When you walk into Sugar Shack Cafe, you can smell the reason why sisters Cassandra and Tracy made it on to Food Network's Cupcake Wars, not to mention why they were named the best in the area by Hampton Roads Magazine for four straight years. Buttercream, chocolate, lemon, and other scents fill the space?a small, red brick house that was once turn-of-the-century Princess Anne's post office?and put the duo's cupcakes in new hands all day. That goes double for their Twisted Sisters Cupcakes truck that makes its way through six Hampton Roads cities throughout the week.
The duo uses only fresh, whole ingredients to craft their inventive sugary treats. Though the selection rotates weekly, some of their flavors include a cookie dough-stuffed cupcake, a pink lemonade cupcake, and The Keys, a lime curd and cheesecake cupcake atop a graham cracker crust.
Back at the cafe, the lunch hour brings in customers in search of the sisters' sandwiches and snacks made with locally sourced, farm-fresh fruits and veggies. They also put together sandwich trays and cupcake towers for special occasions, such as graduations, weddings, and promotions to Megadoctor.
"Fisherman can place their orders, no matter what time during the morning. It's not abnormal for me to go up at 6 a.m. and deliver sandwiches," says Kathy Cunningham, general manager of Captain's Galley. With Kathy's own boat right there on the marina, it seems that she has never known anything different, crafting homemade mac, coleslaw, and potato salad only steps from Chesapeake Bay. But this routine started only a few years ago?Vinings Landing Marina caught wind of the popularity of Kathy's deli in town and decided to pay her a visit. "They had a space available and asked me if I'd set up shop," Kathy says. "And, well, I love boating."?
Her relocation dovetailed nicely with a full renovation that bestowed the place with new tile floors, new walls, and hardwood tables. But a big selling point for Kathy was the outdoor patio to the Marina. "Here people can pop in by car, by boat, or by foot. It's very accessible." During winter months, regular fisherman and new guests alike stop in for her lunch offerings of made-to-order deli and breakfast sandwiches; as the calendar turns to April, warmer weather welcomes acoustic Fridays and the return of the cool sun who wears sunglasses. "The menu becomes more expansive," she says. "Burgers for dinner?also tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad. I know the winter menu says just chips. But in summer, we'll roll out the fries.?
Whether settling a pool-hall bet or the question of who can finish a burger the fastest, gamers have been fueling their competitive spirits at Jillian’s of Chesapeake for more than 20 years. Balls tumble down nine lanes toward clusters of pins in the bowling alley, while players at the billiard hall’s 10 tables psyche out pool sharks by reenacting the ending to Jaws. Elsewhere, joysticks and racing wheels test hand-eye coordination on the arcade’s more than 100 video games. In between each frame, shot, or level, players can reenergize with salads, burgers, and flatbreads at the restaurant while catching up-to-the-minute sports and highlights. The facility’s private rooms and semi-private lounges further accommodate feasting guests, with bites from Jillian’s of Chesapeake’s catering menus keeping them pleasantly sated throughout their soiree.
In the dead of night in 1976, the Abi-Najm family boarded a cargo ship bringing only what they could carry; an escape from Civil War in Lebanon called for a quick getaway. They traveled across the ocean to safety in Arlington, Virginia, where they were able to open a small cafe in 1979. To save money, they changed the eatery?s name from ?Athenian Taverna? to ?Lebanese Taverna? so that they only had to update one word on the eatery?s marquee.
From these modest beginnings grew a series of eateries that today comprises of six cafes and four quick-service caf?s, all still operated by the Abi-Najm clan. One look at the menu explains the success: chicken shawarma, spicy hummus, lamb tartare?all Lebanese staples that helped the restaurant earn a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's list of 25 Iconic Eats. There's even kibbeh, or stuffed meatballs, which blend ground beef, lamb, almonds, and pine nuts into fried spheres suitable for felling miniature bowling pins on top of the table before entrees arrive. The decor is as striking as the cuisine; inside the Bethesda location, light filters through the colored glass lanterns that decorate the dining room.
The team behind Positive Vibe Café cooks toward a better tomorrow in more ways than one. Not only does the organization train individuals with disabilities for jobs in the food-service industry, but it also helps to clean up customers' lifestyles with healthy, flavorful fare. The crew—which includes professional chefs, volunteers, and trainees—steams and grills local, organic produce and meats, which go on to star in gourmet baguette sandwiches, nutritious salads, and refined dinner entrees of buffalo meatloaf and balsamic-kissed grilled salmon, served after 5 p.m or full-service catering.
Formerly the Get Lost MD Foundation, the nonprofit Positive Vibe Foundation preserves Get Lost's mission to help those with developmental and physical disabilities achieve the satisfaction of gainful employment. Helmed by Garth and Max Larcen, who shared a vision to operate a full-service restaurant that would provide both education and employment opportunities for its graduates, the foundation has patient and knowledgeable instructors who have trained more than 700 students in the skills of basic food service, cleaning, food safety, and commercial dishwashing. The instructors further each graduate's employability through lessons on communication in the workplace, interviewing, and proper job-searching techniques.
As spotlighted in the Daily Press, the confectionary skills of Bella Cakes' owner, Anna Lilly, bloomed in time to pull her family from the brink of bankruptcy. Now, with a booming business that was voted "Best of the 757" in 2013 by HamtptonRoadsMag.com, Lily leads a crew of bakers that swathes a weekly rotating cast of fluffy cakes in homemade buttercream icing and stuffs their cores with 12 creamy fillings, contributing a portion of weekly cupcake proceeds to charitable causes. In addition to freshly baked cookies, muffins, and bread, the boutique bakery specializes in wedding cakes whose dazzlingly detailed fondant exteriors and towering tiers provide ample cover for bouquet-hunting bridesmaids. Lilly also happily works with clients to design custom cakes and can even invent new flavors to suit particular palates.