John Pappas didn’t know much English when he first arrived on American soil, but he did know the secrets of cooking excellent Greek cuisine. The native Greek passed on his recipes and expert techniques to his son Nicholas, who would go on to open his own Mediterranean restaurant—Greek City Cafe.
Deep in his restaurant’s kitchen, Nicholas and his chefs fold juicy meats and fresh vegetables into a variety of Greek-inspired paninis, wraps, and salads. They layer pitas with juicy slices of shaved lamb and beef before adding dollops of flavorful tzatziki and creamy greek dressing. To craft specialty pizzas, the chefs shower soft pita shells in mixed cheeses, diced tomatoes, and grilled chicken. When discussing these dishes with a reporter from Westchase Patch, Nicholas explained, “We take a mainstream item and put a Greek twist to it. I make them feel comfortable, but when they taste it they realize they've never experienced that flavor.”
In the casual dining room, where sunlight streams onto soft blue and green walls, guests can linger over their last bites of these inventive eats before ordering desserts such as baklava. Countertop seating surrounds a lush olive tree in the center of the room, which was imported from Greece and lives off of sunlight and Greek wine.
In its simplest form, the art of cooking can be traced back to fire and stone. FlameStone Grill relies on these elements—specifically lava stones and open-fire pits—to invest their cuisine with authentic, rustic flavor. Chefs tailor the char on each Stock Yards of Chicago Angus beef steak, aged a minimum of 28 days, to every order or slow-roast braised short ribs after massaging them with an herbal dry rub ($25.90). Specialty plates such as the mile-high meatloaf ($14.50) and pasta rustica with sautéed shrimp ($16) round out the menu, and a wine list, 150 bottles strong, contains the ideal complement to entrees, first dates, or nearly finished wine-bingo sheets.
Founded 25 years ago by Bostonian Bob Theriault, the Boston Cooker crafts definitive New England dishes from fresh seafood flown in weekly. A hearty cup of New England chowder ($2.99) or a bowl of sherry-imbued lobster bisque ($4.50) offer tasty starting points on the fish-laden menu, while shrimp and eggplant Parmesan ($12.99) delivers ample bounty from land and sea with eight grilled shrimp over eggplant steeped in marinara. A glass of house Chardonnay ($4.50) pairs well with broiled and buttery Boston Scrod ($15.99) as well as the baked stuffed flounder topped with a delicate Newburg sauce ($14.50). Patrons can imagine they're in an old New England eatery while quaffing Boston brew Samuel Adams ($3) in a wood-paneled dining room bedecked with Red Sox and Bruins banners and wall-mounted fish. Finish the meal with a rich Boston cream pie ($3.99) before protesting the tyrannical English government by throwing shiploads of Queen Elizabeth's electro-rap album into Tampa Bay.
Central Park's ingredient-stacking chefs craft a menu of amply portioned bread cocoons that span international borders. The Midtown meatball sandwich's house-made meatballs orbit a fresh-baked hoagie roll amid a nebula of marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese ($6.99), and the Pittsburgh pastrami glazes the namesake protein with spicy mustard, adding heaping strata of grilled onions and swiss cheese to its grilled rye bread ($7.29). The deli's continental comestibles include an array of wraps ($6.29–$6.99) hermetically sealed to preserve flavor, as well as a gyro whose beef and lamb blossom within its pita casing, unfurling a kaleidoscopic mixture of onion, tomato, and tzatziki sauce ($5.99). Central Park accessorizes its crusty creations with a slew of sides, such as its house-made coleslaw and potato salad ($1.79 each), evoking childhood memories of picnics and capture-the-mountain-lion tournaments.
Many of the exotic herbs and flavorful spices in the kitchen of Desi Tadka came from India, where tropical trees grow thick with curry leaves and colorful flowers blossom with saffron. The eatery's chefs fold these traditional spices into a sweeping variety of authentic Indian dishes, pulling from recipes indigenous to the province of Punjab. They stir tender morsels of chicken, lamb, and seafood into delicate curries, and garnish aromatic biryani rice dishes with sliced almonds. The chefs bake kebabs and tandoori specialties in a fiery clay oven, along with naan breads stuffed with garlic, chicken, and vegetables.
As chefs oversee the cooking in the kitchen, servers bustle about the dining room. They refill glasses of fine international wines and uncap frosty bottles of imported Indian beers. When taking orders, the servers take note of special dietary concerns, such as an aversion to spicy food or a tendency to transform into a field mouse upon eating any kind of gluten.
The chefs at Skara Mediterranean Grill never stray far from garlic, tahini, olive oil, and other quintessential Greek seasonings. Chilled dips and spreads, such as hummus and tzatziki, and warm appetizers, such as zucchini fritters, kick off meals before waiters bring out rich entrees that include grilled whole red snapper and lobster pasta. As diners sip Greek and Napa wines, they settle into the welcoming dining room, which exudes the essence of the Cyclades Greek Islands and is warmly decorated with some of Zeus's old paintings. Accents of traditional blue and white ignite the room while diners savor imported beers to complement the authentic Mediterranean dining experience.