Tony, the owner of Bandido’s Mexican Cafe, learned the tricks of the trade while working at his family’s Mexican restaurant as a teenager. Today, he and his wife own and operate three Bandido’s locations, which serve sizzling fajitas, crisp tacos, and burritos stuffed with beef, chicken, pork, or sautéed spinach. The Herald-Sun's readers praised Bandido's as the Best Mexican Restaurant in 2009, and the restaurant returns the favor by awarding individuals who finish the El Gigante burrito—a massive compilation of steak and chicken fajitas, rice, black beans, and shredded cheese—with a T-shirt and gentle pats on the back. The restaurant often hosts live entertainment, and the Durham location supplements its selection of lunch and dinner fare with a Sunday brunch menu served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Inside Russell's Steakhouse, butter oozes through the crevices in soft, flaky shells of baked sweet potatoes, dusted with cinnamon and sugar and sharing skillet space with hand-cut, certified-USDA Angus steaks, aged a minimum of 21 days. Outside of the rustic, two-story clapboard building, a wooden bench perches on the front porch, and a stone chimney and horse-headed valets recall a bygone era. The main dining area features two levels of tables and a glossy barn-dance floor that sprawls before a stage. From behind the wooden bar, replete with a wall-mounted flat-screen television, bartenders pour wines by the glass or bottle, frosty brews, and mixed drinks for thirsty diners.
Inside the large dining room of Vesuvio’s Italian Kitchen, light floods in through lofty windows over plates of steaming homemade lasagna and lobster-stuffed ravioli, carried hot from the kitchen by servers. Dark booths line a pair of walls, where a mural window looks out through curving arches onto a bright sea, dotted by sailboats and famous philosophers surfboarding. Next to the stone fireplace, rows of tables are arranged across the rustic hardwood floor, and wine and beer flow freely below the tiled awning that hangs over the bar. A range of house specialties populate the lunch and dinner menu, and an expansive salad bar supplies garden-fresh greens.
In the kitchen at Mario’s Pizza, chefs heap cheese, steak, and sun-dried tomatoes onto oversize New York–style and sicilian pizza crusts. A white pizza covered in ricotta cheese, fresh garlic, and mozzarella reminds taste buds of eating a delicious snowman, and comes in sizes ranging from 10 inches to as large as 19 inches. Baked pasta and sandwiches, such as a philly steak or veal parmigiana, round out the menu.