The Catfish Shack’s management team harnesses more than 40 years in restaurant experience to pack seafood, steaks, and gumbo with dense southern flavor. Entrees, including whole catfish and boneless-catfish fillets, play Marco Polo with a variety of sides, from coleslaw to mustard greens. Aged wooden tables and chairs add to the eatery's homey feeling, and a piano awaits nimble fingers and aficionados of the Silver Spoons theme song.
In woks at Bangkok Cuisine, snow peas, shrimp, napa cabbage, and scallops snap sizzling drumrolls over the stove. Ingredients indigenous to Southeast Asia mingle in traditional Thai dishes, which also draw on the culinary traditions of the country’s neighbors. Catfish fillets marinate before chefs cover them in breading and chili sauce, and shrimp, scallops, and squid evoke Thailand’s palm-tree-sprinkled coast. Chefs tailor each dish’s spiciness to individual palates, delighting daring diners with thai peppers hotter than two astronauts hugging on Mars. Fusion dishes include Chinese staples such as sweet-and-sour sauce.
Yolo Dessert Bar reanimates tired taste buds with a spectrum of stimulating sweets that are prepared fresh daily. The lineup of post-meal sweet-tooth satisfiers includes the salted caramel gelato, a glaciated artisanal cream augmented with sweet, yet savory cassonade ($3.75–$5.75). Those looking to keep their shadows slender can snag the strawberry-cake yogurt, a frozen ambrosia of fruity and saccharine tastes ($0.45 an ounce), which is just one of the many delectable low-fat options available. Yolo also serves coffee and espresso all day to accompany its array of cupcakes, tarts, and sorbets. Customers can personalize most dishes by decorating their chosen sweet with a variety of toppings or by autographing it with a permanent marker.
Chef Tony Nicholas is no stranger to celebrity. He honed his craft under Emeril Lagasse, and his restaurant briefly basked in the national spotlight when it was featured on the Travel Channel's hit series Man vs. Food Nation. But even though he flirts with fame, he's still a Mobile native at heart. The Hungry Owl's menu reflects this love for his homeland by showcasing a blend of Southern and creole classics. He stuffs the massive Tony burger with local Conecuh sausage, tops cheesy grits with shrimp from the Alabama Gulf, and infuses banana pudding with a regional favorite: MoonPies.
Every other aspect of The Hungry Owl is a celebration of local culture, as well. The spacious outdoor patio hosts performances by local bands, the taps flow with local beers, and the flatscreen TVs broadcast local sports. As if that isn't a big enough feast for the sense, there's the not-so-subtle homage to the restaurant's namesake: owls. They're everywhere—in the form of velvet paintings, abstract art, tchotchkes, and sculptures. In fact, there are so many owls that if they all decided to rotate their heads at the same time, the Earth would shift off its axis, probably.
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, grilled and deli-style hoagies are assembled and calzones and pizzas baked 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.
Watching Bamboo’s chefs prepare dishes can be as memorable an experience as eating them. The nimble cooks position themselves at tableside teppanyaki grills, slicing steak, chicken, and seafood before sizzling the morsels up on flaming grills. The sushi chefs behind the bar can be equally entertaining as they expertly assemble fresh fish into rainbows of colorful sauces, avocado, and tobiko. Meanwhile, behind the full bar, servers shake up specialty cocktails and uncap bottles of Japanese beers.
Throughout the year, the restaurant's energetic dining room features live music shows and karaoke nights. On holidays, it often plays host to spirited get-togethers, including a costume party on Halloween and a Revolutionary War reenactment on the Fourth of July.