Taste of Durham: Pop’s Trattoria/Rue Cler

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Two delicious downtown restaurants: one week: one owner.

Rue Cler is about a block from First Durham, a french restaurant and bakery (I’ve heard their blueberry muffins are just excitement for your mouth).

A friend and I went.  Dinner menus are daily reads, so I couldn’t plan ahead of time (ACK!).  They are pre-fixe menus, but you can substitute for anything, or you can do it a la carte.

I got the salad frisee (frisee greens, croutons, vinaigrette, bacon (which I left off for meatless year) and an egg – broken down into the greens – maybe all the time from now on.  Then I had a side of the pomme frites (really yummy seasoned french fries).  I didn’t care for the sauce (butter/tarragon) but I refrained from asking for ketchup. 

We had a great waitress who was patient in answering all of our questions because neither of us specialize in French cooking.

The other restaurant I tried this week was Pop’s Trattoria on Main Street.  They recently moved buildings – into an urban/warehouse type feel with local artist’s work adorning the wall.  We walked right in on V-day weekend because of reservations.  They sat us right next to beautiful precious friends which made the night even more special. 

Mussels with tomatoes, white wine, and red chili – AMAZING.  You really want a straw to sip up all the broth – but instead you dip the bread.  They come around to the tables periodically with a big basket and a set of tongs to give you as much bread as you desire. (1 1/2 for me).  The olive oil they served was delicious and fruity, but it didn’t compare to the mussels’ broth, so I chose that for my dipping choice.

Those we devoured – we also got the apple brie ricotto pizza topped with a truffle oil cream.  Very rich, we took leftovers.

The food was better than the service.  That’s not to say the service was bad, just not STELLAR – but the food definitely made up for it.  I could go back every night just to have the mussels.  Will definitely be going back to Pop’s!

Top 100.7: Southport: Provisions

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Yacht Basin Provision Company is a local’s haven. Provisions, as known by the locals, has its own t-shirts, honor-system beer, and great prices for fresh local seafood.
The decor is local fishing pier with all seating outside on the porch, under flaps by the pier. Fresh seafood marked up a chalkboard and buns were searing on the grill – that’s where you placed your order. They walked it out to you and you paid after you ate. Trusting owners.
I ordered the lunch special which was the crab cake and 1/4 fresh steamed shrimp. The crab cake was good but a little too wet for me. The shrimp were perfect. Steamed and seasoned to perfection, the 9 shrimp I had were the highlight of my day.
I will definitely go to this pier stop again.

Our State #6: Sunrise Biscuit Co. (Oxford)

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Heading north on HWY 50 gave us opportunity to hit up Our State Top 100 Number 6 on Saturday. Oxford, a little quaint town about 35 minutes north of Raleigh, was having its Hot Sauce Festival that day. I can’t imagine how dead the downtown would have been without the festival, but this restaurant I’m sure still would have been packed out.
Then line in Sunrise Biscuit Company never got any shorter while we were there, people just kept coming in. It was about 8:30am on a Saturday morning – people having more leisure mornings without having to rush off to work.
To be honest, this wasn’t the best biscuit I’ve ever had in my life. I’d rather have Bojangles any day of the week. The grits had no flavor and even after I put the salt and pepper in it – still they didn’t do anything for me. The biscuit was decent – but the sausage was better.
So…I think I’ll stick to Bojangles. But, the closest one to downtown Oxford was about 10 minutes. So…if you want a cup of coffee and a biscuit for a cheap price – you can go there.

Taste of Kill Devil Hills: American Pie

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When you drive into any beach town, doesn’t everyone bee-line straight for the nearest ice cream place? Well, we did.
We pitched our tent, had ice cream, hiked deserts, and then waited an hour for dinner.
These ladies who ran the locally owned and homemade ice cream (and pizza) place were friendly and informative to us (especially since we didn’t know anything about the OBX). They let us try about 5 flavors each.
I ended up getting two, but only eating one of them. Both were good but too much ice cream, so I had to go with the better.
The Chocolate Peanut Butter was out of this world. I loved it. And I’m not usually a chocolate fan. But, will go there again and get it (hopefully they have it). Winner!

Taste of OBX: Tortugas Lie

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I know you have waited patiently for it – the best food I ate during my first stay at the OBX: mahi mahi tacos at Tortugas Lie. This is definitely my brother’s type of place.
Late lunch consisted of unsweet tea at a bar, mahi mahi tacos with beans and rice, and cocoloco chicken with a lime curry sauce served also with beans and rice (yellow and black).
All was fabulous. My friend’s parents suggested this place just up the road from their condo and beach access.
We had to wait about 10 minutes for 2 seats at the bar on Labor Day Monday. Prices were decent (9$). But, the food was great. Rach said the tacos would have been better with corn tortillas, but I took them just like they were. The lime and curry sauce for the curry chicken was fabulous – and I finished that off with the yellow rice.
So, when I go back again – I’ll definitely hit this local joint and maybe just get the tacos again so I can have both of them.

Taste of Raleigh: 18 Seaboard

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Treated my parents here for a belated Father’s Day/Dad’s birthday dinner. Made reservations through Open Table and everything went great from there.
The hostesses were extra accommodating to us. Our waitress was able to make recommendations and not afraid to do so. She wasn’t too pesky but did check on us throughout our stay to refill our water, bring us complimentary good eats, and make sure we had everything we needed. Definitely worth a good tip.
The decor was lovely, brick, soft drapes, dim lighting, classic place settings, sectioned off bar area (in the front of the restaurant). 18 Seaboard is set in an old rail station, so the ambience isn’t too “new fangled”. Loved it – my type of nice restaurant.
We didn’t start with any appetizers, but the kitchen gave us some crostini with their basil goat cheese. I could eat goat cheese day. This was exceptional. Creamy and bursting with flavor from the fresh summer basil. Thank you, Kitchen!
I ordered a refreshing salad with peaches. Here is their description: Pee Dee Orchard peach and field greens salad with basil balsamic vinaigrette, pecans, and aged balsamic crouton. The aged balsamic crouton was stellar and it tasted like a fruit jam. Wonderful. This salad was light and refreshing and Fresh! I loved it.
Mom ordered the Chopped Asparagus Salad and the Black Eyed Pea Cakes. I tasted both. Mom loved her salad and ate one of her black-eyed pea cakes. Too much food! 🙂 I love asparagus! They do have vegetarian options for those who have those dietary needs/wants.
Dad got the special which was salmon (he got it blackened) with potatoes, onions, corn and spinach. I could have eaten a bowl of the onions all by themselves, maybe I should have asked for an order of them. I think they were cooked with a honey balsamic – but man, they were some of the best onions I’ve ever had.
This food was local and fresh, which is something else I enjoy about a restaurant.
For dessert, we ordered the roasted Amoretti stuffed peach with homemade (in-house) blueberry and sprite melon ice cream. Could I get a quart of the ice cream to go please? So fresh and light. But, also a taste treat from the kitchen – little squares of blueberry cake with a blueberry mousse. The mousse was light and a perfect topping.
Jason and his crew at 18 Seaboard definitely know how to cook a meal and serve it up to their patrons. Will be returning! Maybe just for peach salads, onions, and ice cream! I think I could handle that.

Our State #2: Sherefe – Fayetteville

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I used to be in Fayetteville a few times a week back 10 years ago, but this place wasn’t there. How I wish it was.
A non-descript inside decor gave room to a delicious meal that was fabulous – rivals anything The Grape Leaf (my fave Greek place in Louisville) puts out – and definitely better than anything I’ve had in RDU to date.
1. When I tasted my first shrimp out of this dish I immediately said “I’ve gotta learn how to make this!”. KARIDES ALA TURCA
Jumbo shrimp sauteed in white wine with garlic, tomatoes, feta cheese & mushrooms Served over fire-roasted eggplant mashed potatoes. I could have passed on the mashed potatoes, but I am not an eggplant fan. The shrimp was superb! Nice suggestion by our friendly waiter who was kind and helpful.
2. The falafel. I have grown to love this. And if a Greek/Turkish place can do this well, most other things are going to taste great as well. Their’s was perfectly fried with a pop of spice that hit you about 5 seconds after you put it in your mouth. I only had one of these, and definitely could have had more.
3. The small Greek salad. Fantastic, refreshing, diced tomatoes and cucumbers with a wonderful vinaigrette and smallish bites of feta (instead of bigger chunks). Next time I will get a large salad with falafel on it.
4. Their tzatziki sauce. Perfect to go with the spicy falafel and sop up the doughy and pleasantly warm pita bread served on the side.
1. Too far away (Took 75 minutes to get there).
2. I wish it was cheaper. Mom and I got the salad, sampler, and the shrimp dish, 1 tea for just under 40$. But, we got a TON of food – Mom had plenty for leftovers tonight which she just gobbled down.
So, if you ever find yourself traveling down Ramsey Street in Fayetteville, or there is a traffic jam on 95 and you want a place to stop, go here. You won’t be disappointed. Saturday – every table in the place was occupied.

Taste of Durham: Cuban Revolution

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I’m a little behind on my restaurant reviews – but here goes.

The American Tobacco district in Durham is home to some great night life, the Durham Bulls, and fabulous restaurants.  Parking is not fun, especially when there is a football game, but it is a great way to spend a Friday night with friends.

Cuban Revolution is one of those places.  The atmosphere is fun, eclectic, historical, cultural.  The wait staff are wonderful and engaging and knowledgeable.  The food – I really did love what I ordered. 

We started with sweet potato fries.  Good – but not the best I’ve had.

I ordered the Cuban salad – black beans and maduros – I fell in love.  So good.  Dressing on the side.  Who knew maduros on a salad would be so good?

We went on a night with a baseball game across thestreet, so we had a pretty lengthy wait – but it was worth it, fun nightlife atmosphere, would be fun for some dancing if they ever had any times to do that, price was reasonable, and once the game started it cleared out and ended up as a quiet evening (until the game got out).

Taste of Pizza: Brixx

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I love thin crust pizza.  I love whole wheat crust.  I love non-greasy pizza and ones with delicious toppings.  And I love salads.

The Brixx salad was simple and delicious: greens, goat cheese (I could eat this by the log), pistachios and croutons.  Their housemade balsamic – man I would love the recipe for that.  Fresh cracked pepper – fococcia (didn’t like that bc it was cold).  Hmmm.

We shared a 10 inch whole wheat crust 1/2 pizza.  The crust was perfectly thin and not too crispy so that it busted in your hands.  BBQ chicken was the waitress’s favorite recommendation and is usually a favorite of mine.  It was good – just nothing special.  The other half was pear and gorgonzola.  Subtle, slightly sweet, love the walnuts on it.  Sauteed onions were simply delicious.  Good choice.

Brixx.  Would go again.  Not the world’s best pizza.  But, good for a chain.  Salad was good.  Can I honestly get a recipe for that dressing?

Taste of Raleigh: Neomonde's Bakery and Deli

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I left behind TWO great falafel places in Louisville. It was sad. Grape Leaf and Shiraz were delicious and relatively inexpensive, Shiraz being the cheaper of the two. Before 2007, when I lived in RDU – I didn’t really care that much about Persian/Mediterranean food (not like I do now).

Friday I was introduced to a place out by NCSU and Meredith called Neomonde. For those of you in Louisville – a Mediterranean Lotsa Pasta. Market, deli, refillable drinks, samples. Neomonde’s is cheaper than Lotsa Pasta. There are so many wonderful things to choose from.

On Friday when I went we shared the Large Kabaob platter. 1 chicken kabob, 1 beef kabob, 2 salads (veggie salad and hummus). They give you tons of pita when you check out. And we got 4 falafels – good (although green inside) and topped with sesame seeds (could have done without the sesame seeds. I personally like the pitas better in the ville, but these are good.

Saturday when I went I got a 1/2 falafel wrap and hummus/pita – 4 kalamata olives, evoo, hummus, 3 whole wheat pitas) = all for 6.50. I call that a pretty good deal.

So – this will definitely be a favorite. Anyone wanna go with? More pictures will come later.