Category Archives: Carrboro

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.

http://breadmens.com/gallery/food-location/

http://breadmens.com/gallery/food-location/

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!

-Haley


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.

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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!

-Haley
Jessee's Coffee & Bar on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Neal’s Deli – Carrboro, NC

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!

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

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

Turkey Sub: Turkey, provolone, choice of hot or mild peppers, lettuce, tomato, onion, oil & vinegar on a sub roll

Turkey Sub: Turkey, provolone, choice of hot or mild peppers, lettuce, tomato, onion, oil & vinegar on a sub roll

Neal’s Deli has garnered media attention from Food & Wine, Unique Eats, Oprah.com, and Avett Brothers’ Joe Kwon’s Taste, On  Tour blog, among many. It even got a shout out in the NY Times.

If you’re not already grabbing your keys and coat and heading out the door, what are you waiting for?!

-Haley

 

Neal's Deli on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Steel String Brewery – Carrboro, NC


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.

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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.

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):

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

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.

-Haley

 

Venable Rotisserie Bistro on Urbanspoon

Review – Carrburritos in Carrboro

Preparing the food

The counter at Carrburritos

The fiesta is always happening at Carrburrito’s in Carrboro. Located on Rosemary Street, just a half a block from the “V” in the road where Rosemary Street intersects with Main Street.  Carrburrito’s is tucked in a corner of a two story building, sharing the space with a Buddhist Center.  When you enter the establishment, the place is alive with energy. Most nights, the place is packed with students from UNC, young families with their children and other folks, like myself and my husband who just like a really good burrito.

Inside Carrburritos

This is a popular destination for many folks in Carrboro

The ingredients are fresh, mainly local and everything is made in the restaurant, including the tortillas and all the fillings. Some of the postdocs at my workplace have told me time and again that I needed to try this place, so I finally ventured out this weekend to check it out.

The ordering happens much like when you go to Mo’s. You line up, cafeteria style and order. You have a choice of three basic burritos, the plain which comes with Black or pinto beans and cheese or rice; the regular, which comes with everything in the plain, but also adds lettuce and salsa fresca;  and the mejor, which comes with everything in the regular plus guacamole and sour cream.  There is a great variety of fillings to add to the basic burrito. You can choose either one of the vegetarian options, such as tomatoes and rice, or vegetales asados, which is grilled marinated seasonal vegetables, or the pure’de papas, which are mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized onions.  I had the sweet potato mixture and it was excellent. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes married well with the earthiness of the black beans and the spiciness of the salsa. The portions are generous, so you might even get away with eating just a half of a burrito, but I liked mine so much I ate the whole thing!

There are also a variety of meat fillings including pollo asado, which is marinated grilled chicken breast, carne desebrada, which is beef roasted in chipotle peppers, onions and garlic, or my husband’s choice, which is chorizo, a spicy pork sausage that Carrburritos makes in-house.

Burrito from Carrburritos

Typical Burrito from Carrburrito's. Bring your appetite!

The plates are also accompanied by homemade tortilla chips that are a mix of corn and flour tortillas fried to a crispy golden brown. You have your choice of six salsas to dip your chips in. My husband had the salsa fresca, which  included fresh tomato, jalapenos, cilantro and lemon. It was crisp and clean tasting and not too hot.  I had the salsa frutas, which had lots of fresh pineapple, along with chilies, cilantro and just a tiny bit of tomato. It was really delicious and had just a little bite to it from the chili peppers.  We also each had a margarita. It was OK, but nothing to write home about. It’s probably better to get another beverage here and save your money to drink at one of the many bars down the street in Chapel Hill.

Nachos at Carrburritos

The Nachos at Carrburritos

Carrburritos serves more than just burritos. You can also order tacos, quesadillas, tostados and nachos. Everything we saw coming out of the kitchen looked really appetizing. I know we will be coming back to try more dishes soon.

As I said before, you will get a great deal here. The mejor was just $7.95. No wonder there were so many families with children here. You could feed your family and keep within a tight budget.

Carrburritos is located at 711 West Rosemary Street in Carrboro. They are open from 11am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday and are closed on Sundays.

 Carrburritos on Urbanspoon

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.

Review: Spotted Dog – Carrboro

Spotted Dog in Carrboro is Man’s Best Friend

My husband and I finally got a chance to go out and celebrate our birthdays, which are held just over two weeks apart. This year we chose to celebrate at the Spotted Dog in Carrboro. Many people know that Carrboro is a vegetarian’s paradise, with many restaurants featuring plenty of great choices for both vegetarians and vegans and the Spotted Dog is no exception. There is a whole page of the menu dedicated to those who don’t eat meat.

vegetarian menu

The menu features many vegetarian items, but there's plenty for meat lovers too!

The restaurant is located right in the middle of Weaver Street and Main Street, so the building has a triangular shape to it. We came to the restaurant early, so were seated in an instant. The restaurant is cleverly decorated with lots of artwork featuring dogs, of course. But unfortunately man’s best friend is not allowed inside the restaurant and there is no outdoor seating, so pooches must be left at home.

The Spotted Dog is smack dab in the middle of Carrboro.

inside the Spotted Dog

The building is a triangular shape and has lots of dog art on the walls.

But this night, both Scott and I chose meals that were not on the vegetarian menu. We started off by having an appetizer of calamari. The Spotted Dog features one of the best dishes of calamari in the Triangle. It has a light, flaky crust and the calamari is as tender as a baby’s cheek. The sauce is a tangy version of Russian dressing with a little bit of cayenne pepper, giving it just a hint of spiciness.

calamari

The calamari is a great selection to start off your meal at the Spotted Dog.

For our main courses, I had the Mahi Mahi tacos and Scott had the roasted red pepper pasta with chicken. The tacos were amazing. They are wrapped in a tortilla and fried and are presented much like a very large egg roll. The Mahi Mahi was cooked perfectly. It was moist and succulent, but not undercooked. It was prepared with fresh cabbage, bean sprouts, lime, jalapeno and cilantro. The tortilla was nice and crunchy and since it was wrapped like an egg roll, the contents stayed nice and contained inside the tortilla. The tacos were also served with a fresh black bean salad that had red and green peppers, red onions, cilantro and lime. It was light and refreshing and was the perfect complement to the spicy tacos. Our waitress told us the tacos were very popular and at times they run out of them because so many people order them. I can understand why!

Mahi Mahi Tacos

The Mahi Mahi Tacos are a very popular item at the Spotted Dog.

Scott’s roasted red pepper pasta was a nice blend of roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and basil served in a cream sauce with nice, large pieces of white chicken, served over linguini. We were told that this is a brand new dish for the Spotted Dog. It also did not disappoint. The flavors were a great combination for the pasta and the chicken was nice and tender.
Though we were both pretty full, we knew that we could not leave the Spotted Dog without having a piece of their famous bread pudding. The night we were there, they were featuring the lemon walnut bread pudding. They change the flavors from time to time, but all of the choices are amazing. The lemon sauce is delicate and is both sweet and tart. The crunchiness of the walnuts gives the bread pudding some texture and the vanilla sorbet helps bring this dish all together. Needless to say, our plates were clean and our bellies were full after this meal. Time to take a stroll around Carrboro and enjoy a lovely spring evening in Carolina!

lemon walnut bread pudding

The lemon walnut bread pudding is one of the most popular dessert items on the menu.

The Spotted Dog is located at 111 Main Street in downtown Carrboro. It is open from Tuesday-Sunday from 11:30a.m.-12a.m.

Spotted Dog Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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