Dine Out for Haiti

January 21, 2010

This Sunday and Monday, a number of Triangle-based restaurants will be donating 10% of their proceeds to two charities for the relief efforts in Haiti.  This effort was initiated on Facebook by local chefs and foodies, and as of the time of this post, there are 20 restaurants participating.  Here’s the list of confirmed restaurants:

Watt’s Grocery (Durham)
Bogart’s American Grill (Raleigh)
Crook’s Corner (Evening Service Only – Chapel Hill)
Cup A Joe (Chapel Hill)
HI5 (Raleigh)
Joe Van Gogh (Durham)
Michael Dean’s Seafood Grill (Raleigh)
Milltown (Carrboro)
Panzanella (Carrboro)
Red Room Tapas Lounge (Raleigh)
Saladelia Cafe (Durham)
Saxapahaw General Store (Saxapahaw)
Southern Rail (Carrboro)
The Mash House (Fayetteville)
Twisted Fork (Raleigh)
West End Wine Bar (Durham)

ACME Food and Beverage Co. (Carrboro)
Cup A Joe (Chapel Hill)
Cypress On The Hill (Chapel Hill)
Foster’s Market (Durham/Chapel Hill)
GlassHalFull (Carrboro)
Globe Restaurant (Raleigh)
Joe Van Gogh (Durham)
Lantern (Chapel Hill)
Mad Hatter’s Bakeshop and Cafe (Durham)
Neal’s Deli (Carrboro)
Parker and Otis (Durham)
Pop’s (Durham)
Rockwood Filling Station (Durham)
Ruckus Pizza Pasta and Spirits (Cary)
Rue Cler (Durham)
Sandwhich (Chapel Hill)
Six Plates Wine Bar (Durham)
Toast (Durham)
Tyler’s Restaurant and Tap Room (Carborro, Durham and Apex)
West End Wine Bar (Chapel Hill)
Zely and Ritz (Raleigh)

More information on this fantastic effort can be found on this Facebook page or this new blog that’s been started.  The blog says that 10% of profits will be donated to the charities, but that is a misprint.  It is 10% of sales.  So go to brunch on Sunday and then to dinner on Monday.  And spread the word!

(Edited to reflect changes to participating restaurants at 8:15 AM, 1/23/10)

Herons: New Chef, New Food, New Heart

May 7, 2009

lambHerons Restaurant in Cary’s Umstead Hotel has been a bit of an enigma since it opened a couple of years ago.  It’s one of my favorite dining rooms, with warm wood decor and the most comfortable seats around.  The service has always been top-notch and efficient, although sometimes a bit overzealous.  At one point I wrote that Herons was the most underrated restaurant in the Triangle, but over time, I began to see why folks had a problem with it.  First, dining at Herons was a ridiculously expensive proposition with entrees in the high 30s and 40s.  Second, the food was wildly inconsistent, which could be directly tied to their chefs.  Phil Evans opened Herons, and although he was capable of putting out some good food, I thought he lacked direction and soul.  What I mean was that the food would taste good, but it just didn’t excite me.  I don’t need to be excited with everything I eat, but at 4o bucks, that plate should be somewhat memorable.  The second chef, Paul Kellum, went downhill from there.  I had two meals at Herons under Kellum, and both of them were lackluster, with one dish — Kellum’s version of chicken and waffles — being practically inedible.

I had no reason to go back to Herons, except for a business lunch, perhaps.  And then, with the economy gone bad, Herons wasn’t even a good proposition for business.  Ostentation is out.  Frugality is in. Read the rest of this entry »

Beard Award Semi-Finalists Announced

February 13, 2009

jamesbeardSeveral local chefs and restaurants are on the semi-finalist list for the 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards.  Ben and Karen Barker’s landmark Southern restaurant, Magnolia Grill, is one of 20 establishments in the running for Best Restaurant (that would be in the entire country, thank you very much).

Four local chefs are on the list for Best Chefs in the Southeast: From Chapel Hill we have Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner, Andrea Reusing of Lantern, and Chip Smith of Bonne Soirée.  Durham is represented by Scott Howell of Nana’s.  Hmm, no Raleigh institutions were recognized, although two Charlotte-based chefs are on the list.

I also have some sentimental favorites I’m pulling for: John Currence of Oxford, Mississippi’s City Grocery should win for Best Chef in the South.  Sean Brock of Charleston’s McGrady’s is clearly one of the Rising Star Chefs in the country.  And there are so many worthy candidates for Best Chef, it would be hard to pick one.  But that’s why this is all fun, right?

Greg Cox’s 2009 List of Triangle’s Best Restaurants

January 20, 2009

Greg Cox, the News & Observer’s restaurant critic, released his list of top restaurants last Friday, and I think I may be in nearly complete agreement with his choices.  He selected Andrea Reusing’s Lantern as the restaurant of the year, and when you consider the national acclaim this Chapel Hill establishment received this past year, along with the fantastic food Reusing puts out, this honor was well deserved.

He only had 20 restaurants on his list last year.  Dropping out were Jibarra, which closed and then reopened downtown, Red Palace (closed), Jujube and Second Empire.  New to the list are Allen & Son, China Palace, Dos Toquitos Centros, Il Palio, J. Betski’s, Margaux’s, Panciuto, Saint Jacques, and Zely & Ritz.  Panciuto and J. Betski’s were on last year’s “Top Newcomers” list.

He also chose Poole’s Downtown Diner, Ashley Christensen’s one year old baby, as the newcomer of the year.  As you know, I’m certainly biased towards Ashley, as she’s a good friend, but the food she puts out continues to be superb (and the service is actually quite decent).

As for the top 25 restaurants, I can’t really quibble with any of the places on the list (and I love that he included Allen & Son.  I’m thinking that we need to come up with a top 25 “cheap eats” places that would be separate from the high end establishments.  Gret did something like this last year with his list of Best Bargains, but we need to expand this list to 25 places.  Or maybe an assortment of a top 3 “Best in Class” for each type of place.

Anyhow, and this may shock many readers, but I’m in agreement with Cox’s list.  It’s really hard for me to think of Margaux’s as one of the best places in the Triangle anymore.  It’s good, but not good enough.    And Saint Jacques can’t keep a cook longer than a couple of months.  Other than that, however, strong work, Greg.

Greg Cox’s Top 25 Restaurants in the Triangle — 2009 Edition


Allen & Son

Bin 54

Bloomsbury Bistro

Bonne Soirée

China Palace

Dos Taquitos Centro

Elaine’s on Franklin

Enoteca Vin



Four Square


Il Palio

J. Betski’s

Magnolia Grill





Saint Jacques


Vin Rouge


Zely & Ritz

Top 10 Newcomers

Poole’s Downtown Diner



Maximillians Pizza Kitchen


The Mint

Rockwood Filling Station

Posta Tuscan Grille


Watts Grocery

Best Burger in the Triangle Update

May 7, 2008

I promised back in October when I wrote about the best burgers in the Triangle that I’d update my list from time to time. I have one new addition.

Players’ Retreat: Although I’ve lived in and around Raleigh for seemingly forever, I have never been to the Players’ Retreat, generally referred to as “The PR.” It’s an NC State hangout bar that’s really smoky. I just don’t usually want to eat meals at such places. I was at the PR last night, attending an election day party for a candidate I was supporting and ordered a burger. The menu said the burgers were from black angus beef, ground in-house, and cooked to order. In fact, the menu recommended you order them RARE. Very cool. So I got one, and damn, that’s a mighty fine burger. One of the best around. Maybe THE best. I then learned that the PR has over 60 types of scotch available. Obviously, they want my business. And with LocoPops right around the corner, well, I might have found a second home.

James Beard Award Pre-Candidates

February 16, 2008

jamesbeard.gifBallots for the 2008 James Beard Awards have been sent to the judges, and there are a number of Triangle chefs and restaurants on this very long list. Just being on the ballot is an honor (OK, the founder of the Chipotle chain is there, so maybe not such an honor), although these have rarely been leaked to the public before.

Here are the locals who received a mention:

Best Chef: Southeast

Scott Howell, Nana’s
Andrea Reusing, Lantern
Chip Smith, Bonne Soiree

Rising Star Chef of the Year
Jeremy Sabo, South

Outstanding Restaurant
Magnolia Grill

Best New Restaurant
Watt’s Grocery

Sexiest Chef in the Triangle???

November 14, 2007

I ran across this piece from today’s New York Daily News where they named the executive pastry chef at Jean Georges as the sexiest chef in New York, and that got me thinking, who are the sexiest chefs in the Triangle? Male/female, gay/straight, executive/sous/pastry. It doesn’t matter.

What’s funny about the New York poll was that two of the three chefs with photos obviously have a lot of tatoos. We’re talking full-blown, technicolor, below-the-elbow arm ink. Is that necessary? Is it important.

Anyhow, start naming names! Don’t be shy, just because they might be a friend. And if you are concerned, just drop me an email, and I’ll post your suggestions.

Edit: I’ve received a few suggestions and will add them to the list. Some of these are mine, and some have been emailed to me. I’ve added my own editorial comments.

I know I run the risk of coming off as a shill for Fins, but several folks I know have declared William D’Auvray to be über-hot (and even as a heterosexual, I definitely see where they’re coming from). But I don’t have any pictures, either.

Andrea Reusing of Lantern is a redhead, so she automatically makes my list.

It might get me in trouble, as she’s a good friend, but several men and women have commented on how they think Ashley Christensen is a babe. (Sorry, Ashley, but it’s a complement!)

Go here for this flash presentation of several chefs, including Chris Stinnett.


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