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Anyone read the article in last months Gourmet about the taquerias in Durham?

I dunno if I'd call Fiesta Grill "americanized," but I get the impression that the folks running it have been in the US for longer. The menu is fully in english, and you don't need to fall back on Spanglish to order (you actually don't have to do that much at the other tacquerias). But the food is MMMM-good, and the tacos are straight soft-corn, tasty meat, onions, cilantro, hot sauce. And the tortas are big giant sloppy messes just like at any of the other taquerias.

They have a few slightly-more-Americanized dishes (I think they even have crispy tacos on the lunch menu) but it hasn't affected their ability to cook right ;-)

Watts Grocery in Durham, NC

When are they *ever* closed? I figured with their "late night every night" commitment, it'd be hard to find a time when they aren't there . . . I take it perhaps they close in the afternoon between lunch & dinner service? Plus I guess they're closed Monday.

Biranyi House in Cary?

I haven't been, but a couple of months ago I was talking Cary Indian food with one of the [Indian] developers here at work, and he said Biryani House was his fave of those in that Cary cluster, so it's definitely on my list to try now.

Biryani House
744 E Chatham St Ste B, Cary, NC 27511

Tenderloin sandwiches in Indy airport area

Davydd, I know you didn't post back to this thread about Green Street, but I caught your high recommendation of their BPT at That Other Food Board, so I figured I'd go with the master's advice. I was in Indy for business yesterday and I made sure to make time for the 10-mile trip up to Brownsburg. I'm very glad I did.

I was born a Hoosier but moved away from the state in 1981, and I have no recollection of encountering breaded pork tenderloins as a kid. That may have more to do with my parents than their relative prevalence at that time, however.

In any case, this was actually my first trip back since '81, so I'm a BPT novice & thus don't have a range for comparison. So all I will say is that the BPT (I got the crumb-breaded, not the battered) at Green Street was AMAZING. Nice pork flavor, intensely tender and juicy, and the breading was light and crisp. I had been unable to resist a couple of Square Donuts in Terre Haute an hour or two before lunch, but that didn't prevent me from wolfing down this giant sandwich.

The fries were really good as well. The decor was nothing too special (it's a big place, and the room I was seated in had some aquariums, but not much else in the way of ambience) but with food this good, that's not a problem.

I'll be getting back to Indiana once or twice a year for work now, so I hope to widen my range of breaded pork tenderloin exposure, although it will be hard to resist the urge to just beeline straight back to Green Street.

Cary, NC - Dinner - lighter fare?

Ciao Cafe & Wine Bar sounds like exactly what you're looking for: . . . or at least, if I were in your position, it's where I would be heading.

Ciao Cafe & Wine Bar
201 W Chatham St # 100, Cary, NC

Chapel Hill, NC recs

Chapel Hill has 1 Thai restaurant, and 1 Singaporean, which is sort of a cross between Thai, Chinese & Indian. Depending on where you're from and how you feel about authenticity in your Thai food, you'll either like Thai Palace just fine, or find it kinda blah. I really like Merlion, the Singaporean restaurant, with the caveat that the decor is a lot like that of a hotel lobby, and it often seems to be packed with elderly dudes in sport-coats.

Durham has 3 or 4 Thai restaurants, and they all seem to have suffered at various times from the spotty-service, inconsistent-food problem (which isn't the case at Thai Palace, which is nothing if not consistent, for better or worse). Of them, Thai Cafe seems to lately get the best/most consistent positive reviews.

Raleigh & Cary have a few Thai restos as well, and different people are partial to different ones. I've had nothing but good meals at Sawasdee, but I don't live in Raleigh, so I don't have a big enough sample set to be able to say anything definite.

If I were in Chapel Hill & really craving Thai, I'd probably recalibrate the taste-buds slightly & head for Merlion. In Durham, Thai Cafe. If I were closer to Raleigh, I'd still head to Sawasdee.

If I only had one night in Chapel Hill, and was looking for interesting Asian-inspired cuisine, I'd definitely be hitting Jujube or Lantern before considering any of those, though.

Thai Cafe
2501 University Dr, Durham, NC 27707

410 Market St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Twisted Noodles
4201 University Dr Ste 112, Durham, NC 27707

Thai Lanna Restaurant
5410 Nc Highway 55 Ste F, Durham, NC 27713

Sushi-Thai Restaurant
2434 Wycliff Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607

Sawasdee Thai Restaurant
3601 Capital Blvd Ste 107, Raleigh, NC 27604

Simply Thai & Sushi
4731 NC Highway 55, Durham, NC

Thai Palace Restaurant
1206 Raleigh Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517

Thai Villa
1319 Buck Jones Rd, Raleigh, NC 27606

Oct 04, 2007
rossgrady in Southeast

Chapel Hill, NC recs

There are so many rockclubs in Chapel Hill that there aren't many "normal" bars/restaurants that have live music. On some weekends you'll hear music coming out of West End Wine Bar or Tallula's. The two best beer selections in town are Tyler's and Milltown, but with the exception of Milltown brunch, and an irregular, semi-biennial parking-lot party at Tyler's, neither has live music.

I think Linda's on East Franklin has live music sometimes, but unless you're really into the whole "college town bar across from campus" thing, it may not be that much fun. There's also a weird newish place called Blend that tries to be a bistro, a coffee-bar, a danceclub and a rockclub, all at once.

Of the rockclubs, the best in terms of beer selection & general atmosphere is The Cave, and it has the added bonus of having 2 sets of live music a night, one at 7:30 and one at 10:00. Plus the front room (stage/bar) is nonsmoking, while the back (pool/jukebox) is smoking, so either way you're covered. They only have 4-5 taps, but they've got a good selection of bottled beer (and the taps are local microbrews or decent imports, not crap).

A lot of the interesting dinner options (Lantern, Elaine's, Tallula's) are in the same 2-block range as the clubs (Local 506, The Cave) (and heck, all of Chapel HIll/Carrboro is relatively tiny). Lately we've gotten a pack of those pedicabs, as well, so you can haul from one place to another in high style ;-)

Adding links for most/all of what has been mentioned so far, although the link-a-place thing is acting weird & keeps adding random restos I didn't ask for, so . . .

Mill Town
307 E Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510

Caffe Driade
1215 E Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Elaine's On Franklin
454 W. Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Italian Pizzeria III
508 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

456 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

101 E Weaver St, Carrboro, NC 27510

West End Wine Bar
450 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

711 Rosemary St, Carrboro, NC

Merritt's Store & Grill
1009 S Columbia St, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Carolina Crossroads
211Pittsboro St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

452 1 2 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC

Blend: Nightclub & Lounge
157 E Rosemary Street, Chapel Hill, NC

Acme Food & Beverage Co
110 E Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510

Oct 04, 2007
rossgrady in Southeast

Chef Incoming? [moved from South board]

If you're from Charlotte and thus stuck eating the BBQ in & around Charlotte, I can see how you might consider BBQ to be "overrated." I would certainly agree that anybody who said much good about BBQ in Charlotte would be guilty of overrating said BBQ. (For what it's worth, there's only a small amount of good BBQ in the Triangle as well . . . but we're a lot closer to the source of the great BBQ, the Wilson/Goldsboro corridor, than Charlotte is.)

As for how I can say that the Triangle has more to offer than Charlotte, well, that depends entirely on your tastes. I will certainly concede that Charlotte has more miles of roads & highways to offer, more suburbs, more chain restaurants & strip malls. Also more bankers, more professional athletes, more tall buildings, and more neon-lit restaurant windows downtown (as of the last time I drove through, anyway).

I'm not sure whether Chowhound itself can be used as a gauge for how much a city has to offer (although I'd wager the OP believes that it does, since he/she posted here looking for advice & information). If we assume for a minute that Chowhound *can* be used as a yardstick for the level of culinary excitement in a city, then let's turn to the search function (and widen this out to include all the OP's curiosity cities, as well as Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill & Cary, the four towns that make up the 4 corners of the Triangle (heh)):

398 results for charlotte
441 results for raleigh
441 results for durham
327 results for chapel hill
314 results for asheville
302 results for cary
89 results for charlottesville

Oct 04, 2007
rossgrady in Not About Food

ISO Chapel Hill Dinner Spot

That's because there's no "H" in it:

Chef Incoming? [moved from South board]

I think you'll find a ton of quality answers to the "what's good down there" question by doing Chowhound searches on the individual cities you mention.

Asheville is a relatively small town, but it's an interesting blend of college town and resort, so they've got some interesting high-end restaurants *and* more-than-the-usual average of vegetarian-focused joints. It's still a small town, though, and like a beach town, is populated by a lot of folks who're there for the natural environment first & the manmade environment a distant second.

Charlottesville seems to have a lot of restaurants catering to the well-off alumni who either still live nearby, or who visit a lot. An entree that would cost $15 in a lot of other southern cities seems to be $18-20 in Charlottesville. They have periodic spasms of adventurousness in their restaurant scene, but the overall trend seems to be fairly traditional. There are a *lot* of Charlottesville threads on Chowhound, and you'll see the same 8 restaurants mentioned in all of them, so you can learn a lot in 30-40 minutes of web surfing.

The town itself is beautiful, but it *is* a college town, and there's still a large % of the students who wear khakis, oxford shirts & blazers, apparently of their own volition.

Charlotte seems to really really want to be Atlanta, but thus far they've done better at emulating the suburban sprawl portion of that, than the funky downtown neighborhoods and the amazing ethnic dining that I love about Atlanta. There's some of that in Charlotte, sure, but it's tiny compared to Atlanta. Charlotte doesn't seem to have figured out exactly what it wants to be, as a region (they don't even have much decent BBQ nearby). They're sort of midway between their NASCAR past and their Southern Banking Capital present, and the end-result is a lot of strip malls.

I'm biased, because I live near Chapel Hill, but as Rory says, I think the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area has a lot more to offer (to an aspiring chef, but also to someone looking for a place to live) than any of the three cities you've mentioned. It's bigger than Asheville or Charlottesville, with a fairly mobile population of professionals (a lot of folks live in one of the towns & work in another, so the dinner crowd in any of the three towns is made up of folks from all of them). But it's not so huge and sprawl-y as Charlotte.

As far as what's missing, I can only speak about Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill . . . the consensus seems to be that we're missing decent Chinese and real Italian (either oldschool NY style or traditional Italian).

I'm thinking you'll get better responses from Chowhounds, and will learn a lot more regardless, if you post saying "I'm flying in to Charlotte and spending a week making a giant circle, from Charlotte to Asheville to Charlottesville to Raleigh." And then actually make that trip.

So what are you looking for? Do you want to be the new star in town, doing stuff that's 2 notches above everybody else (but perhaps at the risk of not having many peers whom you respect nearby), or do you want to be one chef in a city of chefs? And how important is the overall environment of the region to you, culturally or otherwise?

Oct 04, 2007
rossgrady in Not About Food

Where to find Pastrami in Durham/CH?

I was just buying some Giacomo's sopressata at Weaver Street in Carrboro, and noticed that they've got Giacomo's pastrami by the pound there. I've never had it, but I can't get enough of the Giacomo's salumi, so I can only imagine that their pastrami would be most excellent. I should've bought some tonight, in fact, to check it out, but I didn't. Next time, perhaps.

Durham Wine Shops

Adding a Places link (and an URL:


Wine Authorities
2501 University Dr, Durham, NC 27707

Piedmont (Durham) blog dinner

I've had a cold most of the week, which explains why I've only just gotten around to posting about the excellent dinner I had at Piedmont this past Monday. It was a prix-fixe dinner put together by the local BlogTogether folks (

The draw for most peeps was presumably the chance to have dinner with writer/blogger/[Duke alum] Michael Ruhlman, but I'll confess (and no offense to Michael, who seems like a really nice guy), the draw for me was the chance to see what Drew & Andy could do with a 5-course menu and a Cane Creek hog.

We began, not surprisingly, with a selection of cheeses and charcuterie. I'm lactose-impaired, so I left the cheeses to the others at the table & focused on the meats, all pork: pate, lomo, rillette, and head cheese. I assume by now you've all had the Piedmont country pate, so I don't have to tell you how great it is. The lomo is a little more recent addition to their repertoire: it's air-cured pork loin. I think Andy said that it's first salted, and then at some point the salt is rubbed off & replaced with smoked paprika. In any case, it's dry, sliced paper-thin, and divine.

The rillette (shredded pork slow-cooked in fat, basically) was sort of the Platonic ideal of pork, or like an arteries-be-damned French interpretation of Carolina BBQ. The head cheese was thin-sliced, subtler in flavor than the rest, and so scarce on the platter that I didn't get enough to really fully explore it.

The second course was actually my favorite: a simple white sweet-potato puree with pancetta. Understated, mellow, perfectly-seasoned.

The puree was followed by an arugula salad with cherry tomatoes, pickled shiitakes, and herbs. This was a slight misstep (and not just because there was no pork in it); there was nothing to balance out the vinegary tang of the pickled mushrooms, and in combination with the peppery arugula, it was too much for most of the folks at our table. Would've been nice with some creamy cheese, perhaps (or just without the pickled mushrooms entirely).

I ate at Blue Hill in Manhattan recently, and ordered the "Blue Hill Farms pork". The cut wasn't specified, and I was disappointed when a loin came out. Was even more disappointed when I tasted it; it was kind of lacking in flavor, and the texture was a little mushy. I actually wound up sending it back.

So I was apprehensive when I looked at the Piedmont menu and saw "pork loin with butternut squash polenta, braised chard & jus" as the main course. I needn't have worried. The loin was tender, suitably porky, and didn't commit any of the [dense/dry/mushy/weird] faux pas that I usually associate with restaurant pork loin.

More importantly, I think, the butternut squash polenta was amazing. The ratio of squash to polenta was so well-balanced that it wound up seeming like a single miraculous substance (and I love the circuitous route that these two vegetables took, from their position as staples in the pre-Columbian North American diet, en route to being reunited in this form).

Dessert was a scuppernong granita, which was great. It seemed to take full advantage of the flavor shift that took place as it melted from ice to slush to juice in the bowl, as we all sat around talking and sighing after what had been a most excellent meal. Many thanks to Drew, Andy, Michael Ruhlman, and to Anton Zuiker of BlogTogether for putting the evening together.

Piedmont Restaurant
401 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

Watts Grocery in Durham, NC

We had dinner there last night, between around 7:00 and 9:00. It was never 100% full during that time, but I'd say it peaked at around 90% full, not counting the bar-table section at the front.

It being their first official night, I was ready to cut them a lot of slack, but I really didn't have to. The service was fine, especially for a busy Friday night, and all the food came out plated well & at the appropriate temp, etc.

The three of us had the following dishes:

Local Greens tossed with Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Spiced Pecans, Roasted Garlic and Balsamic Vinaigrette: This was actually the standout of the evening for me. The greens were just so fresh, and the balance between them, the roasted tomatoes & peppers, and the dressing was perfect. And! the portion was a normal salad portion, not the giant-plate-of-bagged-greens portion that you get a lot of places nowadays. (this was actually a drawback in this instance, however, as all 3 of us really liked it & would've loved more. If it were just mine, though, it would've been just the right size.)

Fried Green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade: the breading was very light, lighter than that at the Barbeque Joint (and lighter than C's dad's recipe as well, she said). It really let the flavor of the tomatoes dominate, which was ideal. I didn't manage to get enough of the remoulade to be able to comment.

Glenn’s house country terrine served with house pickles, grainy mustard, baguette toasts, and seasonal compote. : The country terrine (roughly similar in size & composition to the country pate's served at Federal and Piedmont) wasn't up to the standard set by Piedmont, but that's a really high standard. Was as good or better than a similar terrine I had at Bonne Soiree. The house pickles were nicely sweet-savory--not full-blown sweet pickles, but rather just enough sweetness to give them complexity.

Grilled NC Wahoo with Slow-Cooked Field Peas and James’ Grilled Corn and Sungold Tomato Salad. : I didn't get my hands on enough of this to be able to comment, but my companions thought the peas & the corn-and-tomato salad (*not* a peas-corn-tomato salad, which I think they would've preferred) hadn't had enough attention paid to them. The bite I tasted could've used salt. HOWEVER, Watts Grocery, to their great credit, have salt and pepper shakers on the table, so if you need to adjust the salt level in a dish, you can do so.

Rockfish Muddle with Onions, Potatoes, and Carrots in a Bacon studded broth and served with Braised Greens and Hush Puppies. : OK, first things first: the hush puppies were AMAZING. incredibly light and fluffy. They were the big-round-ball variety, which I tend to avoid at BBQ and seafood joints, as they're usually the density of golf balls. These were the complete opposite; they nearly floated off the table. No idea how they got them so light, but they were the hit of the evening for our table. The rest of the dish was great as well--clearly a lot of fresh quality ingredients, brought together in the service of plain/simple comfort-style food (without the heavy salty/fattyness that "comfort" seems to connote). If it would ever get cold around here, this would be a great cold-weather stew.

We weren't planning to have dessert, but then we looked at the menu, and realized we couldn't NOT try the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding with coffee creme and coffee sauce. NOR the root beer float with cinnamon ice cream, NOR the fruit & berry crostada with ginger ice cream.

I have to say, I found the Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding to be simultaneously irresistible and appalling. It made me feel about the same as I feel when I'm on the fourth KK of a half-dozen-KK binge. The coffee sauce (a coffee syrup, basically) was like liquid crack, too. Everyone at the table expressed a desire to have it piped directly to our homes.

I didn't get enough of the other desserts to be able to comment, but my companions thought the ice creams stacked up favorably with our other local ice-cream faves (Maple View & Jujube, basically).

Decor-wise, it's just a nice simple space. Bar on one side, banquette down the other side, a few 4-tops down the middle (which makes the walking space a little tight between the front & the back, but not unpleasantly so . . . we were seated at one of these middle tables & I didn't feel like I was getting bumped as people walked by). After the bar ends the room widens out & there are quite a few more tables in the back. It was loud-ish when full last night, but not nearly as bad as a lot of our other local faves.

The website says they're doing late-night Thur-Sat, but I thought the menus last night said *every* night (which seems crazy, so I assume I'm misremembering that).

I will *definitely* be going back, for dinner, yes, but most assuredly also for lunch/brunch/late-night. I don't even know if Durham needed or deserved another awesome local/neighborhood restaurant of this quality, but I'm not going to complain (especially not with all those barstools & bar tables hopefully ensuring I'll be able to get a quick casual bite even after the word gets out).

Watts Grocery
1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC 27705

Sunday night in Raleigh

The airport is as close to parts of Durham as it is to many parts of Raleigh, so I'd suggest Piedmont, my fave Sunday-night selection. (Downtown Raleigh -> RDU is around 13 miles; Downtown Durham -> RDU is around 16).

Piedmont Restaurant
401 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

Raleigh Mexican Mercado

Sounds like the indoor flea market there on Capital Blvd, across from the bowling alley and the sketchy motel that has the Foxy Lady strip club in its parking lot. Inside the beltline.

Beer (or Bloody Marys) & Breakfast in Raleigh

Somewhat remarkably, the PR has a website: . . . it's a rather complicated website, but it doesn't seem to list their hours. It's bizarre how often I look at bar/restaurant sites that omit that detail.

It does appear that the breakfast-type items are only available on the late-night (11pm-2am) weekend menu. It has been a good 13+ years since I've been to the PR, but I can't imagine anyone involved with it being awake much before 11 a.m. . . .

Ah, I see, a couple of years ago it was partially bought out by Gus Gusler, longtime Raleigh entertainment lawyer / show promoter / man-about-town. While the website makes it seem like they've tried to un-funkify the place a little bit, I think Gus has probably maintained the correct aura of grime.

Although, given Gus's client list (Hootie), I wonder if the Motorhead is still on the jukebox . . .

Players Retreat
105 Oberlin Rd, Raleigh, NC

In Search of Maria's (Tacos or Tortillas) in East Durham?

poppy seed hamentaschen - chapel hill/durham

You could check out Sabra -- I've never been, and I don't know if they even stock baked goods (other than packaged imported stuff), but I bet someone there would have good advice:

Otherwise, maybe Guglhupf?

Raleigh to Knoxville & back... food along the way

Nowadays when I'm driving across NC I check the NC BBQ Trail first ( ), and we always keep Early's book & Garner's book in the car, for "emergencies." ;-) If you've never eaten at Little Richard's BBQ ( ), it's worth a stop just for the great neon pigs sign, but also for the first-rate Q.

Good luck finding [authentic] Southern regional cuisine in & around Asheville, but there *is* plenty of good food there. There are a *ton* of Asheville folks & Asheville posts on this board, so you should be able to either search, or ask 'em for advice.

For Knoxville itself, I got some *great* hometown/chow/dive type recommendations from this thread:

We wound up not stopping in Knoxville after all, so I didn't get to check out Litton's (2803 Essary Drive Knoxville, TN 37918 - ), or Mary's Hot Tamales (1931 E Magnolia Ave. Knoxville, TN 37917 - ), but I hope you'll have the chance to try 'em. Have fun!

Milk-Ball Bricks in Kyrgyzstan

Wow! The translation job on that Mongolian tourism website you linked is pretty remarkable.

"Airag is Mongolian traditional drink. Rural people making summer time in it. 1000-3000 times bit it in cow' skin bag. (leader bag) Mongolian people used to airag in Naadam festival, wedding, New year and others. Some people can drink 2-3 letre one sit. Airag has included 7-8% of alcohol. So you will drink a lot of airag maybe you hang over. Airag is Mongolian respect and safely drink so you never to spit and drop it outside."

It's oddly touching that they care enough about luring western travelers that they'd go to the trouble of translating all that stuff into [terrible] English.

Sep 20, 2007
rossgrady in Features

ISO Chapel Hill Dinner Spot

I just realized I forgot to perform the place-links due-diligence, so here, for posterity's sake:

Elaine's On Franklin
454 W. Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Fiesta Grill
3307 Nc Highway 54 W, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

456 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

423 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

1201-L Raleigh Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517

101 E Weaver St, Carrboro, NC 27510

410 Market St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Crook's Corner
610 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Roadside BBQ along I-95 (NC/SC/GA)

Wilber's is no longer the bastion of fine BBQ that it once was. The Q I had there last month was tired-tasting, mushy, and overly vinegary, as though it had been sitting for a while. The rumor 'round here was that they'd cut back to smoking just 2 days a week, which might explain that.

Here's a link to my trip report, which also covers two places in Wilson, Parker's and Bill's . . . Wilson is just a hop-skip-and-jump off of I-95:

Sep 18, 2007
rossgrady in Southeast

ISO Chapel Hill Dinner Spot

Yeah, maybe you need to give us an idea of the relative priority of your rules. Chapel Hill is hardly a bastion of ethnic cuisine of any kind, unless you consider the fact that fusion/updating/recontextualization *is* the "ethnic cuisine" of upper-middle-class white liberal foodie-types. ;-) . . . in which case I'd definitely throw Jujube into the pile for consideration.

Although brokegradstudent is half-right about parking on Franklin, there is a "free" valet service with a stand in front of West End Wine Bar . . . you just get validated at any of the participating places, which is most of the restaurants & bars at that end of Franklin.

If you don't want to drive to Durham, where taquerias (and Korean restaurants) abound, or to Cary, where the decent Indian food is (those being the three cuisines that seem to have enough native-speakers living nearby to support "native-style" restaurants), then I suppose I'd agree that you'd do well at Tallulah's, assuming that the recent ownership changes haven't had a bad effect.

Or, if Panzanella isn't too fusiony, you'll get a good meal there. And they have ample parking ;-)

We haven't talked much about Merlion here lately, but it's apparently fairly straight-up Singaporean (although here's the catch . . . Singaporean food is itself a fusion of its neighboring cuisines) and I had a really great meal there last year, as have quite a few other folks on this board.

Sawasdee Thai (Raleigh) rec?

We've always had good luck with the catfish, and with the spicy beef salad. We don't live in Raleigh, however, and thus only get to Sawasdee about once a year (and the most recent time was maybe 9 months ago . . . guess it's time to start planning another trip).

Briasas De Acapulco- Raleigh

I thought the salsa was just the right balance of tomato, onion, cilantro & heat, which was a problem since it meant we finished the whole basket of chips & thus were half-full before our meal came out. People should maybe understand that there's nothing exotic about it--your initial description was accurate. It's just that it's really nicely balanced for serial-chip-eating (for better or worse ;-))


I'm already fully on-record as a Piedmont fan, but I nevertheless can't resist posting about the meal we had tonight. I've gotten particularly fond of Sunday night supper at the bar at Piedmont (or really, any night at the bar . . . the bartenders always take excellent care of their diners, and you've got the view straight into the kitchen, if that's your thing).

Tonight I had the aforementioned farmer's lettuce salad with herbs & shallot vinaigrette, and I have to agree that it was outstanding, better than you'd probably imagine a basic lettuce-and-herb salad could/should be.

I also had the house-cured lomo (dry air-cured pork loin that's cured in salt & then paprika-rubbed), which was phenomenal . . . it was ultra-thin-sliced and served with a drizzle of olive oil, and as I ate a slice, there was the flavor of the oil, replaced by a sweetness, then the pork flavor, then an explosion of smokiness which must've been from the paprika.

Then, since the pork-belly-and-lentils was on the menu, I had to have it. The lentils at Piedmont are so good, so rich and earthy and satisfying, that I'd happily eat bowlfuls of them without any pork involved. Add in one of Andy's perfect, melt-in-your-mouth tender pork bellies . . .

My companion had the "local, grass-fed meatballs" (nice image) with tagliatelle. The forkfuls I stole were great: light, fresh pasta, vivid tomato sauce, and meatballs that were flavor-rich all the way through to the center. It was excellent comfort food for the first cool evening of the autumn.

Piedmont Restaurant
401 Foster St, Durham, NC 27701

Mexican place in RTP

I should also mention, while we're talking Mexican in RTP, that last week I went to the little taqueria inside the carniceria there in that weird sunken stripmall on Highway 54 just before 55 (the one with Akashi, China Express, Bombay Grille, Sal's, etc). I hadn't been there in years (and I don't really know why not . . . I used to like it but stopped going for some reason).

I had 3 tacos: pastor, barbacoa, and lengua. The pastor was tangy and citrusy, and had bits of pineapple in it. The barbacoa was rich, and oily enough that they wrapped it in 2 tortillas rather than the single tortilla the other 2 tacos got (yes, I know 2 tortillas is the norm at most places, but these singles held up just fine, although I think that's due primarily to their non-homemade-ness). The lengua was OK, but wasn't as distinctive as the other two, nor did it have as much good beefy flavor as the best lengua I've had. When I go back, it'll be for the pastor & the barbacoa, and to take another shot at the carnitas (they were out when I went).

Mexican place in RTP

It's a Bandidos, which means on the one hand that it falls into the laminated-menu, lunch combo #5 (the "Speedy Gonzales") category, but on the other hand, I've always heard OK things about the folks who own the Bandidos around Orange County (and I wasn't even put off by that story about the kitchen worker who butchered a goat in the kitchen in Hillsborough, although I would've been *more* excited if it had turned out they were serving the goat at the restaurant, which they apparently were not).

I ate at the new one in RTP with some coworkers when it opened a few months ago, and while they all had yr standard enchiladas, burritos & quesadillas (I didn't hear anybody complaining, and it all looked fine on their plates), I had the chicken mole enchiladas, which was actually better than it had any right to be, probably. I remember thinking "I'd come back here again." It was perfectly agreeable American-style Mexican food, which hasn't been one of my fave subgenres in years (certainly not since the rise in availability of real Mexican food), but I still have a soft spot for it on occasion.

Here's a photo of my chicken mole enchiladas. . .

Bandidos Mexican Cafe
2806 S Miami Blvd, Durham, NC 27703

Briasas De Acapulco- Raleigh

Wow! We went for dinner last night (en route from eating bugs at Bugfest, to seeing Kronos Quartet at Duke--I love the Triangle!), and after looking at the regular menu, we asked them "do you have anything that's not on the menu?" and the owner's face lit up and he started talking a mile-a-minute about how he's working on an all-Dominican menu, with like 36 dishes, and how he'd love to make us a whole fish. Needless to say, we agreed.

I'm attaching a picture of the result. The fish was utterly delicious, swimming in a sweet-spicy sauce that tasted of coconut milk, tomato and a little red pepper. The beans had a subtle sweetness about them as well, although they needed salt. Instead of salting them, I opted to douse them in the extra sauce from the fish, which worked out just fine.

We also ordered an order of tamales, which were excellent. The masa was fluffy and moist throughout, and the sauces were great. The green was fairly mild but still had a fresh-jalapeno edge to it, and the red was redolent of roasted chile, and pretty-damn-hot.

*Definitely* go, y'all, and while I'd highly recommend asking for the Dominican special of the moment, I think these guys are good enough in the kitchen that anything's likely to come out tasting great.