Category Archives: Durham
When I hear someone talking about ramen noodles, my first thought goes to the cup of noodle stuff that my friends and I consumed when we had 10 minute breaks during high school. We called it beef water or chicken water depending on the flavor. It was fluorescent. I also ate some similar stuff in college when I was dead ass broke. The cup of noodles are made by Nissin and the other stuff by Top Ramen and neither are very good. Both of these fall under the “instant ramen” category. Instant ramen is to true ramen as what Chef Boyardee is to true Italian.
Good ramen is tough to find in North Carolina. There aren’t many restaurants whose specific focus is ramen and the dish is something that takes dedication. Chefs train for years to learn all the intricacies of ramen as portrayed in both Tampopo (1985) or The Ramen Girl (2008). It is considered an art by many foodies and there are people who make voyages just to try a new ramen place that they have heard about.
On February 20th, Whole Foods in Durham is having a Genji Ramen Night where they . If you didn’t know, Genji is the sushi bar/counter at Whole Foods on the eastern seaboard and San Francisco. They are a national company that is constantly trying to source their products from suppliers using sustainable fishing practices so not to deplete the fish population. Their goal is to contribute towards healthier food consumption habits on a global level. This is your top-of-the-line supermarket option for sushi so I have the feeling that their ramen will follow suit.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to try freshly made ramen, head over to the Whole Foods Durham on Broad Street from 6pm to 8pm and give it a taste. It is a world of difference from the instant. You can buy a bowl of ramen which has been simmering all day in the store with either shrimp tempura and roasted pork (char siu) for $4.50 per bowl but you can also bring a friend or your appetite and get BOGO ramen bowls. They use a Miso Tonkotsu Ramen in the ramen which combines two of the most popular: Tonkotsu pork broth and Miso broth If you are on-the-run, you can pick up a to-go version which you can quickly heat up within 90 seconds using hot water.
Sometimes you just get a hankering for a nice sized burger and that’s exactly what happened to me the other day. I needed beef, and I knew that one of the best places to go near RTP is William’s Gourmet Kitchen.
My friend and I got there close to noon, which was prime time for this place and it was packed! When you enter the door, you get in line and order at the counter, much like you would at a fast food restaurant. I got the bacon cheeseburger with all the fixings. My friend ordered the chicken wrap.
We had to wait for a few minutes to find a table, because every seat was taken when we first arrived. We finally lucked out and put our order number on the table. A waitress comes by to deliver your food. The burger was just what I was wishing for. It was big, juicy, and covered with a sharp cheddar cheese and a couple of nice slices of bacon, along with tomato, lettuce and onion. Of course, I had to order the sweet potato fries to go with the burger. The one problem I had with the fries was they had done them waffle style and were a bit too greasy for me. I think the waffling masked the flavor of the sweet potato because there was more surface area that was fried than they would have been if they were the more traditional stick style. Just my opinion though.
My friend loved his chicken wrap and said he would certainly order it again. It looked great, so I, of course, took a photo so you could see it for yourself.
I came back to William’s Gourmet Kitchen just two days later with another friend and this time I was in the mood for a salad, partly because I was feeling guilty about eating a big hamburger right in the middle of the holiday season when we are tempted with so many treats and goodies. So I ordered the strawberry salad and asked them to hold the blue cheese (not a fan – I know, I’m crazy, right?). I was shocked to see how large the salad was. It was filled with fresh baby greens, including a lot of baby spinach, pecans, red onions and was topped with thin slices of strawberries and drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette. This salad was divine and again was just what I needed that day.
Williams Gourmet Kitchen is also open for breakfast and dinner so you can drop by almost any time of the day and enjoy a great, inexpensive meal.
When you first enter the door at The Federal, you immediately think of the show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” This place officially qualifies as a dive. It’s small, dark and has the feeling of being an old establishment (even though it opened up in 2004). You’d never think you would be served fantastic food here, but therein lies the rub.
Located on Main Street, across from Brightleaf Square, this restaurant is easy to walk to from Duke University. You may not want to walk around in your Tarheel or Wolfpack t-shirt around here! This gastropub features 14 microbrews and has many selections of bottled beer as well. That might explain why you see a crowd around here many times in the evenings.
Once you open the menu, you immediately get the sense that this is going to be a great meal. For example, the day I went to The Federal, one of the specials was a saffron risotto served with locally grown roasted corn, Heirloom tomatoes and parmegiano reggiano. Wow. That’s not your typical bar food!
I decided to order the lentil and leek sliders. They are little veggie patties served with guacamole, a nice, fresh salsa, a little bit of romaine and the key ingredient was the curry aioli sauce. I also had melted cheddar cheese, which added a little bit of tang to the taste. It was a messy thing to eat, but tasted so good, I didn’t care that I had green sauce smeared over my face. The side of fries were a perfect accompaniment to the sliders.
My friend had the carnitas. The dish consisted of small corn tortillas and a plate full of beer braised pork that was shredded into wonderful little bites of flavor. The plate also had shredded lettuce, salsa, cilantro and guacamole. My friend had a lot of pork and lettuce left after he had eaten the tortillas, but said the leftover meat was delicious all by itself.
Most of the menu has classic bar food choices, but all of them have a twist. Want a grilled cheese? Great! You’ll get a great one here with sharp cheddar cheese, avocados, roasted tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce on Focaccia bread.
Next time I come, I hope to see Guy Fieri sitting at the bar tasting all the great food!
The Federal is located at 914 West Main Street and is open seven days a week.
The instant you walk into Beyu Caffé in downtown Durham you feel comfortable and welcome. You immediately get the idea that this is a coffee house that also offers great food. Guests choose their own table and the sound of jazz blends into the background. Contemporary artwork adorns the walls. The kitchen pass-through is large enough that you can catch a glimpse or two of the staff in the kitchen. There is a counter in the front of the restaurant where people can have a cup of coffee or eat while surfing the web or reading the paper. A couple of comfy couches are also located in the middle of the restaurant, certainly invoking the feel of a coffee house. If I had the time, I’d stay here for hours.
I have only been to Beyu Caffeé for lunch and I imagine that the look and feel of the place changes throughout the day. This place is open morning, noon and night. Of course, the center of the business is the great array of coffee, lattes, and other brewed beverages. Many people come here just for the coffee. I have tried the coffee in the past and it was superb, but coffee during the summer just doesn’t appeal in the middle of the day when the heat index is 110.
To me, though, the restaurant is the star of this place. I took a couple of work friends to Beyu Caffé to celebrate my friend’s birthday. It was a good choice! Two of us ordered the fish of the day Po’ Boy. This particular day, the fish was salmon. The salmon was a nice, thick piece, perfectly cooked so that the middle was just a little on the rare side, making the fish very moist and tender. It was topped with a spicy brown mustard, lettuce and tomato served on a Kaiser roll. You have the choice of a side salad, a cup of soup or french fries. I decided to have the house salad, which consisted of baby spinach and mixed salad greens, with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, diced red onion, strips of red and green bell peppers, and walnuts, topped with a sweet vinaigrette sauce. As a woman who is on a never ending diet, I appreciate having the choice of lighter sides to accompany my sandwich.
Our other friend had a turkey Panini with french fries. The turkey was roasted and thinly sliced and served with goat cheese and pear chutney on whole wheat bread that was grilled in a Panini press. The fries were a nice golden brown, but not over done. My friend remarked that it was tremendous. I may have to try this next time I go to the Caffé.
Since we were celebrating a birthday, this meal would not be complete without trying one of the very tempting desserts that are showcased in a display case as you first enter the building. We chose the sweet potato Frangelica cheese cake served with a drizzling of caramel. The cheese cake was luscious and decadent. It tasted almost like a sweet pumpkin pie. The hints of hazel nut were very subtle. It was topped with a little bit of whipped cream. The desserts come from some of the local bakeries, including the famous 9th Street Bakery. I always feel like a kid in a candy store when I look at the display of desserts and obsess over what I’m going to get through the whole meal!
The calamari is also an excellent choice if you are looking to start out with an appetizer. I have had this on a previous visit and the calamari were cooked to perfection. The batter was not too thick and was nice and crispy.
I certainly want to come back some time in the evening. I have heard they have live jazz on Thursday nights. They also have an extensive selection of cocktails that look quite enticing.
Beyu Caffé is located at 335 West Main Street in downtown Durham and is open Monday – Wednesday from 7am to 9pm, Thursday 7am to 11pm, Friday 7am – 12:30am and Sunday from 10am to 3pm for brunch and from 5pm to midnight for dinner.
Fullsteam Brewery is Durham is one of the hippest breweries in North Carolina right now. They are brewing great craft beer and it has been a consistent spot to find the greatest food trucks in the Triangle. The brewery has won multiple national awards for its beer and they continue to be innovators in the craft beer industry while being advocates for the North Carolina craft beer movement. Did I mention that everyone that works there are incredibly nice and welcoming? It is just a great place to hang out with friends and drink good craft beer.
The creativity of the brewers at Fullsteam is one thing that I think sets it apart from other breweries across the state and the country. I was lucky enough to get to taste a one-off adjunct ale that they made a few months ago called G’narlins brewed with red beans & rice while I had lunch at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria in Asheville. Additionally, I picked up their first bottled release, First Frost, which only had a run of 800 bottles. It was a winter warmer style winter ale brewed with hand picked persimmons from Chatham County, NC. If you can still get your hands on a bottle of this, it is well worth a high price tag. Fullsteam is even working on a way to use kudzu, a non-native, fast-growing, invasive vine that chokes out other native vegetation, which could help contain the outbreak in the southeast United States.
On July 11th, they debuted another one-off brew called Wanderlust which is a cherry imperial stout. It was a special occasion limited release because Fullsteam was selected to represent North Carolina on National Rainier Cherry Day (July 11th) for the Northwest Cherries’ Tree to Table campaign. Fullsteam was one of fifty places across the nation (49 restaurants & one brewery) which “geeked out” the brewers at Fullsteam. Each participating restaurant/brewery was sent 40 pounds of freshly picked Rainier cherries to make whatever they wanted to with them.
The timing of the selection to participate in the Northwest Cherries’ Tree To Table campaign worked out well for Fullsteam because they were in the process of brewing an imperial stout that they were about to barrel age. They set aside four kegs of the imperial stout and then blended the imperial stout with crushed Rainier cherry juice.
Traditionally, Fullsteam focuses on using Southern ingredients for their beer but they just couldn’t pass up this great opportunity to be a part of this selective campaign from Northwest Cherries. That brings us to Wanderlust which “takes us to faraway, amazing lands” like the Pacific Northwest. Wanderlust is an 8.5% ABV Cherry Imperial Stout that they served at Fullsteam starting on July 11th with a keg each day until they ran out which I have the feeling was pretty quick with the great reception that it got from Fullsteam-ers. I know that I didn’t stop with just one glass of Wanderlust.
The first 50 people that attended the debut of Wanderlust on July 11th also received Cherry Bounce hand pies which was created by Fullsteam’s “Chief Executive Optimist” Sean Wilson and local baker Ali Rudel who worked at Four & Twenty Blackbirds, the place in Brooklyn to go for the best pies. The Cherry Bounce hand pies were also made with freshly picked Rainier Cherries and a hint of bourbon. As you know from previous possts, I am not much of a dessert guy but I thought these little guys were fantastic plus the “PIE ME!” ticket was awesome, too! The pie paired very well with the Wanderlust.
I thought that Wanderlust rivaled the very sought-after Sexual Chocolate that is brewed over at Foothills Brewery in Winston-Salem. I hate that I probably won’t be able to get my hands on Wanderlust again but I have the feeling that Fullsteam will brew some equally tasty beer to please craft beer lovers like myself. I am just glad that I was able to experience Wanderlust with a bunch of other beer lovers on July 11th. It was a fun event!
I hate posting about things that you (the reader) may not be able to try but I felt that this was definitely post-worthy. If you are in Durham, you should stop into Fullsteam for a beer and dinner from whatever food truck is parked outside. Follow Fullsteam on Facebook and Twitter or check out their website to find out on what’s on tap as well as what one-off brews they have planned for the future so you don’t miss them.
This week has been unbearably hot so all I can think about is Mexican food again! My financial adviser, Kent Thompson, invited me to lunch, so we decided to try Dos Perros in downtown Durham. If you haven’t been to downtown Durham recently, you may not recognize it. The streets are lined with new restaurants, many which are quickly earning outstanding reputations as chefs make a name for themselves. Dos Perros and its executive chef, Charlie Deal, certainly falls in this category. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that I needed to try their food.
The outside is a bright sunny yellow with the logo showing two dogs (Dos Perros) and immediately looks inviting. Another great advantage to Dos Perros even before you open the door is the convenient parking. There is a large public parking lot just across the street. Parking is certainly a premium especially at lunchtime in downtown Durham.
When you first enter the door, you are greeted by the bar, which looks like somewhere a person could enjoy a few margaritas in the evening. The interior is modern and comfortable. Big Mexican blankets and contemporary artwork line the walls. The kitchen is open, so you can see the chefs working on the food.
Dos Perros boasts that most of the ingredients they buy are from local farmers, so I am eager to try a sampling of their fare. Our very friendly waiter gave us fresh tortilla chips with a tomatillo and jalapeño salsa to whet our appetite. We ordered the guacamole as an appetizer and it did not disappoint. It was creamy and chunky. It had nice sized pieces of avocado, onion, cilantro and fresh tomatoes. It was thick enough that a couple of times my tortilla broke while dipping it in the guacamole.
Kent and I decided to do a sampler of tacos and split them, so we ordered one of the beef brisket, one with chicken, one with slow roasted pork and one with fried shrimp.
The tacos come with soft tortillas, that are homemade tortillas. The taste of roasted corn is quite prominent in the tortillas. The fillings were enough for one person, but truly was not enough for more than one taco, even though they came with two tortillas a piece. However, once you add the side ingredients which included shredded cabbage, chopped onions with cilantro and the chopped tomatoes with onion and cilantro, it was enough to get by. The tacos came with a trio of salsas. The green salsa with jalapenos had a good kick to it. The red sauce was the most to my liking. It was fairly mild with a little spice to it. I was afraid to try the orange sauce which our waiter described as being smoking hot. It is made with habaneros. Sorry I do not go past the jalapeño phase!
Kent liked the shrimp the most. It had nice size pieces of fried shrimp. The breading was just the right amount. It also came with slices of cucumber and a chipotle flavored mayonnaise. I’m not the biggest fan of shrimp, but I did enjoy this taco.
My favorite was the shredded chicken. It was moist and packed with flavor. It is spiced with cilantro and lime. I also enjoyed the beef brisket, which was braised in a tomato sauce. The pork taco was good as well. It was slow roasted and cooked twice with chipotle and tomatillos.
The waiter did his best to entice us with dessert, but we did not have time to try it out. While the staff was pretty quick to get our order out, it seemed that the lunch hour flew by and we both needed to get back to work. I would most certainly like to go back to Dos Perros for dinner, especially because the menu is much bigger with really interesting descriptions, such as pan-roasted cod with a green chile, potato, chorizo, and mussel chowder or Marinated lamb carne asada with mole.
Dos Perros is located at 200 North Mangum Street and is open Monday – Friday for lunch and all days of the week for dinner.
UPDATE: After a few folks contacted us asking if the restaurant was still open, we dropped by and saw that, indeed, Screaming Coyote has bit the dust. Apparently, the owners didn’t pay their rent. Too bad, this was a great place. Here the review I wrote the beginning of July.
I guess summer means eating Mexican food for me, as I seem to be on a roll reviewing a lot of Mexican joints lately. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Screaming Coyote, another great little lunch place near RTP.
Screaming Coyote opened last year and it has quickly become a popular spot for the RTP crowd. It is owned by the same people who own Capistrano’s, a Mexican restaurant that is located in Cary near Morrisville and one in Raleigh. I actually made the mistake of trying to meet someone there after work one night recently as I had seen a table tent that mentioned margaritas and I thought it’d be nice to have a drink and catch up with this person before I went home. That’s when we found out that Screaming Coyote is only open for lunch, as are all of the restaurants in that same strip mall. We ended up having a bite at the KFC down the road. So, take note, don’t go to Screaming Coyote after work. The table tent card, by the way, was for Capistrano’s (they were cross promoting).
While RTP has many Mexican choices available these days, Screaming Coyote is the only Californian-style Mexican nearby. The dishes are made with fresh ingredients, making Mexican a little lighter than the usual fare. And just like Chubby’s, Screaming Coyote is affordable. They usually offer about three or four lunch specials for $4.50.
I decided to meet a friend for lunch there the other day and ordered the El Jefe Jr. with vegetables. This is quite a generous burrito made with caramelized onions, steamed green peppers, large slices of mushrooms and a mixture of black beans and rice. The flour tortilla was topped with a drizzle of a cumin-flavored sour cream sauce. I didn’t intend to eat the whole thing, but I just couldn’t stop! Screaming Coyote also makes its own tortilla chips, which are in paper bags that you pick up as you order. They have a variety of salsas to choose from. I tried the mild red sauce. It had a few chunks of tomato, onion and cilantro in it.
My friend ordered the taco salad with shredded beef. He said it was really wonderful and he was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. It was enough food that he couldn’t finish it all and took some home.
I have also tried the fish tacos which were good, and the price was again quite reasonable. Screaming Coyote is located at 2945 South Miami Boulevard in Durham, at the intersection of T.W. Alexander Drive and Miami Boulevard. It is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Scientists, researchers and staffers alike are delighted that another lunch place has opened up in Durham about a year and a half ago, close to Research Triangle Park. Worth It Cafe features sandwiches, burgers and wraps that are made with wholesome ingredients, with an emphasis on serving local, family-owned farms and mainly use organic items. Just about everything at this cafe is homemade, including the wonderful root chips and the sweet potato fries and pasta salad. Even the dressing is homemade. As the farm-to-table revolution continues it is nice to know at least one restaurant adjacent to the Park has adopted this philosophy.
Many of us are trying to watch our weight, and want better choices when we dine out. Most of the dining options still include burgers and fries, hotdogs and sandwiches that are high in calories and carbs. Worth It Cafe tries to give people healthier choices while still serving items that are familiar to the lunch crowd.
Chef Chuck Hayworth and his wife, Aileen, own Worth It Cafe and Chef Hayworth’s passion to provide healthy foods to people shines. You can read his bio here. They also have catering services and if you are too busy to cook a meal at night, you can order a meal by 3pm and pick it up on your way home from work anytime from 4:30 – 7pm during the weekdays.
The first time I tried this place, I ordered the lamb burger and sweet potato fries. I was served a big, juicy piece of ground lamb on a large wheat bun with roasted red peppers and a cucumber yogurt sauce, also known as tzatiki sauce. The lamb was perfect and the portion was quite generous. The sweet potato fries had the right amount of saltiness to them and were warm and tasty, though a little soggy. I would have been more satisfied if they had some more crispiness, but in all fairness, we had our meals to go, and they may have gotten soggy on the ride back to the office. I was sorry I hadn’t brought my camera along so I could show you what the burger and fries looked like.
A couple of weeks later, I decided to try the cafe again and this time I came armed with the camera. I decided to try one of the specials of the day, which was summer squash (both summer and zucchini) in a pesto sauce stuffed in a hoagie bun. OK, Worth It Cafe called this Cuban bread, but we’ve already been through what constitutes Cuban bread (See my review on the Old Havana Cafe). I know the chef trained in Miami, but I’m sorry, this is still not what I would call Cuban bread. The squash and pesto were warm and nestled snuggly in the middle of the bread. It was a perfect sandwich to have on a hot day. Today I tried the root chips, which were made of beets, sweet potatoes and probably turnips. They were great. I could feel better about eating these than some processed potato chips.
My friend had the balsamic chicken and artichoke sandwich. It was made with grilled chicken that had been marinated in balsamic vinegar and search with a sun-dried tomato pesto, provolone cheese and artichoke spread. Again the portion was quite generous and very delicious!
Worth It Cafe is located at the shopping center where the Sheetz gas station is located, on the corner of T.W. Alexander Drive and Miami Boulevard. Their address is 2945-122 S. Miami Boulevard.
I work at a nonprofit organization in RTP that is filled with postdocs, and grad students who are on a tight budget, and everyone has been telling me about Chubby’s Tacos. Recently, my husband bought a Groupon for Chubby’s, so I took the Groupon with me to work and decided to check it out. You can eat as cheaply as you’d like here. Tacos start at about $2 and the most expensive meal is about $10. In this day and age of recession, high gas prices and general tightening of the belt, this is a welcome surprise.
Chubby’s has several locations in Raleigh and Durham, but the one I ate at is off of Miami Boulevard near RTP, a mere 2.5 miles from where I work. When you first walk in, you see a large menu board and there’s a line you enter to order your food at the counter, much like a fast food restaurant. There are ample places to sit after you have ordered.
Actually, I had been to Chubby’s once before a few months ago and had the fish tacos. They were very inexpensive, but small, so I was left still feeling hungry. This time, I ordered the tofu and veggie burrito meal and was given a burrito that seemed like it could feed a small village! I could barely finish 1/2 of it! The wonderful surprise was that they used some decent vegetables in the burrito, including cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce and carrots along with a very generous portion of Mexican rice and nice, large pieces of tofu. The burrito was $6 with an added $2 for the meal, which included a side of Mexican rice, black beans and homemade tortilla chips. I was surprised by the great quality of the burrito and never expected to get freshly steamed vegetables in the burrito. Most of the time when you order a veggie burrito at a typical Mexican restaurant, you get refried beans, which are not at all healthy for you. Using my $10 Groupon the meal was free and I actually had a little bit of money to spare.
My friend, Katherine, also ordered a burrito, but she got one with chicken. The burrito was filled with chicken that has been slowly cooked and very tender. It was soaked in some kind of enchilada sauce. She said it was really tasty and very filling. She only finished a third of her burrito.
Chubby’s has a great salsa bar, with several different types of salsa. I tried two of the medium spicy ones. One was made with guacamole and had onions and just the right about of heat to make it interesting. The other was a great chunky salsa. I like to see the bits of onion, cilantro and tomato in my salsa, but it’s all about what you like. Chubby’s choices ranged from a more mild red salsa to a very hot habanero sauce.
The menu touts many of the Mexican favorites including tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, taco salads, gorditas and tortas. Don’t expect many frills here, but the food is decent and as I’ve said, easy on the pocketbook. I look forward to going again soon to try a taco salad or a quesadilla.
Chubby’s is located at 2806 S Miami Blvd in Durham. They also have locations at 748 Ninth Street in Durham, 4711 Hope Valley Road in Durham, 10511 Shadowlawn Dr. in Raleigh and 2444 Wycliff Road in Raleigh. Maybe someday soon they will open a location in Chapel Hill as well? Many students and starving artists hope they will do so!