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.
Brunch: That special meal reserved for the weekend, sometime between getting out of bed and actually waking up. Here are my top five choices for brunch in Raleigh, with #1 being my favorite.
After hearing great reviews about this restaurant, I had to try it. The biscuits were phenomenal, home-made from NC ingredients. Breakfast is served everyday until 3 p.m. and it gets rather crowded on the weekend. I ordered pancakes which were tasty, but not the best I’ve ever had. They have a large variety of options ranging from pancakes and french toast to omelets and breakfast sandwiches. Because this restaurant has such good reviews, I would give it another try.
I was looking for a casual Sunday brunch spot, and this restaurant seemed to have a lot of good options. I ordered strawberry pancakes and my friend ordered french toast. He finished it all before I could try it – so it must have been good! – and my pancakes were also good. Brigs has a combo deal where you can get pancakes, waffles or french toast with two eggs any style and one of their sides. While this seems like a good way to get something sweet and salty in one meal, I would not recommend it because the eggs were bland. I suggest going here if you are craving something sweet for breakfast. They have a special Eggnog french toast dish during December.
This is the place for you if you like to try a little bit, or a lot, of everything. Don’t know what you want? They have something from almost every region to satisfy your omelette craving, taste for hummus or fried chicken needs. They have a brunch buffet with made-to-order omelets and waffles, a meat carving station, pastries and fresh fruit. Brunch is about $20 per person, but luckily I had a Groupon deal that got me two brunches for the price of one. I got a waffle with strawberry syrup, an omelette with smoked salmon and spinach, a biscuit and fruit. Everything was delicious, especially the omelet and the buttery biscuit. The name “Buku” comes from a twist on the French phrase “merci beaucoup,” which means thank you very much.
Even if you’re not a fan of chicken and waffles, Beasley’s is worth checking out for Sunday brunch. This hipster-esque restaurant sits on the corner of Wilmington Street and Martin Street. Minimally decorated and maximally delicious, Beasley’s gives simple dishes a makeover – honey drizzled fried chicken, red bean rancheros and creamed collard greens are just a few of the options.
Of course, I recommend trying the chicken and waffles, but there are many other options. We split an order of the signature dish and we also got an order of “Eggs Beasley,” 2 poached eggs with creamed collard greens and grilled cornbread. The chicken was drizzled with honey, making it deliciously sweet. The flavors in the poached egg dish were quite complementary to one another. The creamed collards had a kick that I was not expecting, but the cornbread helped to soak up that flavor.
This is my top choice for brunch in Raleigh because you can taste the freshness in the ingredients and you can tell that they take pride in every dish. I ordered a smoked salmon dish, and it was very good. My sister ordered crab cake eggs Benedict, which was also tasty! I usually don’t eat hashbrowns, but these were seasoned in such a way that made them addicting. Irregardless Cafe prides itself on using local ingredients, and it is noticeable in their dishes! The restaurant even has a community garden. Not only do they serve delicious brunch, but they also have great options for lunch and dinner. There is a large selection for vegans and vegetarians, but for the carnivores, there are also plenty of meat dishes. The fresh food is complemented by live music performed by local musicians.
“Globally Inspired. Locally Produced.” That is the motto and exactly what you will find at Plates Neighborhood Kitchen, a new restaurant in the Glenwood South neighborhood near downtown Raleigh. Plates opened November 1st and you will need to make reservations if you plan to go during the weekend. The atmosphere is comfortable and welcoming. The food is elegant yet the prices are reasonable. The servers and bartenders are helpful and friendly. What more could I ask for?
I went with two friends on a Friday night and we did not have reservations but luckily there were three seats open at the bar. The bartenders were very personable and we had a great evening. I started out with a lavender julep which was carefully made and thoroughly enjoyed. For dinner I ordered a smoked salmon and leek salad with a citrus vinaigrette. I would definitely order it again!
My friend ordered chicken with grits and kale. He especially enjoyed the grits and finished every last bit. For dessert, I saw that Plates had a persimmon creme brûlée. I don’t usually eat creme brûlée but I love persimmons, so I ordered it. I also tried some port with my creme brûlée. It was a perfect dessert.
The menu changes often because Plates uses fresh ingredients that they try to source locally whenever possible. You can expect local food with an international inspiration, served by friendly people.
The menu provides just a few options which is nice because you won’t be overwhelmed with choices. Until it comes to dessert… chocolate chess pie, creme brûlée, sticky toffee pudding and cheesecake.
Check out the New Year’s dinner menu at Plates.
I hope you enjoy Plates as much as I did.
Venable Rotisserie Bistro in Carrboro takes comfort foods like chicken pot pie, ravioli and udon soup and turns them into something fabulous. I lived in Carrboro for two years and I can’t believe I didn’t try this restaurant until now. It is one of my new favorite restaurants in the Triangle. Venable is a fine dining establishment with the attitude (and price!) of a casual Carrboro restaurant. We started our meal with the chèvre salad, “local beets with hazelnuts, goat cheese, mixed greens and a sherry hazelnut dressing.”
This salad was perfect. Creamy goat cheese, sherry vinaigrette and a waffle-cut beet. The presentation was very nice but equally important is the taste, which was phenomenal. It was difficult to pick an entree, given the elaborate choices. Here are some of their options (check out the full menu here):
NORTH CAROLINA FLOUNDER – $22
Bacon-wrapped NC flounder with butternut squash purée, braised red cabbage and roasted sweet potatoes
ROOT VEGETABLE CHICKEN POT PIE – $15
Rotisserie chicken with carrot, parsnip and celery root stew topped with puff pastry crust
GRILLED SALMON – $16
Grilled Atlantic salmon with soy-ginger green beans and skillet-roasted fingerling potatoes
We went with the grilled salmon, and it ended up being a great choice. The photo above is a half-portion, but with the salad, it was just the right amount of food. We got our salmon cooked medium, as our waiter suggested. It was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. With the description of “fingerling potatoes,” I was expecting a heap of fried potato strings. I was pleasantly surprised with the healthier option of large cuts of sautéed potatoes. I would definitely get this dish again!
Bonus: Venable has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options! And check out their brunch menu…so many delicious options!