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.
"It took them five years before they would let me handle the fish," says sushi chef Jo Clark about his extensive training. He began his culinary journey at 13 years old and spent a decade in an apprenticeship at the Japanese restaurant Yama. There, he honed an ability to prep rice and sauces, wield a knife, and select sushi-grade fish while shadowing chefs from different regions of Japan. In his spare time, Jo enjoys paddle-surfing and once skillfully maneuvered alongside a lively school of sharks.
At the restaurant, however, he deftly manages cuts of salmon, flounder, hamachi yellowtail, and shellfish to craft more than 40 inventive sushi rolls. He toys with the traditions of sushi, wrapping some rolls with thin slices of European cucumber and creating a sashimi pizza on a tortilla crust. The aromas of ginger, eggplant, and garlic wander from pots of Thai-style dishes in the kitchen and out into dining rooms. Though each location has distinct decor, diners mingle among elements such as exposed-brick bars, hardwood floors, and hanging Japanese paper lanterns in the exciting bright colors of a furious traffic cop viewed through a kaleidoscope.
It's not entirely surprising that filet mignon is the signature dish at Y.O. Steakhouse. What is surprising is that the meat is buffalo, and that buffalo is only one of several exotic game animals on the Y.O. Ranch. This 48,000-acre sprawl of Hill Country provides chef Tony Street with many of his popular dishes. The wild game special appetizer, for example, acts as an introduction to uncommon meats with grilled quail breasts, wild boar sausage, and venison roll-ups. For dinner, guests can order elk tenderloin in a blackberry port reduction, or venison chops with forest mushroom bread pudding. Of course, Chef Street has also mastered the ubiquitous beef steak. His rib eyes and sirloins are all USDA Prime and cut in-house, then prepped in the classic rancher's style: spiced, charred on a flattop griddle, and served to whoever wins it in a poker game. Seafood is likewise cooked with Texas flair, and ranges from red chili-rubbed salmon to chicken-fried lobster. Each entree finds a place inside a rustic yet swanky dining room, where candlelit tables sit beyond 100-year-old brick arches.
Aleyda Cardona's first restaurant was a truck. Originally intending to sell tacos and burritos across the city with her family, she had to change her plans after the engine began leaking oil on the first day. Instead, she stayed put for the next year as customers sought out her time-tested recipes, finally earning enough to purchase a new truck, and she eventually found permanent restaurant locations.
In addition to sizzling fajitas and homemade salsa, cooks also prepare innovative, Latin–inspired meals, such as a Texas–style steak dusted with garlic and cumin and grilled orders of shrimp and lobster in spicy tomato sauce. Every entree draws on hand-selected proteins, low-fat cooking oils, and produce that is delivered fresh daily, much like the restaurant's air supply.
Potent margaritas based on the family's secret recipe keep meals lively as diners converse amid turquoise walls and a dining room that mimics the feel of an outdoor patio. Leafy plants and piñatas dangle from the room's streetlamps, and backlit stained-glass windows adorn the walls alongside framed pictures.
New England–style fresh seafood items, such as smoked fish dip and lobster rolls, accompany blackened ribeye and gorgonzola chicken pasta to tables at Longboards. Inside, hanging longboards and flat-screen televisions unite in their skinniness to forge a laid-back yet entertaining setting, similar to a monk's cabin placed in the middle of a red-light district. Behind the longboard-shaped bar, a libation wizard concocts house-made juice-infused cocktails and doles out craft brews to supplement a list of 16 bottled beers such as Avery White Rascal and Stone IPA. Porters, pilsners, IPAs, and ciders further solidify the eatery's credibility as a haven for hops.
Since no surfing-styled venue would be complete without an alfresco component, Longboards also maintains an outdoor patio replete with a mini wooden walkway and a decorated Airstream. Trees, lights strung overhead, and colorful longboard murals ensconce patio denizens in an atmosphere utterly bereft of dullness.
During his more than 25 years as a culinary wizard, Andreas Kotsifos has prepared dishes in Paris, Florence, and Manhattan. But as executive chef of The Palm Beach Steak House, he draws from the cuisine of another country altogether: Greece. Though his menu isn't lacking in steak-house staples—filet mignon cooked at 1,600 degrees, Black Angus prime rib slow-roasted in a blend of special spices—there's also no shortage of classic Greek entrees. Moussaka saturates ground lamb and beef with béchamel sauce, and the dolmades entree wraps rice, beef, and herbs in grape leaves. Diners can even indulge in baklava for dessert or giant Greek lima beans for tricking uncles into thinking they're shrinking.
With its white linens and mood lighting, The Palm Beach Steak House blends elements of a trendy lounge with an upscale neighborhood bistro. Patrons typically arrive dressed in attire ranging from resort-casual slacks and shirts to highly formal penguin costumes.