Drive-in movies. Car hops. Rock 'n' roll. Though human nature compels us to view the past in varying shades of gold, the 1950s almost transcends nostalgia. For those who were there, the smallest of triggers can set off waves of fond memories: a ringing bell leads the mind’s eye back to the polished counter of a soda fountain, and an oldies radio station evokes weekends spent passing quarters through the jukebox slot.
On September 11, 2001, in the midst of tragedy and after 19 years as a flight attendant, Brenda Stranberg decided that she was tired of playing back memories of America’s greatest decade in her head. Looking around her at a cultural landscape that her childhood self would hardly recognize, she teamed up with old friend Naif Makol Jr. and founded Skooter’s, an old-fashioned diner and coffee shop inspired by the simple pleasures of life more than half a century ago. Though somewhat of an anachronism, the diner’s open kitchen has proven wildly popular among the various generations that frequent the sit-down counter to sample thick milk shakes, loaded hot dogs, and burgers topped with fried onions. Between bites, guests can toss coins into the antique jukebox or admonish the diner’s soda jerks for callously dousing their friends with fountain drinks.
At Nadim?s Downtown Mediterranean Grill couples and groups of friends crowd the softly-lit dining room, conversing over traditional Mediterranean appetizers or sharing hookahs on the outdoor patio. The lively scene reflects restaurateur Nadim Kashouh?s passion for celebrating Mediterranean culture and cuisine. Though Nadim spotlights Lebanese standbys such as charbroiled kebabs and heaping bowls of hummus, he also incorporates Western flourishes such as demi-glaze sauces, mashed potatoes, and deep-fried footballs. A selection of Lebanese wines and beers whets palates.
Domino’s has been decorating dough canvases with flavorful sauces, an assortment of cheeses, and high-quality toppings that range from classic to unconventional since 1960. Domino’s dough is tossed daily and stretched by human hands, not by clumsy catapults and model airplanes flying in opposite directions. Treat friends to a tasteful feast by checking the online menu and crafting a custom masterpizza with Domino's wide range of ingredients. Famished diners too starved to choose their own toppings can select from Domino’s American Legends, featuring signature flavors from throughout the land. Pizzas such as the Pacific Veggie, Honolulu Hawaiian, or Wisconsin 6 Cheese impart all the delicious diversity of a road trip without the hassle of decoding an atlas. Nonpizza fare includes pastas, sandwiches, and breadsticks.
Umi Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar's chefs sling hot meat and veggies across tableside hibachis in showy displays of culinary prowess. As chopsticks busy themselves with vegetables and fried rice, meat such as lobster and filet mignon sizzles on grills just barely out of reach. Chefs also arrange sushi rolls on beds of seaweed in ribbons of eel, red snapper, tuna, and other raw or tempura-battered seafood. Blond wood inlays and sleek glass panels encircle the dining room, whose walls are sprinkled with shadowboxes of traditional Japanese art.
Winner of more than 400 awards for its barbecue, Famous Dave’s caters to carnivores with a menu of hearty, flavorful American fare. Kick off the mouthcapades with a starter of sweetwater catfish fingers ($7.99), which pair the whiskered swimmer's cornmeal-crusted phalanges with rémoulade and jalapeño sauce, or begin by using onion strings ($6.99) to weave yourself a lightly breaded palate poncho. A 12-boned slab of St. Louis-style spareribs ($22.99), pit-smoked for three to four hours over a hickory inferno, gives sauce-slathered fingers the chance to enjoy an endless string of napkin hugs, while a Texas beef brisket sandwich ($8.49) provides a bread buffer for the benefit of tidy tasters. A sugary slate of desserts, including Dave's famous bread pudding ($5.99) with pecan praline sauce and vanilla-bean ice cream, give sweets-loving stomachs something to blog about to their gastro-friends.