Category Archives: Brunch

Where to Eat in the Triangle During Graduation Weekend

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.

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp & Grits

Biscuits with Jam and Butter

Biscuits with Jam and Butter

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.

Green Papaya Salad: Tomato, peanuts, spicy lime sauce, sticky rice, and your choice of: Grilled Flatiron Steak Grilled Duck Breast Grilled Ginger and Garlic Pork Neck Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Grilled Vegetables

Green Papaya Salad at Bida Manda

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.

Turkey Reuben: Turkey with Swiss, kraut and Russian on rye

Turkey Reuben at Neal’s Deli

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!


REVIEW: Jessee’s Coffee Shop – Carrboro, NC

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!

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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!

Jessee's Coffee & Bar on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Mint – Chapel Hill, NC

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).

Heavenly fried broccoli

Heavenly fried broccoli

Garlic naan

Garlic naan

 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.

Mint on Urbanspoon




REVIEW: Relish Cafe and Bar – Raleigh, NC

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.

Veggie omelet

Veggie Omelet

Southern Comfort Breakfast

Southern Comfort Breakfast

Gingerbread Pancakes

Gingerbread Pancakes

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!

Turkey Reuben IMG_2441IMG_2442

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!

Fried Avocados

Fried Avocados

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

Strawberry Fields Salad

Strawberry Fields Salad

I hope you enjoy whichever meal you decide to try at Relish!


Relish Cafe & Bar on Urbanspoon

Five Brunch Spots in Raleigh

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.

#5 State Farmer’s Market Restaurant

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.

#4 Brigs

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.




#3 Buku

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.

IMG_2435 IMG_2436

#2 Beasley’s Chicken and Honey

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.



#1 Irregardless Cafe

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.


Leos: Classic N.Y.C. Lower east side specialty dish of house cured salmon scrambled with eggs & onions. Served with toasted bagel and apple sauce. $13.00

Crab Cake Eggs Benedict: Fresh crab cake griddled and set on a toasted English muffin with poached eggs, and fresh Hollandaise sauce, served with home fries. $14.75

Crab Cake Eggs Benedict: Fresh crab cake griddled and set on a toasted English muffin with poached eggs, and fresh Hollandaise sauce, served with home fries. $14.75



State Farmer's Market Restaurant on Urbanspoon Brigs Great Beginnings on Urbanspoon Buku on Urbanspoon Beasley's Chicken & Honey on UrbanspoonIrregardless Cafe & Catering on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Plates Neighborhood Kitchen- Raleigh, NC

“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.


Plates Neighborhood Kitchen on Urbanspoon


REVIEW: Venable – Carrboro, NC

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.”

Chèvre Salad

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):

Bacon-wrapped NC flounder with butternut squash purée, braised red cabbage and roasted sweet potatoes

Rotisserie chicken with carrot, parsnip and celery root stew topped with puff pastry crust

Grilled Atlantic salmon with soy-ginger green beans and skillet-roasted fingerling potatoes

Grilled salmon

Grilled salmon

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!

I hope I’ve sold you on this wonderful restaurant! It is a great place to eat dinner before checking out a show at DSI Comedy or enjoying a local band at The Station.



Venable Rotisserie Bistro on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Guglhupf Bakery – Durham, NC

I used to drive past Guglhupf three times a week on my way to an internship. I drove past it for months before trying it because by the time I would get off work, it was closed. Once I finally went there, it became one of my favorite cafes in the Triangle area. The unmistakeable European feel will put you at ease and allow you to make new friends out of strangers. The cafe is spacious, with plenty of outdoor seating and two floors inside. The adjoining bakery emits the delicious smell of freshly baked bread out onto the patio area. If the weather allows, sit outside and enjoy a sandwich or a snack like you have no where else to be.

Guglhupf Bakery in Durham, NC

Guglhupf Bakery in Durham, NC

I visited Guglhupf before Thanksgiving to spend some quality time with my friend Liat. It has become somewhat of a tradition for us after I took her there for the first time last year. I don’t usually stray far from my favorite item on the menu, a turkey, brie and apple chutney sandwich. However, this time I got something a bit different, a turkey, grilled pear and gorgonzola sandwich. The sandwich was heavy on the turkey, but the strong flavors of arugula and gorgonzola cheese complemented the sweet, grilled pear. I still prefer the turkey, brie and apple chutney sandwich, but this one is a close second. Guglhupf also has an assortment of small plates and salads.

House-roasted turkey with a grilled pear, arugula and gorgonzola on rustic house bread

House-roasted turkey with a grilled pear, arugula and gorgonzola on rustic house bread

Liat got what she always gets – the strawberry tart. I have yet to try it because the sandwiches always fill me up. The menu is not large but there is an option for everyone, whether you are craving a hearty soup or something sweet. After, or even before, going into the cafe, check out the bakery. I dare you to walk out without trying anything.

Nutzen den tag!

Guglhupf Bakery on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: SeaGlass Cafe & Bakery – New Bern


Sea Glass Cafe & Bakery has been around in New Bern for quite a few years. It is located on Martin Luther King Blvd just off of Glenburnie. It actually moved just down the road a few years ago and the old sign is still up just off of Highway 70.  I went for brunch after a wedding last weekend and had a good experience. The staff is extremely friendly and the brunch options were pretty fantastic ranging from multiple types of omelets and eggs benedict. They are all reasonably priced and they also had a nice coffee bar which had about 10 different blends of coffee that you could choose from.



Sea Glass Cafe - Working Man's Benedict

I ordered the Working Man’s Benedict which was a four ounce steak with mushrooms and two poached eggs covered in hollandaise on top of a split English muffin. It wasn’t the greatest brunch that I’ve had but I still enjoyed it. The restaurant was packed so they had a lot going on.The English muffins weren’t crisp and the steak tasted like it was from a Golden Corral. My order came with some breakfast potatoes which could have been a little warmer but still had good flavor and I topped them with some Texas Pete for added zing. They weren’t on top of their game in the kitchen but I had a great experience there.


Brynn ordered the special which I can’t remember exactly what she ordered but it looks like it was a combination of biscuits & gravy and eggs Benedict. I am pretty sure that she liked her meal and it looks like a good hangover cure.


All in all, it was a good breakfast but not great. SeaGlass is a cool place to get together for food but I feel that our experience was only a step-up from getting the food through a drive-thru window for breakfast. I think I will probably try to stay in historic New Bern and dine down by the water next time. It may be a little bit more expensive but probably worth it.
SeaGlass Cafe and Bakery on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Battistella’s – Raleigh

Battistella’s is one of the latest addition to list of restaurants at Moore’s Square in downtown Raleigh on Martin Street.It is run by Chef Brian Battistella who previously operated Battistella’s New Orleans Kitchen out of the Crabtree Inn. He gained a strong following in the Raleigh area and decided to move to a more prominent location in downtown.

I’ve been on the lookout for some good NOLA (New Orleans, LA for those that aren’t familiar) food ever since I took a road trip down there for a long weekend bachelor party (see the post from my food adventures down there). Before that trip, the closest tastes that I got to New Orleans cuisine was out of a box at Zatarain’s or from the drive-thru window at Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits. Don’t judge me. I am making amends and thank goodness I have a place like Battistella’s to help me through the process.

Battistella’s is closed on Mondays but is open from Tuesday through Saturday (11a – 2p for lunch; 5:30p – 10:30p for dinner) and Sundays for brunch (10:30a – 3:30p). They are serving a variety of different dishes from crawfish étouffée to Louisiana Crawfish Cornbread Stuffed Georgia Quail which sounds pretty damn good. They also have a po’ boy menu with various styles including the artery-clogging  french fry with brown gravy po ‘boy which I haven’t had a chance to try yet.

I made it down to Battistella’s for the first time since it opened back in September for brunch with my buddy, Bryan. It was a bit of a cloudy day outside but we were able to sit on the sidewalk and enjoy lunch with about 20 other diners with the same idea. Luckily, we were able to snag the last remaining 2-top outside and enjoy the nice weather while getting our brunch on.

Bryan ordered the jambalaya (above) which had andouille sausage and chicken plus the trinity of 25% celery, 25% peppers and 50% onions which is commonly found in the cuisine around New Orleans and then mixed with some Cajun rice which may or may not have been Louisana popcorn rice. The stock had a lot of flavor at the bottom and made for a great spicy dish jambalaya that Bryan needed after taking down multiple PBR tallboys the night before. I tried a bite and thought it was fantastic with a subtle spiciness that didn’t overpower the taste and loved the fact that they didn’t skimp on andouille or chicken. I would definitely contemplate ordering it next time if I don’t decide not to start checking off sammies on the po’ boy menu.

I ordered the shrimp & grits because I dominated quite a few Blue Ribbons at Southland Ballroom the night before and was also looking for a spicy kick to my taste buds. I wasn’t too big of a fan of the Bloody Mary that I ordered. It was relatively small for $7 and nothing really to write home about. I think they have changed around the brunch menu from the one posted on their web site because I don’t recall any goat cheese in the dish and they raised the price of shrimp & grits to $14 instead of the $12 that is posted online.

The shrimp & grits were great. The shrimp didn’t have that rubbery texture that so many places serve these days due to overcooking them. They were crisp on the outside with a firm but not tough interior which in my mind is perfect. The grits were coarser than most of the local places that serve the dish and probably imported from NOLA as opposed to the less coarse stone-ground grits that are manufactured here. When all of that was covered in Chef Battistella’s “Holy Trinity sauce”, I think the gravy-like sauce won me over against some of the North Carolina and South Carolina style shrimp & grits that are cream based which can be too rich for my taste buds.

Battistella’s just added a barbecue shrimp po’ boy to the menu which might be the first sammy to be checked off followed quickly by the oyster po’ boy. I also saw a variety of appetizers pass by our table like the fried jambalaya balls and fried green tomatoes that looked fantastic. If you haven’t noticed, fried food is my downfall. A couple sitting beside us were partaking in coffee and beignets which could be a nice romantic morning out with your significant other. The historic aspect of the building really gives it that French Quarter feel making the ambiance that much better.

Battistella's on Urbanspoon

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