At Centro Restaurant-Lounge, the only commonality between morning and evening are the orange chandeliers dripping glass filigree toward the floor. "After 10 o'clock we move the tables to the kitchen," says manager Francisco Ibarra. Then, DJs spin furious dance beats for a crowd of partygoers. Well-stocked bars center both the lounge and outdoor patio, which is further augmented with umbrellas and cabanas.
Despite the lounge's dramatic transformation, "before 10 o'clock it's like a normal restaurant," Ibarra says. Its menu is the brainchild of Ibarra and his longtime friend, Marcos Hernandez, who began crying deeply while cutting onions alongside his mother when he was 7 years old. "Now he has a lot of authentic Mexican food talent," Ibarra says. Using Hernandez's culinary gift and Ibarra's flair for business, the two have elevated Centro's cuisine with the addition of flavorful cactus flowers, Mexican corn bread, and a steak marinade with traditional spices.
The pizza makers at Palio's Pizza Cafe crown regular, whole-wheat, and gluten-free crusts with fresh vegetables, preservative-free sauce, and roasted chicken. Chefs take the burden of putting together the best toppings with 17 specialty pizzas that pair gourmet ingredients such as artichoke hearts, roasted chicken, and fresh basil pesto. Ovens create bubbling pies, stuffed calzones, baked ziti, and italian sub sandwiches that servers carry through both chic, cozy locations. Leather-lined booths and flat-screen televisions keep diners comfortable and entertained while they enjoy Palio's BYOB policy and sip wine or Capri Sun pouches brought from home.
It’s no surprise that a submarine sandwich can get a teenage boy motivated. But for friends Tony Conza, Peter DeCarlo, and Angelo Baldassare, fresh sandwiches sated not just their growing appetites, but their entrepreneurial dreams. After failed business attempts selling pots and pans door to door and trading stocks on Wall Street, the three heard of a bustling shop in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, where sandwiches piled with freshly sliced deli meats and crisp vegetables had locals lining up out the door. With a similar business model in mind, the three opened their own shop in 1964, naming it Blimpie to evoke the blimp-like shape they planned for their overstuffed sandwiches.
Now a national chain, Blimpie stays true to the founders' original dream as staffers continue to stack sandwiches with freshly sliced meats, veggies, and dressings. Turkey, smoked pastrami, top-round roast beef, and crisp bacon crown freshly baked rolls or soft tortillas. Each of Blimpie’s stores brims with Americana-themed décor, paying homage to the company’s founders, their slice of the American dream, and the submarine sandwich that is emblazoned on every five-dollar bill.
Smashburger isn't just the name—it's the way chefs, otherwise known as Burger Smashers, cook every burger. First, they form never-frozen, 100% Certified Angus Beef into a giant meatball. Then they season it, place it on a butter-glazed grill, and smash it into a patty. The process caramelizes the beef, locking in flavor while keeping the meat juicy and tender. Each slab is then sandwiched in an artisan bun and is turned into one of an array of standard burgers or locally inspired specialties unique to each market.
This handcrafting approach typifies everything else the restaurant does, from blending handspun shakes to hand painting Smashburger's logo onto every beverage cup. Letting its food stand for itself and relying mostly on word of mouth for advertising, the Smashburger franchise expanded from one restaurant in 2007 to 220 today, with its swift growth from zero to 100 stores making it one of the nation's fastest-growing restaurant companies. This rapid development even caught the attention of Forbes and Inc. along the way.
Don’t let the cafeteria-style serving trays at Fadi's Mediterranean Grill fool you—the food on top of them “tastes gourmet,” assures the Houston Press. Fadi’s sweeping serving line of tabbouleh, hummus, and broiled lamb shank that’s “fall-off-the-bone tender” earned the paper’s award for Best Middle Eastern Restaurant in 2009 in addition to a slew of other accolades from across the state of Texas. Though guests may fill their trays with tender beef shawarma and chicken kebabs, vegetarian pitas stuffed with hot falafel and couscous salad are stars in their own right, according to Whitney Filloon of the Dallas Observer, who describes her herbivorous and omnivorous meals there as “pure gastronomical joy.” Aside from the gourmet cuisine, the eatery avoids traditional cafeteria stereotypes of sterile color schemes and abstract spork sculptures with vivid displays of Mediterranean artwork illuminated by ornate purple and red chandeliers.
Affectionately dubbed "a little piece of France" by Christina Rowland of Real Frisco, Cafe Trottoir et Patisserie transports taste buds with Parisian-style bistro fare for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch. Dishes feature simple, elegant preparations, with numerous sauces and vinaigrettes drizzled across seared tuna steaks and roasted duck breasts. Mimicking money-booth contestants, pear and goat cheese step into a salad arena, where they compete to snatch the most pecans out of a slippery shower of lavender-honey vinaigrette. The steak frites' Black Angus terres major is pan-seared with red-wine pan jus and laid on a plate of pommes frites and baby greens.
Indoor meals unfurl under brass chandeliers bearing clusters of golden lamps. In fair weather, the sun-dappled outdoor terrace surrounds tables in tall trees bookended by stucco walls and a large outdoor fireplace.