Within the historic Cottage Grove Hotel--where Buster Keaton once stayed while filming "The General"--Buster's Main Street Cafe is serving up fresh-made breakfast, lunch, and dinner using local ingredients. Burgers crowned in such accouterments as bacon, cheese, and avocado are made from locally-raised, grass-fed beef sourced from Knee Deep Cattle Company. In the morning, omelets and several styles of eggs benedict reward early-risers. Later in the day, guests make way for a huge selections of drinks--the menu features hundreds of craft brews and ciders, as well as more than 200 craft sodas, including 50 varieties of root beer.
Dinners Done Right liberates families from the time-consuming task of menu-planning by offering ready-made dinner ideas and the recipes and ingredients to make them. Customers bring home and cook seasonally rotating grub packages that could include fresh seafood, pasta, or comfort-food entrees. The food factory also invites patrons to attend build-your-own meal sessions, which are more hands-on than a patty-cake tournament. A series of workstations create an in-store dinner assembly line stocked with the tools and ingredients to help create multiple meals to stock empty freezers.
Born and trained in Italy, Maurizio Paparo opened Ciao Pizza as an authentic Italian pizzeria where saucy circulars are built from the dough up, adorned with fresh ingredients, and fire-kissed in a classic wood-burning oven. More popular on plates than extreme close-ups in soap operas, the Diavola pizza dazzles tasters with bold bites of caramelized onions, roasted peppers, spicy italian sausage, and mozzarella (8-inch lunch serving, $8.25; 12-inch dinner serving, $13.95). Ciao’s lunch and dinner menus also boast bountiful salads ($4.75+), crispy calzones ($7.95+), and freshly made artisan pasta dishes served with focaccia bread ($6.95+) to deftly satisfy appetites of all sizes and astrological signs. Conduct a lunchtime fork foray into ravioli carciofi with tender artichokes and a roasted-pepper crème sauce ($7.50/regular, $10.95/large), or sample an evening selection of meat-laden lasagna classica ($13.75). Choreographed by talented pastry chef “Mama” Milka, the Excelsior cheesecake serves as a triumphant finale to a flavorful feast, topped with a red curtain of raspberry sauce ($5.75).
Ranchito Grill fills each burrito, quesadilla, and taco on its menu with authentic, homemade Mexican flavors. Each flour and corn tortilla is handmade by Ranchito Grill's grain gurus, and each table receives an order of Ranchito beans full of smoky bacon flavor and as free as a bird out on parole. South-of-the-border lunch dishes include the chorizo con huevos, traditional spiced mexican sausage scrambled with eggs, tomatoes, and green onions and served with beans and tortillas ($6.95). Adventurous diners delve into the burrito relleno, a poblano pepper stuffed with cheese, battered and fried, and rolled into a flour tortilla with rice and beans ($7.95), and up the ante by asking for Ranchito's fire sauce, a devilishly spicy condiment only served on request.
Axe & Fiddle combines local and regional libations with a straightforward menu of scrumptious pub fare within the inviting and historic Burkholder Woods Building. Chow down on multifaceted spuds with crinkle-cut chips and french-onion dip ($3.50) or garlic cheesy fries ($5) with a side of hollandaise sauce. The organic green salad sends pesticides packing with an extradition notice shaped out of carrots, cabbage, and green onions ($5). Venture across meaty plains with a quarter-pound burger crafted from Knee Deep 100% free-range and grass-fed beef bedecked in condiments, and paired with homefries ($8.50). Beans and greens—slathered in queso fresco, veggies, and served with corn tortillas ($6.50)—sit side by side in a copacetic show of mutual appreciation for each other’s craft.
A family of comfort fare chefs serves up generous portions of Dixie hospitality alongside a menu full of hard-to-find Southern dishes perfected by 72-year-old kitchen veteran Aline Austin, better known as Momma. This meal matriarch lends her culinary craftiness to from-scratch dinner entrees such as the red-beans- and rice-flanked barbecue baby back ribs, whose fall-off-the-bone sweetness is protected from wandering hound dogs by flankings of cornbread and yams. Dining duos can also opt for main plates of pork chops or brisket, each served with an array of down-home sides, pairing each dish with refreshing soda or fruit juice. Afternoon eaters who choose the second option can graze on a pulled-pork sandwich or basket of chicken strips with fries. Sides such as collard greens and fried okra are flavorful alternatives to the decorative, artificial fruits that chain restaurants serve and re-serve in an effort to cut down on operating costs.