The staff members at Muldoon's attribute their success to the craic, a term that they say describes the atmosphere of fun and fellowship often found in a true Irish pub. That laid-back vibe has paid off: Muldoon's has been crowned Best Neighborhood Bar by CityVoter for four years running. Washed down with an extensive beer selection, the hearty food menu stocks such Irish classics as shepherd's pie, Irish beef-and-potato stew with Guinness broth, and hand-breaded fried-cod fish ‘n’ chips. Chefs also prepare more local favorites, such as a classic Midwest breaded tenderloin that, in accordance with tradition, looks kind of like Abraham Lincoln's profile if you squint. Meanwhile, guests can cozy up by the fireplace to listen to live music or admire the antique cash register at the bar.
Detour gives motorists numerous reasons to pull into its casual American grill. The first is portion sizes. Menu options include overstuffed quesadillas, sandwiches and wraps nearly overflowing with ingredients, and the Under Construction, or tortilla chips topped with cheddar jack cheese, queso, sliced jalapeños, black beans, corn, lettuce, tomatoes, pico de gallo, and cilantro, all piled high to share. In addition to its abundant dishes, Detour hosts pub trivia, karaoke, live jazz music, and Pub Theology parties throughout the week to keep guests entertained as well as satisfied.
Successful cooking is largely a matter of knowing when to stick with tradition and when to innovate. At Taste of Sensu, tomato salsa adds a kiss of acidity to unorthodox lobster-tail taco. Crisp toast supports pulverized shrimp and ruby-red spicy tuna jam, time-tested sushi ingredients configured in an adventurous fashion. Chefs lace sushi rolls with attention-grabbing ingredients and textures; the Cabo Roll, for instance, combines shrimp tempura and tuna with seared beef, pickled jalapeño, and chipotle mayonnaise, and the spicy tuna roll gets its crunch from hearts of romaine lettuce. Toasting glasses in the dining room brim with sparkling sake, wines fermented on the West coast, and fruity cocktails like the air tanks of an amateur scuba diver.
In an interior that blends the aura of a club with that of a good friend’s living room, the staff at Shiraz Wine Experience and Art Cafe takes advantage of a location in Carmel’s art district. Minimalist geometric paintings reminiscent of Rothko’s work hang alongside classical portraiture on the walls. Beneath the swaths of color, patrons direct their own tasting experiences with self-serve Enomatic machines, which draw from dozens of bottles to dispense servings of 1–6 ounces of red or white wines. More than 30 domestic and international wines star on the wine list, from sweet rieslings to cabernet sauvignons to the deep red of a rebellious bull’s Camaro. Sharable plates, including baked brie with apricot compote and flatbreads topped with steak and Stilton blue cheese, fuel conversation.
Umbrellas stretch wide circles over a front patio, and both the downstairs and upstairs spaces encourage lounging with sprawling white couches and cushy chairs. Wide windows drench the interior in sunlight during the day, which gradually gives way to dusk and brings violet neon lights beneath the bar to life.
Alongside a café and wine bar, a bed and breakfast, and a wholesale producer, a bakery might be eclipsed. But it isn't the case for Scholars Inn Bakehouse, one of the myriad parcels of Scholars Inn. The bakery produces daily fresh-baked breads made entirely from scratch and formed by hand, earning praise from several publications, including a guest spot on the cover of Modern Baking magazine. Fragrant breads hewn from all-natural ingredients emerge from European stone-hearth ovens, ready to complement the café menu, sit alongside granolas and bagels, or fill in as backup footballs.