For John Offerdahl, the aroma of meat sizzling on the grill stirs memories of his family's barbecues in rural Wisconsin. Even when John grew up and became a linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, he couldn't escape that enticing smell—it would waft into the stadium from fans tailgating outside and the mascots who secretly stuffed their costumes with cheeseburgers. So it was only natural that, after retiring from football, John would once again find himself at the grill when he and his wife Lynn opened Offerdahl's Cafe Grill in 2000. The couple were no strangers to the restaurant business; they had previously owned a chain of bagel shops. This venture, however, would prove more ambitious—they devised menus of classic American cuisine that could be served up fast for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a focus on fresh-grilled fare.
Today, Offerdahl's Cafe Grill has expanded to seven locations, but its flavorful, no-frills meals remain the same. "Johnny O's Famous Bagels" still take the starring roles during breakfast, waking diners up with flavors like cinnamon crumb, pumpernickel, and fruit-and-nut. But once breakfast turns to lunch and dinner, the grill takes over. Chefs swiftly cook up steak, chicken, and salmon, serving the proteins over rice, pasta, or salad with homemade dressings. They also grill chicken sandwiches and burgers, in a nod to the café's backyard barbecue roots.
Scattered pimento-like across the Boca Raton area, Mitch and Cory Shidlofsky's microcosmic Brooklyns serve teetering deli sandwiches and hearty breakfast fare. Every morning, diners tuck into 20 types of bagels, including egg, sunflower seed, pumpernickel, and marble, and slather them in cream-cheese flavors such as scallion, honey walnut, and strawberry. Sweeter options abound as well, including challah french toast, and Oreo pancakes that help children-at-heart relive their glory days when their heads were the size of cookies. Gloriously messy sandwiches star on the lunch menu—foremost among them the New Jersey sloppy joe, in which roast beef, corned beef, and turkey spill out from under russian dressing and coleslaw.
Dough disk virtuoso Domenick Delvecchio was born into the pizza business, and brings more than 30 years of restaurant experience to his authentic Italian eatery. Mouth pincers can pierce a full menu, with more than 30 varieties of wood-fired rounds, such as the classic margherita pizza ($10.95) and Anthony's Brooklyn pizza, sporting sausage, onions, roasted peppers, and dough professionally pitched back and forth over the Brooklyn Bridge for an authentic New York taste ($12.95). Entrees in other shapes, such as the lasagna ($11.95) and penne alla vodka ($13.95), remind diners of the Old Country's thriving pasta prospecting business.
The Cheese Course pampers dairy devotees with more than 150 artisanal cheeses, plus a thoughtfully constructed menu of delectable comestibles. Regional trios of cheeses ($12.95) allow connoisseurs to expand their palates without undergoing primordial tongue stretching. Nibble your way through a patriotic mélange of American cheeses that includes Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat cheese (CA), Old Chatham camembert (NY), and Pleasant Ridge Reserve (WI), or snack on a Franco-centric sampling of Sainte-Maure, camembert, and comté. Each trio comes with accoutrements such as sliced baguettes and sundried tomato pesto, but more substantial hungers can also be halted with the help of an array of sandwiches, such as an albacore white tuna melt with gruyere ($8.45), or with the greeneried goodness of a salad, such as English field greens with blue cheese, caramelized walnuts, and mustard-shallot vinaigrette ($7.95). Breakfast items, such as herb omelette baguettes ($8.45) and homemade quiche ($8.45), are served morning, noon, and night, creating a dangerous paradox of logic in which every meal is the most important of the day.
Tarantella Ristorante sends gourmet gondolas full of authentic cuisine representing all regions of Italy sailing into rumbling belly canals. The creamy bow-tie pasta of farfalle piemontese graces naked collars with tasty evening wear (lunch $9.95, dinner $13.95), and the lunch-specialty flattened chicken-parmigiana panini comes with a fresh garnish salad ($9.95). Crispy thin-crust pizzas ($10.95–$14.95), such as the mozzarella and mushroom covered funghi ($10.95), please the palates of dinner diners and double as makeshift manhole covers.