Category Archives: Vegetarian

REVIEW: Capital Club 16 – Raleigh, NC

I’ve driven by Capital Club 16 many times but it always looked too fancy to go for dinner without an occasion. But one of my friends had a going-away party there, so it was a good excuse to dress up and go out for dinner to “Cap Club.” We started off with the Pimento Cheese and Fig Crostinis. I am not usually a fan of Pimento Cheese but with the figs, the dish was just the right amount of creamy and smoky.

Pimento and Fig Crostinis

Pimento and Fig Crostinis

I ordered the shaved brussel sprout and frisee salad with local blue cheese and sweet potatoes. I loved the texture of the shaved brussel sprouts and the crunchy strips on top. The salad and the harvest quinoa made for a healthy and filling meal.

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

Harvest Quinoa

Harvest Quinoa

Some more adventurous eaters in our party ordered the butcher plate: grilled artisinal sausages, smoked pork chop and seared pork belly with sauerkraut, spaetzle and gravy. At $20, this dish seems like a great deal for meat eaters, however I just admired it from afar.

Butcher Plate

Butcher Plate

For dessert, we got the brownie sundae – can’t go wrong with that! Capital Club is one of Raleigh’s fine dining gems without the snobbery that can tend to go along with fine dining. Maybe it was the dynamic group I went with, or the great food, but I know I’ll be back – they have so many vegetarian options I’d like to try; the portobello grilled cheese sandwich sounds like a winner.

Dreamy Chocolate Sundae

Dreamy Chocolate Sundae

Enjoy your dining experience at “Cap Club,” and be sure to let me know your favorites.


Capital Club 16 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: Bida Manda – Raleigh, NC

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.

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:
Tomato, peanuts, spicy lime sauce, sticky rice, and your choice of meat, fish or vegetables

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.

Pumpkin Curry: With root vegetables and jasmine rice

Pumpkin Curry:
With root vegetables and jasmine rice

Bon Appetite!



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

Lettuce leaves

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.

Serves 4


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.

Serves 2


Bida Manda on Urbanspoon



REVIEW: Sitti – Raleigh, NC

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!

Baba Ghanouj – roasted eggplant whipped with tahini, garlic, yogurt and lemon juice

Baba Ghanouj – roasted eggplant whipped with tahini, garlic, yogurt and lemon juice

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!

Goat Cheese & Orange Salad – mixed greens, sliced orange, goat cheese, dates and walnuts in a lemon vinaigrette

Goat Cheese & Orange Salad – mixed greens, sliced orange, goat cheese, dates and walnuts in a lemon vinaigrette

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?

Falafel Wrap – crushed chick peas, seasoned and fried, with lettuce, tomato and tahini sauce.

Falafel Wrap – crushed chick peas, seasoned and fried, with lettuce, tomato and tahini sauce.

Sitti has a selection of appetizers, sample platters, wraps, salads, kababs and flatbreads. Take advantage of their special deals during Triangle Restaurant Week.


Happy eating!



Sitti 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: Busy Bee Cafe – Raleigh

I love a good veggie burger that is overloaded with black beans, corn, mushrooms and other vegetables. But the Busy Bee Cafe in downtown Raleigh serves a different kind of veggie burger.


Busy Bee Cafe originally opened its doors in 1913.

I had my first spinach and artichoke “burger” at Busy Bee Cafe. And it was delish!  I was expecting a messy burger but the spinach held together nicely. This was one of the freshest tasting veggie burgers I have ever had.


Spinach and artichoke “burger” with feta


Spinach and artichoke “burger” with feta

My friend got the “Tom and Jack” burger with tater tots. He enjoyed that as well. The atmosphere at Busy Bee is casual, and I would recommend eating on the rooftop. It’s not the best view of downtown, but with the nice fall weather and good food, the rooftop provides a nice setting for a casual dinner with friends. Out of the three times I have been to this restaurant, I’ve seen couples, groups of friends, families and a bachelorette party. Needless to say, Busy Bee Cafe has something for everyone. Check out their menu here:


Tom & Jack Burger: pepper jack, fried green tomato, lettuce


Review – ACME in Carrboro

ACME menu

Their menu says it all!

Usually when you think of ACME, you may think of Wylie Coyote and the Roadrunner. Remember, the coyote would order many clever devices from ACME to try to trick the roadrunner. ACME in Carrboro may have some tricks up their sleeves, but there’s no smoke and mirrors in play when it comes to the outstanding food that is served here.

ACME has had a long standing reputation as being one of the first restaurants in the area to get almost all of their ingredients locally and to serve whatever is in season. They were trend setters in the farm to fork concept.  Chef Kevin Callaghan started the restaurant in 1998 and has gained the reputation of being one of the top chefs in the Triangle.

My husband and I have taken strolls down Main Street in Carrboro many times as it is the closest town to our home in Chatham County. We would look into the window of ACME and think this was a fancy place and probably out of our price range. But we were wrong. Yes, it is an upscale dining experience, but the prices are in line with most restaurants of this caliber and we found out that they have a great special on Tuesday evenings. All the entrees are just $12.95! Should you decide to go on a Tuesday night, though, you better have reservations, because many people already know about the Tuesday special and the restaurant is quite crowded.

watermelon mojito

This watermelon mojito was a refreshing summer drink

We went out with some friends this past Tuesday to ACME to try out the cuisine. While we waited for the rest of our party to arrive, we saddled up to the bar and had one of their drink specials, which was a watermelon mojito. It was made with fresh watermelon juice, simple syrup, mint and lime and a bit of soda water. It was a cool, refreshing summer drink.

fresh tomatoes

A tomato tray appetizer celebrating summer

We ordered two appetizers for the table. The first was a tray of Heirloom tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese and a nice pesto made from fresh basil drizzled over the top. It came with a couple of deviled eggs and  the tray also featured a side of very intriguing pickled squash.  The squash was sweet and sour. We think it may have had some cloves and ginger in it. Everyone loved the plate.

chili relleno

Chili Relleno appetizer

The second appetizer was a chili relleno with a mole sauce made with chilies and chocolate. The pepper was stuffed with a shrimp and rice filling and had a light batter that was fried. Everyone at our table raved about the mole sauce. We all had to use some bread to mop up the leftovers because it was so good.

crab cakes

These were very meaty crab cakes

The entrees were also fabulous. I had the crab cakes that had been seared in a cast iron pan and were jammed full of crab and hardly any filling. They were served over a plate of swiss chard, butternut squash, sweet snap beans and corn kernels and were drizzled with a light citrus beurre blanc sauce. I savored every bite of this dish!

New York Strip Steak

New York Strip Steak

My husband had the New York Strip served over garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. The steak was tender and the mashed potatoes were rich and creamy. I could have eaten his whole plate if he had let me too!

Blackened Salmon

Blackened Salmon

One of our friends had the blackened salmon, which was served with cheesy grits. The grits were smooth and comforting. The salmon was cooked perfectly and the spices worked well with the rest of the dish. It had a tomatillo sauce served over the top of the salmon.  It also had a side of black beans, which were another great compliment to the dish.

fried chicken

Southern comfort food at its best, fried chicken and butter beans

Two of our other friends had the pecan crusted fried chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and southern butter beans. The sauce served over the top was a creamy tomato sauce and both men said the dish was really great. I didn’t try it myself, but I will take their word for it.

key lime pie

key lime pie

peach and blueberry cobbler

peach and blueberry cobbler

lemon mousse

Lemon mousse

We also decided to indulge in some dessert. One couple split the key lime pie. It was the real deal. A slice of tart key lime custard filling over a graham cracker crust. The other couple had the peach and blueberry cobbler served with some whipped cream. It was another comforting Southern dish. My husband and I split the lemon mousse with blueberries and fresh whipped cream. It was a cloudy, fluffy layer of tartness and sweetness. It was nice and light, making it a perfect ending to a tremendous meal. It was accompanied by some toasty coconut macaroons. They were a great compliment to the tartness of the mousse.

ACME is open seven days a week for dinner starting at 5:30pm. They also serve a Sunday brunch from 10am to 2pm. ACME is located in downtown Carrboro at 110 East Main Street.

Angelina’s Kitchen – Greek Food in Pittsboro, NC

outside of Angelina's Kitchen

Angelina's Kitchen in Pittsboro

 *Update on Angelina’s Kitchen: They are now open on Saturdays from 11am – 4pm and on Thursdays & Fridays until 8pm. All other hours are the same as before.

Pittsboro is a little town just west of Apex and south of Chapel Hill that is attracting lots of creative people, including some really creative chefs. One of the more recent additions to the area is Angelina’s Kitchen.  Angelina Koulizakis-Battiste believes in using local produce and that is easily accomplished in Chatham County, which has a plethora of small, organic, sustainable farms. Angelina’s Kitchen serves Greek food and is just starting to also offer some Mexican dishes.

Angelina uses ingredients that are in season, so the menu changes accordingly.  This is the way people eat in Europe – using food from local sources, everything is fresh and wholesome. Much like her friend and fellow chef, Donna Bianco, Angelina is a good friend to many of the area farmers. Chatham County is mainly rural and is full of smaller, organic farmers, so most of the ingredients Angelina needs are available within a very short drive.

ordering at Angelinas Kitchen

Friendly staff will greet you at the counter at Angelina's Kitchen

When you come to Angelina’s you will be greeted by a smile and will immediately feel the warmth of the people who work here.  Don’t expect a fancy atmosphere. There are not cloth tables and candles here, but it is a pleasant place to eat and to meet people from good ‘ole PBO.  The menu changes daily, so it’s best to check the website to see what is on special.

Some of my favorite dishes include the spanakopita, a filo pastry filled with spinach, eggs, herbs and feta cheese.  This dish is served with a side of local greens or a cup of soup. Another favorite of mine is the Greek salad. Angelina uses greens picked from local farmers, fresh, plump red tomatoes, zesty red onions, kalamata olives and feta cheese from Celebrity Dairy, located just a few miles west of her restaurant.


Side of Falafel

The hummus has a good amount of garlic in it, but not too overpowering. It is a delicious and healthy treat. Angelina’s falafel is also a wonderful treat. The patties are moist and filled with flavor.  My husband and I had a side order of them the other night. They were served with a side of tzatziki sauce.

chicken gyro

Chicken gyro at Angelina's Kitchen

This particular night, I had the chicken gyro sandwich. You have the choice of three toppings to go on your gyro, so I chose hummus, kalamata olives and cucumbers. The chicken was cooked in a tomato sauce and was nice and juicy. I was going to get the lamb, but unfortunately the restaurant had run out of lamb. John, one of the workers, apologized and said that the farmer who supplies the lamb has not had as many lambs right now. It’s all a part of learning to eat what is in season and what is locally available. We can wait for another trip to have the lamb.

lentil soup

Lentil soup with spanakopita

My husband had the lentil soup with a side of the spanakopita. The lentils were fresh and light. The soup also had carrots, tumeric and garlic, giving it some great flavor. It is a light soup, which is perfect for a summer evening.

Angelina makes wonderful baklava for dessert,  with honey from local bee farmers. The other desserts come from  Abilicious Bakery (also located in Pittsboro), which specializes in gluten, soy and peanut-free delights.

One of the things that is so great about Pittsboro is that most of the chefs in the area are very generous, and Angelina is no exception. My husband and I can hardly think of a fund raising event that she is not donating food to, or helping out in some way. She is a great example of someone who pays it forward and people in the community really appreciate all she and her staff do.

Angelina’s used to be mainly take out, but earlier this year, she was able to raise enough money to expand into the adjacent office off of Rectory Street and Highway 64 so now there are more tables to sit and eat.  From the courthouse circle, take Highway 64 west about three blocks on the right is the Rectory Street. Unfortunately, Angelina’s is not open on the weekends, so you will have to try her creations Monday – Friday, from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Angelina's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Review: Worth It Cafe in Durham

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.

Worth It Cafe in Durham

It's great to have the option to eat outside on a nice day.

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.

Inside the Worth It Cafe

You can see the homemade salad dressings and root chips in the display case.

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.

Summer squash pesto sandwich

This is the summer squash pesto sandwich and homemade root 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.


REVIEW: Chubby’s Tacos – Durham/Raleigh


Photo Credit: Tom B. on Yelp

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.

tofu burrito at Chubbys

This is just half of a tofu and veggie burrito from Chubby's

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.

chubbys burrito meal

This is my "to go" burrito meal from Chubby's. Definitely enough for two meals!

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 Tacos on Urbanspoon

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!

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