anywhere else in Spartanburg,” as he told GoUpstate.com in 2011. Under his supervision, nimble chefs do just that, melding culinary influences from South America, western Europe, and the Mediterranean into menus of pan-regional fusion cuisine. In addition to baking saffron-scented pans of paella, they also grill Argentinean chorizo and slow-cook legs of lamb in blackberry wine and herbs. An in-house Argentinean butcher personally fillets fish and carves steaks from grass-fed, Angus-certified beef.
Bordered by an exposed brick wall, the 120-seat dining room occasionally hosts live music performances, which can entertain diners as they try to differentiate their salad fork from their tuning fork.
The same love for pizza and beer that fueled three college students in 1974 transformed their lives as they expanded their business from one rundown building in Atlanta to 100 Mellow Mushroom restaurants across 15 states today. Each eatery owes its individual style to each location's being locally owned and operated, much like impressionist painters owed their individual style to their number of ears. In the kitchens, chefs assemble grilled and deli-style hoagies and bake calzones and pizzas in stone hearths using dough made with natural spring water. Though many of the restaurant's dishes have remained on the menu since its inception, the culinary crew frequently devises new, often gluten-free, dishes to keep senior-ranking pepperonis from becoming too powerful. Servers pair dishes with their location's own set of local brews, which fit into a collection of up to 100 microbrewed and imported beers on tap and in bottles. Brewers such as Bell's, Abita, and Dogfish Head are also featured in regular beer events.
Diners gather at Pier 221 Seafood Restaurant for an abundance of fresh seafood prepared in myriad ways. The broiler sizzles up everything from fork-tender salmon steaks and juicy scallops to 10-ounce cuts of rib eye served alongside a school of jumbo shrimp. Kids and adults talk across the table with mouths full of fried whole catfish, deviled crab, or the children’s menu’s chicken tenders. Fish platters appease ampler appetites with a cornucopia stuffed with flounder and crab meat, and hefty sandwiches and lunch dishes vanquish midday cravings like a fire hose extinguishing a single match.
Warm fragrances from a cornucopia of burgers and sandwiches waft from Southport Food's kitchen and twirl across the restaurant's wide-open dance floor. Kick-start idling appetites with hand-breaded, fried jalapeños ($3.49), which extinguish piquant blazes with ranch dressing like a rookie firefighter. The Moon burger raises hunger tides with the gravitational pull of two six-ounce, handmade patties on a seeded bun ($6.49), while the pimento burger pounds empty midriffs with a tag team of bacon and homemade pimento cheese that leap from three slices of toast ($6.29). The kitchen's comestible-wranglers also assemble a posse of deli sandwiches cloaked in turkey, roast beef, and ham ($4.29–$6.79). On select nights, live music prompts patrons to spring to their feet and swing dance or shake free the onion rings lodged in their cuffs.
In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” super-computer Deep Thought is asked to calculate the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything—7.5 million years later, it arrives at the answer: 42. Most scholars have rejected this as a legitimate answer to the meaning of life, except for Yogurt King’s owner, Travis Linder. It’s no coincidence that 42 is the minimum number of sugary, nutty, and fruity toppings Travis keeps stocked in his topping bar. Evidence of the number 42 as a plausible answer to The Ultimate Question is smeared all over the sticky faces of Yogurt King’s customers. They shuffle out of Yogurt King in a satisfied daze usually reserved for monks who’ve just discovered how to levitate without arm floaties. Skeptics need only venture into the ocean-blue shop and pull on one of 12 levers, each dispensing a cascade of frozen yogurt in flavors such as pink lemonade, cookie batter, and mango tango. Should their life still feel empty after strewing their frosty dish with strawberries and peaches sourced from nearby Abbott Farms, they can take satisfaction in knowing that the universe really is meaningless, and fix their gaze on one of Yogurt King’s two flat-screen televisions.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop’s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M’s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.