Thai ~ $
3739 Bloomington St., 596-6559 arharnthai.net
Arharn, which literally translates to "food," is a Powers Boulevard gem run by owner and Bangkok native Doungsamorn "Pong" Peanvanvanich. Her menu abounds with gluten-free options, bright, crisp vegetables, floral, pore-opening spices, and generous strips of meat atop rice and noodle plates. The unique pad Thai ho kai (a great rendition of the staple, folded inside an egg purse) is a go-for dish. Start with a papaya salad or the fish cakes and end with coconut ice cream.
Bambino's Italian Eatery and Sports Bar
Italian ~ $
2849 E. Platte Ave., 630-8121 bambinospizza.com
There aren't enough pizza buffets in the world — especially pizza buffets that for $7.95 deliver meaty, Sicilian deep dish pies, light Hawaiian-esque options, and a dozen gems in between. That deal, offered daily at lunch and from 5 to 8 on Wednesday and Sunday nights, would be enough by itself to recommend Bambino's. But the Megyeri family's à la carte dishes are flavorful and hearty, too, led by the chicken Parmesan and the Flag Platter of lasagna, fettuccini Alfredo, and linguini with pesto.
Mexican/Southwestern ~ $
320 N. Circle Drive, 634-9945
Bean Bandit has been a staple Tex-Mex destination under the care of the Vasquez family for 45 years. It's outlasted a list of failed competitors as long as Bean Bandit's menu. Go-for items including the tender and rich pork-avocado burritos and the hearty, gooey chile rellenos, followed by an order of sopapillas.
Thai ~ $
1025 N. Academy Blvd., 574-3401 bhanthaico.com
There are two Bhan Thai locations in town which were formerly owned by the same people. The Centennial Boulevard location (bhanthai.net) maintains a menu almost identical to this North Academy Boulevard location and some locals are partial to one location or the other. The curries are delicious and the Pad Thai and Drunken Noodles are equally fine. Prices are competition-beaters.
Mexican/Southwestern ~ $
3659 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 598-0843
Late-night dining is often the only reason to hit the 24-hour burrito spots scattered throughout the city, but Big Burrito offers a quality that demands a visit at any time. Like the name suggests, the burritos are hefty — try the steak burrito filled with fresh guacamole and tender carne asada. In other offerings, the adobada torta is a little heavy on the chewy bread, but the marinated chopped pork sports a nice, easy burn, and the carne asada fries are like Mexican poutine.
Korean ~ $$
296 S. Academy Blvd., 591-7809
When owner E.J. Ruchalski isn't around, communication in English at E Ado can be a bit difficult, but as long as you can place an order, you won't care. The food's authentic and super-flavorful, with a wonderful, rotating array of banchan (small, shared side dishes such as kimchi varieties, cured beans and sautéed veggies in hot chili sauces) as well as delicious entrées. Start with pot stickers and get the perfectly sweet and slightly salty beef bulgogi or unctuous duck hunks, and be ready for a to-go box.
Cajun/Southern ~ $
2220 N. Academy Place, 380-7732 englishdockside.com
Thomas English and family, Alabama natives, run this standout seafood joint that pays beautiful tribute to the South. Find everything from whole crawfish, crab salad, snow crab and whole snapper to nine different Po-Boys, a superb clam chowder and Ranch Foods Direct steaks and ribs. We keep hoping our readers will rightfully vote it Best Seafood over Red Lobster one year. (We can dream, right?)
Frankie's Bar and Grill
Pub Food ~ $
945 N. Powers Blvd., 574-4881
Frankie Patton opened Frankie's Bar and Grill in 1984, long before Powers Boulevard started wearing chains. In the last 26 years, it's become a favorite hangout of Pete Field employees but also east-siders, as evidenced by 2010's Best Of win for east-side Neighborhood Bar. From the starter, sandwich and burger menu, go for Frankie's Original Slopper or the classic hot wings. When in Falcon, check out Frankie's Too.
Glad's Original Bar-B-Q
Barbecue ~ $
1510 Chiles Ave., 576-1851 gladsbbq.com
Alabama natives Grey and Marilyn Davis used to invite young soldiers into their home for food and counsel many years ago, and they've always kept one goal in mind: to bring comfort through cooking. Their affordable dinners range from $5.99 to $14.99; go for the tender barbecued ribs covered in a thick, zesty spice rub. For sides: The cabbage and collard greens are great, and you won't stumble with the extra cheesy mac 'n cheese.
Heart of Jerusalem Café
Mediterranean ~ $
4587 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 685-9554 heartofjerusalemcafe.com
This year's recipient of the Best Middle Eastern crown, Heart of Jerusalem dishes delightful fare that includes the expected falafel, gyros and shawermah, but also fun blends like the "chikofel" or "beefofel" sandwiches (a mix of those meats with falafel). The outfit also placed second for Best Hummus, and the Crisspura Fries are a lovely sandwich accompaniment. Finish with a great house-made baklava.
Jasmine Cafe Chinese Restaurant
Chinese ~ $$
6064 Stetson Hills Blvd., 591-9898
Owner David Bang apparently relocates each time his restaurant gets overrun with customers clamoring for his rich broths and clean flavors. Now out off Powers Boulevard, Bang is dishing out great Pad Thai, egg rolls, teriyaki beef and coconut-flake-battered fried shrimp, among other offerings. For liquid lovers, his wor wonton soup was named one of the Indy's favorite dishes of 2010.
Nawlins BarBQ and Seafood
Cajun/Southern ~ $$
3317 Cinema Point Drive, 571-9777 nawlinsbarbq.com
Nawlins owner Martin Allred relocated to the Springs after Hurricane Katrina and is making it work where other indies have failed, next to the IMAX theater. That's because items like his delicious alligator green chili, pecan wood-smoked barbecue and Po-Boy sandwiches have earned a following. He recently updated his menu with new items like a blackened chicken pasta, crawfish and shrimp étouffée, and Ranch Foods Direct burgers.
Orange Plate Café
Café ~ $
1825 Peterson Road, 574-2060
Orange Plate Café's claim to fame is the Bulgogi Hoagie, courtesy of owner and Korea native Ramona Burns' imagination. Think: strips of beef marinated in soy, sugar, sesame oil and garlic, then sautéed with veggies like sweet red onion and mushrooms. Then, stuff that mix in a hoagie with melted Provolone. Other yummy sandwiches include a club and a Philly cheese steak. Breakfast is served all day next to oversized coffee mugs.
German ~ $
4037 Tutt Blvd., 573-2000 schnitzelfritz.com
It can't be easy, competing against perennial powerhouse Edelweiss German Restaurant, but Schnitzel more than holds its own through quality food and perks like the daily special for $7.49 to $9.99. Mondays bring fleischkaese, spiegelei, bratkhartoffeln and salat (baked German bologna with egg and fried potatoes); while Wednesdays offer two frikadellen, kartoffelpuree und rotkohl (or two meatballs, mashed potatoes and red cabbage).
Steakhouse ~ $$$
3802 Maizeland Road, 596-9300 steaksmith.com
With 30 years of expertise in preparing perfect cuts of beef aged in-house, and offering some of the best service in the Springs, Steaksmith is a dependable winner for fine dining. Its list of awards is long, as is the menu — as long as diners plan on indulging their carnivorous side, they'll find something to please the palate.
Thai Lily Cuisine and Yakitori 8
Thai/Japanese ~ $
319 N. Chelton Road, 597-8374 thaililycuisine.com
Focusing on both Thai and Japanese yakitori, or skewered meat, Thai Lily (formerly Roungnapa) shines with time-tested family recipes. (The owners haven't changed.) Seafood lovers should try the pad phed pla muk, a combination of finely cut tender squid, bell pepper, onion and spicy Thai sauce. Poultry fans: the delicious chicken teriyaki comes in a sweet, dark sauce flecked with red chilies.
Sushi/Japanese ~ $$
975 N. Academy Blvd., 597-2422 eatattomo.com
Tomo owner John Ra isn't satisfied with running two delicious and successful sushi joints: To keep from getting bored, he recently launched a new concept called Burgers and Bowls, aimed at students downtown. If it goes the route of Tomo, it'll do fine. Both sushi locations sport fun and creative rolls like our favorite heat bomb, the Tijuana Ninja Roll. Tonkatsu boxes are a value at lunch.
Uwe's German Restaurant
German ~ $
31 Iowa Ave., 475-1611
Owners Sabine and Michael Berchtold have been sharing their family recipes with the Springs since they took over this operation 15 years ago. They please regulars with homemade, traditional German staples like a variety of schnitzel plates, rouladen, sauerbraten, smoked pork chops and more. Open for lunch and dinner, they offer a full bar including popular German beers and Rieslings.
Café ~ $
3504 N. Academy Blvd., 596-8122 wades-cafe.com
The star at Wade's is the buttermilk pancakes, made with flour specially milled just for them; they're properly light, fluffy and served with odd toppings that include peanut butter and gingerbread. The affordable breakfast and lunch spot has been around since 1953, dishing all the expected diner plates, including egg dishes, sandwiches, steaks, chops and, of course, pie.