It’s that time of the year…college seniors are getting ready to graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives. The most important part of graduation? Where you take your family to eat, obviously. Friday night, your family arrives, hungry and ready to eat – where do you take them? Then there is Saturday lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. So much to eat in so little time!
Your family is from out of town and wants to experience something authentically southern:
Take your out-of-town family to get an authentic dish of chicken and waffles at Dame’s in Durham. Dame’s has a laid-back, casual atmosphere and a delicious selection of chicken and waffle creations, including choices of sweet potato waffles and vegan waffles.
Looking for something more elegant? If you didn’t already make a reservation, it may be hard to get into Elaine’s on Franklin, but if you can get a reservation, enjoy a refined, scratch-made meal in this Chapel Hill establishment. The menu at Elaine’s revolves around the best local ingredients available, so it is constantly changing but consistently exquisite.
The Pit serves North Carolina barbecue in a fun atmosphere, but be sure to book a reservation because this is a popular restaurant and tends to get busy on weekends. Ranging from North Carolina pork barbecue to turkey barbecue and a selection of scrumptious sides (mac and cheese, black eyed peas, sweet potato fries…the list goes on), The Pit has something for everyone.
Another good option is Watt’s Grocery in Durham, a distinctively North Carolina restaurant. With items ranging from Bourbon Brined Pork Loin to Seafood Gumbo, Watt’s serves southern food just right. The menu is limited and I have only been to Watt’s for brunch, which was fantastic. I would love to try their lunch and dinner menus as well.
Acme is another North Carolina restaurant that is good for dinner and Sunday brunch. If you go for Sunday brunch, expect a wait. The coffee cake and beignets (if they have them) are delicious ways to start out your brunch. If you are a UNC graduate, and you can’t make a reservation at a Chapel Hill restaurant, try Acme in Carrboro – you will be pleasantly surprised!
Your family is from North Carolina but you want to show them something different:
I had a great dining experience at Venable in Carrboro, serving local food since May 2012. As a relatively new restaurant, Venable is a good place to take your family if they are from North Carolina. Venable serves dinner and brunch as well as a late night menu. The Chèvre Salad and the local fish selection make for quite a tasty dinner.
Another option is Bida Manda, a fairly new Laotian restaurant in downtown Raleigh. You will need a reservation for Bida Manda; since it’s opening, Bida Manda has taken the Triangle food scene by storm. With authentic Laotian tastes and North Carolina decor, this is a perfect place for a nice dinner on Saturday night with your family.
The Lantern is an Asian fusion restaurant: Asian flavors made with North Carolina ingredients. Since its opening in 2002, Lantern and its chef/owner Andrea Reusing have won awards in “America’s Top 50 Restaurants” and “best farm-to-table restaurants” categories.
Family a little crazy? Don’t want to take them out in public?:
Sometimes, it’s easier to order in since restaurants tend to fill up quickly around graduation time. One of my favorite casual lunch restaurants in the Triangle is Neal’s Deli. Neal’s is a family business and uses local ingredients to create simple yet tasty deli sandwiches. Check out their catering menu here.
Nantucket Grill and Bar offers an expansive catering menu. However, if you decide to cater from somewhere else, you must at least order your celebratory cakes from Nantucket. The Strawberry Shortcake and Chocolate Bliss are two of my favorites. Nantucket has locations in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh.
You’ve taken your family out for lunch and dinner. Time for the best meal. Brunch:
If you can’t get into Watt’s or Acme, don’t worry – there are plenty of brunch options in the Triangle. Big Ed’s City Market is a Raleigh establishment, serving fresh local eggs and house-made hotcakes since the 1980s.
When I was a student at UNC, I loved going to Breadman’s for brunch because I could always expect a delicious pancake that was almost larger than the plate it was served on. Breadman’s is perfect for the group who can’t agree – the restaurant serves breakfast all day along with a variety of lunch options, including sandwiches, burgers and salads.
Another choice for families who can’t agree is Elmo’s Diner, with locations in Carrboro and Durham. Elmo’s makes for a good local brunch or lunch restaurant because of it’s vast options. One person from your party may order an omelette, while another orders a burger and yet another person may order a large salad or a wrap. Elmo’s is also a kid-friendly environment. However, they do not take reservations, but the wait usually goes by quickly.
If you don’t mind driving a little bit out of the way, Guglhupf Bakery and Cafe will satisfy your inner European with German-inspired delicacies. Guglhupf has a large outdoor seating area and an attached bakery, so you can take home some pastries.
Wherever you decide to take your family, enjoy this special time with them. And congratulations!
If you live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, you’ve probably passed Jessee’s a number of times, but have you ever been inside? This gem of a coffee shop has surprisingly delicious biscuits and a welcoming atmosphere. I met my friend David here for brunch a couple weeks ago and we both ordered biscuits. I got egg and cheese and David ordered egg and bacon.
If you’re not a biscuit person, the pastry case is quite tempting. I had a cinnamon roll from Jessee’s last week and it was one of the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had. Side note: for those non-biscuit lovers out there, these biscuits may just change your mind.
Jessee’s roasts their own coffee and they have four varieties packaged for you to bring home: strong, fruity, nutty and deep roast. The coffee is great, but the barista was making a mocha for someone else and it looked so good that I will definitely be getting that next time. Jessee’s serves breakfast until 4:30 and they begin serving lunch at 11:30.
There is a beautiful patio outside (not pictured) which sometimes hosts live bands. The coffee shop also participates in the 2nd Friday Art Walk. The only downside to Jessee’s is the lack of parking, but it is so worth it!
Jessee’s partners with local business such as Maple View Farm, Ninth Street Bakery and Cliff’s Meat Market. There are no frills here; Jessee’s is a place that stays true to its roots. It’s a comfortable place to study, have brunch or get a quick cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
Go get yourself a fluffy biscuit at this Carrboro staple!
Chapel Hill has many Indian restaurants to choose from, but there is one in particular that has a great weekend brunch deal. While lunch and dinner at Mint are relatively expensive, brunch is a good deal - a $12 buffet, including bottomless mimosas.
The buffet brunch, which weighs heavier on the lunch side, includes a variety of options that are both carnivore and vegetarian friendly. My favorites include the samosas, garlic naan and fried vegetables (a guilty pleasure that is oh so worth it).
The buffet starts at noon and goes until 3 p.m., making Mint a great place to meet to catch up with friends while enjoying good food and drinks – go for the food and stay for the bottomless mimosas.
A few weeks ago, my friend Liat had her birthday celebration at Kipos Greek Taverna in Chapel Hill. Owner Giorgios Bakatsias also operates Bin 54 and City Kitchen but Kipos is different from Bakatsias’ other restaurants because it reflects his family’s traditions. Kipos means “garden” in Greek and the restaurant feels like just that – a lovely indoor garden. I was equally awed by the decor as I was by the food.
I was tempted to order two or three appetizers for dinner (grape leaves and vegetable fritters with yogurt sauce, anyone?), but I went for the whole grilled fish, which was served with rice pilaf. The fish was deliciously seasoned and tender. I would definitely recommend it.
Javier ordered lamb chops, which were presented in a bowl with roasted potatoes. He liked the lamb more than the potatoes, but since these dishes are meant for sharing, others pitched in to help him finish.
The food at Kipos was authentically Greek - Bakatsias’ sister is even the pastry chef. The environment is comfortable, casual and welcoming but the food remains top notch.
As my friend Victoria wrote in IndyWeek, ”Most non-Greek palates experience Greece’s food in the form of a pita wrap stuffed with meat and heavy-handed notes of yogurt, dill and garlic. In North Carolina, it’s especially tough to find the subdued nuances of real Greek food, including vegetarian and seafood specialties. With a focus on seasonal, high quality and basic ingredients, Kipos is a welcome exception.”
Victoria is a true connoisseur of Greek food so I recommend reading her full review here.
Kipos has a large selection for vegetarians and vegans as well. The menu is reminiscent of Bakatsias’ Greek culture and includes a variety of options. I enjoyed going with a large group so I could see what everyone’s dish looked like. A few people ordered the moussaka, a traditional Greek soufflé with beef and eggplant. The dessert selection was also tempting and I will definitely be back to try the baklava.
Looking for a trophy wife or a mail-order bride? You can find both at Trophy Brewing, a small, cozy brewery and pizzeria in downtown Raleigh. According to the website, the trophy wife is “light and approachable; this beauty shows off a bright and a clean finish.” Okay, now get your mind out of the gutter. Those are beers I am talking about! I chose the Best in Show, which is an easy drinking beer with citrus undertones.
This small brewery was started by the owners of Busy Bee Cafe, who teamed up with brewer Les Stewart, to create small-batch craft beers. Trophy also offers a selection of artisan pizzas made with local ingredients. I ordered the Farmer’s Market pizza, which was full of root vegetables and goat cheese. The pizza does not normally come with goat cheese, but I highly recommend adding it. Ben ordered the Most Loyal, a pizza with roasted chicken and pesto. His also had the slightest hint of honey, which tasted surprisingly good with the pizza.
For a land-locked country surrounded by much larger countries, Laos has its own flavors. Bida Manda serves authentic Laotian food and is one of few Laotian restaurants in the U.S. Bida Manda is the Sanskrit term for father and mother; and in the spirit of family, siblings Vansana and Vanvisa Nolintha created this restaurant to honor their heritage and culture. The food takes you to another place, but the atmosphere is created from locally sourced items, such as the wooden sticks from Western North Carolina that decorates the walls.
Laotian food uses some of the same ingredients as the more familiar Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, but with more subtle flavors. Laotian food also lends itself to its French history with items such as the baguette used for sandwiches in Laos. For a more in-depth analysis of the differences between Laotian and Thai food, head over to Victoria’s Food Secrets.
I ordered the green papaya salad, one of the restaurant’s specialities. It comes with your choice of meat, fish or vegetables. I got fresh caught N.C. flounder, which was seasoned with salt, pepper and aromatic herbs. The salad tasted fresh and had some of the same ingredients as pad thai sauce, but it was lighter and the taste was more subtle.
“Differences are often subtle to the non-native palate, but generally speaking, Laotian flavors tend to be a little earthier, a little less bright than those of their neighbors,” writes Greg Fox for News & Observer.
Javier ordered the pumpkin curry, which had a variety of root vegetables. It is served with rice, which helps with the spiciness. However, we both liked my dish better. I recommend the green papaya salad for your first time at Bida Manda.
Enjoy these recipes from Bida Manda, provided by Walter Magazine:
Crispy Rice Lettuce Wrap
2 cups cooked jasmine rice
1 teaspoon curry spice
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup chopped green onion
1 tablespoon crispy fried garlic
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup crushed peanuts
Mix jasmine rice, curry, salt, and sugar in a small bowl. Mold the mixture into thick patties. Fry the patties until golden brown. In another bowl, break the patties into small pieces, and add cilantro, mint, green onion, fried garlic, peanuts, and lime juice. Toss until fully mixed. Wrap the mixture with fresh lettuce leaves.
Caramelized Ginger Ribs
1/2 rack pork ribs, sliced into individual rib pieces
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup black soy sauce
1 cup sliced fresh ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 shelled hard boiled eggs
Firmly rub the the ribs with soy sauce, black soy sauce, ginger, and brown sugar, and let the ribs marinate overnight. At medium heat, braise the ribs for three hours. Once done, strain the sauce from the ribs, add shelled, whole hard boiled eggs to the sauce, and reduce the sauce in a pan over low heat until it thickens. Add the ribs back to the sauce, remove and slice eggs, and serve together.
Read more here: http://www.waltermagazine.com/an-honest-offering-an-intrepid-brother-sister-duo-launches-raleighs-first-laotian-restaurant-with-a-lot-of-help-from-their-friends/#storylink=cpy
Carrboro is full of hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop-style bargain gems. Neal’s Deli is definitely one you don’t want to miss out on. Open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Sunday, Neal’s Deli is your casual yet eccentric go-to spot for an authentic deli sandwich.
I can’t resist a good turkey Reuben. It is the perfect item to satisfy my craving for a good deli sandwich. Neal’s Deli sources ingredients from the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. The husband and wife couple make their own pastrami and corned beef, and most of the other ingredients come from less than 50 miles away from the restaurant. You can taste the freshness with each bite. The sandwiches are carefully crafted with love. Don’t expect extra sauces or an overdose of cheese to cover up flavors here. The sandwiches are simple and delicious with just the basic ingredients.
The coleslaw is fresh and not smothered with mayo – it is just right! My friend ordered the Italian sub with hot peppers. His sandwich came with a pickled green tomato – a nice touch!
Neal’s Deli is also well-known for their “Brezel” roll, a buttered toasty pretzel roll, that is served with their hot dogs. The small deli on Greensboro Street in Carrboro has limited seating and the line may be long on weekends, but it is worth the wait!
If you’re not already grabbing your keys and coat and heading out the door, what are you waiting for?!
If you work in or near downtown Raleigh, there are so many dining options that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Let me help. Start eating at Sitti once a week. The healthy options will make you feel good about your decision to dine out, while the freshness of the meal will keep you coming back.
I am a huge fan of baba ghanouj (bah-bah guh-noosh), a dip made from roasted eggplant, olive oil, tahini and spices. Sitti’s version of this dish is garnished with pomegranate seeds and bursting with freshness. Along with the restaurant’s warm pita bread, this could be a meal!
My friend ordered the goat cheese & orange salad. It was full of fresh fruit, goat cheese and walnuts. This is what I would have ordered too, but I didn’t want to get the same thing – I wanted to be adventurous!
I ordered a falafel wrap, but the real star of this dish was the deliciously seasoned french fries. The fries are seasoned with thyme, parsley, sea salt and olive oil. Is your mouth watering too?
Now that I have eaten at Relish for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I can truly say it is delicious. Relish does southern comfort food in a way that no one else does.
Breakfast – I took my parents here for breakfast and they both enjoyed it, but we all agreed that my dish was the best. My dad got the “Southern Comfort Breakfast,” my mom got a veggie omelet and I got gingerbread pancakes. Everything was delicious, from the sweet potato biscuits to the fresh fruit cup. The gingerbread pancakes had bananas cooked into them and it was a surprisingly delicious combination.
Lunch - Relish has a bunch of options for lunch, ranging from sandwiches to grilled cheese sandwiches. They have a selection of “Mac and Cheese Skillets” that sounded delicious, but I was in the mood for a sandwich. My friend Eric got the “Alfredo Mac,” which is macaroni and cheese with blackened chicken, garlic and parmesan cheese. My other friend Edith ordered the “Black Eyed Pea Burger,” which is essentially a fried veggie burger. We all enjoyed our meal – this is a great, casual lunch place!
Dinner – If you go here for dinner, get the fried avocados as an appetizer. They are on the Tasting Menu, so hurry before they change it up. Although I hope they add this to their permanent menu! For dinner, I ordered the Strawberry Fields Salad, which had strawberries, mandarin oranges, pecans and feta cheese with poppyseed dressing. It tasted very fresh and was a good healthy option to go with the deep fried appetizer. The salad came with homemade pita-like chips which were amazing! They were golden, flaky, crunchy pieces of heaven. My friend Sallie ordered shrimp and grits, which she enjoyed as well. We both got sangrias – I got red and she got white. They were very tasty, and the white was especially sweet!
I hope you enjoy whichever meal you decide to try at Relish!
It’s brutally cold when I walk into Steel String, and after a long day I’m looking forward to a beer. Since it’s a Tuesday and 19 degrees outside, the bar is pretty much empty when I walk in. This is completely nonstandard, as most weekend nights the place is packed. Since opening up last spring they’ve managed to gain a following in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and have regular events like trivia night and live music which usually draw a crowd.
Tonight is an exception, and one that I frankly don’t mind. I pick one of the many open seats at the bar and settle in with a flight of four of their beers. Steel String currently has 10 taps, but have five for guests like Foothills, Mother Earth, or Old Mecklenburg. These are all great breweries in their own right, and work to fill in the taps that Steel String doesn’t quite have the production to cover.
One of the best things about Steel String is that they are a functioning brewery. It definitely brings a lot to the atmosphere, adding shining fermenters and the smell of steeping malts. Local art adorns the walls, and a beautiful bar counter gives the place a nice warm feeling. When it’s crowded it does seem to get smaller but overall it’s a great place to hang out, with games and music.
I sampled four of their beers, starting with their Big Mon IPA. This is a slightly heavier IPA, that lent more towards the bitter side of things than the floral. While it did have a solid West Coast citrus nose, it seemed to have more of a bitter finish than I was anticipating. This is not to say it’s a bad IPA, if anything it’s solid and easy to drink, but the finish might surprise drinkers who are used to a lighter IPA.
Next up was the Sound City Altbier. This is a nice, caramel lager with a very smooth mouthfeel. It’s clean and crisp, but again has a bit of bitterness to it that differentiates it from other lagers. The bite to it is surprisingly refreshing and definitely had me wanting another sip.
After that was the Rubber Room Rye Pale Ale. Rye beers are very divisive in the beer community, with some people hating them and some people loving them. I like a good rye myself, but prefer a full on bitter bomb with the heartiness of rye worked in. Rubber Room is a lot softer than I was anticipating, with a surprising floral aroma. However, the beer itself was overwhelmed by the rye, leading to a strange compromise of rye flavor with the lightness of a pale ale that left me intrigued, but not quite sure how much I liked it. I would have preferred a straight pale ale or straight rye, but this beer definitely has potential.
Finally, there was the winter seasonal, the Secular Non-Denominational Holiday Ale. This was by far my favorite of the four I had. This was a nice, spiced winter warmer, with a higher ABV that drove away all the cold. It was easy to drink despite high alcohol content, which is perfect for this style. I think this beer more than any shows Steel Strings potential to be successful.
It’s clear that Steel String cares about their beer. The make sure to have proper glassware, and clearly aren’t afraid to experiment. I think with more time and practice, they’ll be a fantastic brewery. The setup is there as is the passion, and once they have a few years under their belts as a commercial operation I have no doubts about their future. I’ll continue patronizing them, and I think we can expect great things down the line.