When Dean Lavallee opened the first Park Avenue BBQ in 1988, he had one lofty mission in mind: to serve the best barbecue ever made. Despite the seemingly impossible nature of his goal, he and his team continue to rise to the challenge, dry-rubbing their meats to smoke and char-grill on-site. They use all-natural, grain-fed, domestic pork for their traditional and Carolina-style barbecue pork—pulled by hand—and only use fresh, never-frozen ribs that are smoked daily over hickory. As diners chow down on hearty homestyle sides, seafood platters, or buffalo wings tossed in one of six sauces, they can admire the dining room's pictures of their city's most prominent people, places, and robot mayors.
Park Avenue BBQ arranges their meats into fun, hearty dishes such as the Dempublican sandwich, which combines smoked pork and beef brisket separated only by cheese and bacon to create a sizeable sandwich that the team has dubbed "porkalicious". They whip up Funnybonz, which look and taste like miniature ribs, using tender, lean pork that's prepared by cooking up regular ribs beneath a shrink ray. In 2008, their dedication to each dish caused Cityvoter's users to name Park Avenue BBQ the best barbecue in town.
Cubes of marbled bleu cheese tucked beside half-moons of Spanish chorizo decorate the wooden platters that rotate around Tapas Latin Fusion's tables—as do razor-thin slices of bright red carpaccio topped with curls of arugula and roasted peppers. Heralded by TCPalm as “wonderfully focused,” the restaurant's tapas reflect artistry and adherence to traditional Spanish cuisine. The attention to detail extends to its cocktails and sangrias, which are enhanced by muddled mint leaves, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and local honey. Additionally, dining companions can enjoy occasional live music against Tapas Latin Fusion's Mediterranean backdrop, accentuated with tiled art, wrought-iron chandeliers, and shipwrecked yacht captains.
Patrons take a seat at The Chef’s Table, where husband-and-wife culinary team Adam Fatigate and Katie Groffman Fatigate appease appetites with gourmet American cuisine prepared with local ingredients. Though the menu may change based on seasonal ingredients, its offerings—such as a rack of lamb with tangerine-glazed carrots and the fish of the day—always tempt taste buds. Diners can savor midday meals Monday–Wednesday or a prix fixe dinner Thursday–Saturday, depending on the time of year or whether it's Martha Washington's birthday. Along with its indoor and outdoor dine-in options, The Chef’s Table offers prepared gourmet foods for takeout until 6:30 p.m., and stocks home fridges full of wines and artisanal cheeses, including Beecher's handmade cheese from Pike Market.
Cooks stoke brick ovens to bake specialty pizzas crowned with roasted red peppers, prosciutto, and gorgonzola cheese in the kitchen at Carmela's Brick Oven Pizza and Wine Bar. Their darting hands scatter cheese, ladle on sauce, and gently rest sheets of pasta as they craft lasagna. The murmur of conversation drifts from the high-topped tables in the dining room, where glasses clink together making the sound of a knight trying to get out of a Volkswagen. Behind a bar hewn from gleaming wood, bartenders reach up to shelves stacked high with bottles of wine, pairing vinos from the extensive list with lobster ravioli or signature white pizzas topped with mozzarella, ricotta, and garlic.
Couched within Pirate's Cove Resort & Marina, Pirate's Loft Restaurant garners fresh seafood daily to shore up its menu of sea-gotten fare. Covered outdoor seating gives diners views of the waterfront and secret seagull choir rehearsals as they dig into plates of crisp-fried fish and shrimp, bowls of shellfish-laden pasta, or specialty seafood fare. Land-faring selections include Angus beef handpicked by the chef for quality, and occasional live music invites guests onto the dance floor while also testing the acoustics of the high wooden rafters and tabletops.
With swinging wood saloon doors, hanging lamps made from cowboy hats, and local ranchers' brands seared into each tabletop, Cowboys' Bar-B-Q & Steak Co.'s three locations make visitors feel as though they've just stumbled in from the Texas lowlands. Many of founder Jim McCoin's self-devised recipes come from years of careful cooking while on the professional barbecue-competition circuit, which regularly led his team "Big Daddy Q" to victory. Wings strut across plates dressed in up to 20 sauce flavors, compelling tongues to quench thirst with 10 draft beers or Western-themed margaritas. Beverages are served in mason jars, carried past decorations such as photographs representing local ranching families. For outside eaters, Cowboys' supplies its hearty grilled fare through take-out and catering each day of the week.