The fiery flavors at Santa Fe Mexican Grill send taste buds on an all-inclusive south-of-the-border vacation. A house specialty here is the molcajete, a bowl of lava rock filled with steak and chicken and heated to 350 degrees. Twenty-five ingredients go into its piping-hot pepper sauce, which can be soaked up by warm corn tortillas. Bartenders also mix margaritas and mojitos with fresh lime juice, and they concoct bloody marys and mimosas during Saturday and Sunday brunches.
Michael DiBianca, the James Beard Award?nominated chef behind Satsuma Asian Kitchen, curates a menu of fusion cuisine that's meant to be shared. Tables can pass around fresh sashimi with innovative accents or small plates of specialties such as oysters in green apple mignonette or Duck-Duck Disco fries loaded with pulled duck and truffle gravy. For larger appetites, there are more substantial entrees such as the coffee-braised short ribs.
Though creative cuisine is certainly a draw at Satsuma Asian Kitchen, it's not the only draw. Visitors will also find craft beer and cocktails and live music within the renovated Trolley Square destination, which formerly held Del Rose Cafe and Restaurant.
Moro Restaurant's head chef, Michael DiBianca, orchestrates a market-inspired menu of seasonal dishes, reinventing traditional recipes and creating new dishes that showcase individual ingredients. From his teen years through adulthood, Michael gained culinary experience working at produce stands, fish markets, and fine restaurants, including apprenticing with a French chef and arm-wrestling with a local seafood kingpin. Carrying on this vision, culinary crews make weekly visits to local markets in search of ingredients and inspiration, and use their findings to change menus weekly or daily. Dishes incorporate freshly imported Chilean turbot, truffles from Oregon, and sushi-grade fish from Hawaii, and the same fine fare can also grace public gatherings as part of restaurant-style catering services. An extensive wine list gathers fine libations from Italy, Australia, Argentina, and France, blending more international influences than a Twister tournament between prime ministers.
Dan Butler is a master of reinvention. Piccolina Toscana is his latest restaurant venture stationed in Trolley Square, home to beloved Italian eateries dating back 20 years. Inside an open dessert kitchen, Dan and his staff craft rich Italian specialties including biscotti, tiramisu, and spiced panna cotta with maple-syrup foam; in the regular kitchen, they prepare a rotating menu of artisanal cheeses, seasonal pasta dishes, and housemade and imported salumi. These delectable wares have proven popular and earned praise from local publications, including the News Journal and kisses on the cheek from area grandmothers.
Matt Crist, the new executive chef of Union City Grille, crafts lunches and signature dinners of handmade pastas, rich short-rib chili, and steaks seasoned with a house rub. An updated list of hand-selected wines and over 70 craft beers augment dishes that include hand-turned ricotta gnocchi and gourmet burgers. Guests can enjoy fare in the comfortable dining area, or in the eatery's cozy banquet room, accented with a modern fireplace. Sunday "choose your cut" fillet specials allow guests to feast on steaks discounted by the ounce, or pretend they are directing a film starring steaks.
Dead Presidents Pub & Restaurant, which was recently ranked one of the Best Bars in America by Esquire, pays tribute to presidential and U.S. heritage with regional pub dishes and American brews. Culinary crews build plates named for former commanders in chief, such as Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Megatron, using steak fillets, barbecued ribs, pulled pork, and seafood. An extensive roster of beers ranges from local and East Coast microbrews on tap to bottled domestic craft beers to special bottles 16 ounces or larger. The bar's softly lit rooms, wood-paneled walls, and hardwood floors provide a sleek lounge area that resounds with murmured guesses about which president was secretly a warlock on Quizzo trivia nights. The pub often celebrates its executive namesakes with special President's Day soirees, which have included costume parties and pig roasts.