Celebrity Restaurateurs: Dining with the Stars

UPDATED 03/09/2011 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/09/2011 at 01:00 AM EST

Zach BRAFF

THE ACTOR MOONLIGHTS AS A MANHATTAN RESTAURATEUR

RESTAURANT Mermaid Oyster Bar

LOCATION West Village, N.Y.C.

TYPE OF CUISINE Seafood

For the record, Zach Braff never planned on going into the restaurant business. But when he heard that his high school friend Laurence Edelman was going to be the head chef at a seafood place he liked in Manhattan, the actor asked the owners, "Hey, can I invest?" Though his pal has since moved on to a different post, Braff is now hooked on his new gig. "I really love the vibe," says the bicoastal actor, who pops by the eatery at least twice a week when he's in New York. "I feel like I'm Norm from Cheers. I just chill there and hang out at the bar. It's a nice place to escape to." Plus he's ready to give his recommendations to diners-especially about the oysters. "I love seafood, but I never got into oysters until this place. We have 16 different types-which is amazing for a little restaurant," says Braff, who favors the Island Creek oysters from Cape Cod. While he is looking forward to directing a romantic comedy this year, the actor is also busy mulling his next culinary venture. "I'd love to do a burger joint in my hometown [South Orange, N.J.]. It would be very collegiate and fun." Just don't expect to see him lending a hand at the grill. "I don't cook at all," he says. "I'll do the dishes, and I make a damn good tray of ice."

MERMAID OYSTER BAR FISH TACOS

Serves 6 (2 tacos per serving)

1½ lbs. tilapia fillets

12 (6-in.) flour tortillas

1 lb. coleslaw

2 cups pico de gallo salsa

MARINADE

1 cup olive oil

Juice of one lime

12 tbsp. ancho chile powder

1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced

½ cup chopped cilantro

¼ cup chopped red onions

1 tbsp. chopped garlic

1. Cut the tilapia into 24 pieces. Place in a 13×9-in. Pyrex pan.

2. Mix marinade ingredients in bowl and pour over tilapia. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

3. In a large frying pan, sear the tilapia until slightly blackened and cooked through, about 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. Place tortillas directly on oven racks and warm for 3 minutes. Top tortillas with tilapia, coleslaw and pico de gallo salsa.

Toby KEITH

HIS CHAIN REFLECTS HIS LOVE OF MUSIC AND FOOD

RESTAURANT I Love This Bar & Grill

LOCATION Oklahoma City, Okla.

TYPE OF CUISINE Steak house

The country singer-who admits he has a glove box full of napkins for those moments "I stop and eat on the fly"-opened up the first of his national-chain restaurants in Oklahoma City precisely so he'd have a bar to come home to. Keith has also supplied concert guitars and tour souvenirs for decor. "Toby personally approved all items on the menu in a tasting," says his managing partner Ross Crain.

SOUTHWEST CREAM CORN

Serves 6

1 poblano pepper

3 strips of bacon, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 (16-oz.) package frozen whole kernel corn, thawed

12 oz. cream cheese, cubed

1 cup half-and-half

2 tbsp. all-purpose barbecue dry rub seasoning blend

1. Preheat oven to 500. Bake pepper on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet for 20 minutes or until skin looks blistered. Place pepper in a plastic freezer bag; seal and let stand 10 minutes to loosen skin. Peel pepper; remove and discard seeds. Dice pepper.

2. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat, 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp.

3. Add red pepper and onion to bacon and drippings; cook, stirring often, 4 minutes over medium heat. Stir in corn and poblano; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add cream cheese, stirring until cream cheese melts.

4. Stir in half-and-half and seasoning blend; cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat, 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened.

Gilles MARINI

A SEDUCTIVE SPANISH EATERY FROM TV'S FAVORITE LADY-CHARMER

RESTAURANT La Vida

LOCATION Los Angeles

TYPE OF CUISINE Spanish

As he digs into his favorite dish (seafood paella), the Brothers & Sisters actor, 35, admits he plays "a bit of a spy" at his restaurant. Says Marini: "My favorite part is checking out reactions of people when they're eating."

LA VIDA SANGRIA

Makes 12 cups

1 bottle chilled

Syrah wine

2 tbsp. chilled white rum

2 cups chilled orange juice

2 cups chilled grapefruit juice

3 cups chilled lemon-lime soda

1 orange, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 lime, sliced

Ice

1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a large punch bowl or pitcher and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

2. Add ice and serve.

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