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Archive for the ‘Cary’ Category

The Great Grapes! Wine, Art & Food Festival was last Saturday, April 16th.  I had been checking the weather the week before and it was looking like rain would hit.  The day of, it looked like it would be raining on and off until about 4pm, when the thunderstorms would really hit, so we stopped by at about 12:30pm.  We brought umbrellas and raincoats just in case. The format was typical for a Koka Booth wine/food event, except this one had free parking!  We were on the will-call list because I ordered tickets ahead of time, and all the lines were really short because of the threat of rain.  We picked up our glasses, and entered the festival.

Live music was playing about every other hour, so when we got there it was 30 minutes before the next act would start.  My husband hadn’t had anything to eat yet, but the “Food” part of the festival looked a bit scarce.  There were some typical concession-type stands selling gyros, cheese steaks, hot dogs and the like, and a pizza stand, and some kettle corn.  I didn’t really see much else.  I ended up getting a chicken gyro, and my husband got a lamb gyro.  Not great, but edible.  I was disappointed there wasn’t a better food selection there.

My son went down near the lake to play in the bouncy inflatable slide thing.  He loves these sorts of things at Monkey Joe’s.  It was a bit wet when he started from the rain, but with the high winds and the sun peeking out now and then, it dried off soon.  I would go to the booths trying out a few different wines, and bring back the sweetest dessert ones for my husband to try.

The flyer we got wasn’t very helpful.  I liked some of the booklets I’ve gotten at other events that list each wine that each vendor has.  This one only had a list of vendors.  The total was 25, and I think I tried at least one wine at nearly all of them.  For NC wines, I try to just stick to the sweeter muscadine wines.  I figure if I’m going to try a chardonnay, I’ll get a Napa one.  If I want a Riesling, I’ll get a German one.  If I wanted a Shiraz, I would look for something Australian.  But it’s been my experience that North Carolina doesn’t have the right type of grapes or climates for those types of wines.

The Cypress Bend Vineyards had some nice wines.  I tried the Daniel, To-morrow, and McNeil, and they were all pleasant.  The Allison Oaks Allie’s Choice was a fairly sweet dessert wine, but my husband didn’t like it very much.  The Carolina Heritage Traminette was a surprisingly good take on a gewurztraminer that would go excellent with a good dinner.  The Chatham Hill Winery (that oddly prides itself as being the Triangle’s only urban winery) had some pretty odd-tasting Blackberry wine, but I actually found the Peach to be quite tasty.  I think it’s something my mom would enjoy, she likes the girly, wine-cooler type wines.  Seriously though, I really liked the peach.

The Southern Charm Winery had quite a few excellent sweet wines.  My favorite was the Summer Mist, which is probably the best strawberry wine I’ve ever had.  I really should have picked up a bottle.  I also liked their Hummingbird, Carolina Sunset and Edisto Black.  The Edisto Black had a very good take on the blackberry wine, but it wasn’t quite as good as the strawberry.

The “Art” part of the festival really wasn’t there.  I saw some small booths with crafts for sale, but I was really expecting more.  I think there were more booths for businesses and charities outnumbered the art booths by about 4:1.

We left the festival by about 2:30pm, as it was sprinkling on and off and I didn’t know how much longer the weather would hold.  By about 3:30pm the storms came down hard, and soon after there were tornado warnings and hail, and things like insulation and plywood flying around the neighborhood.  I imagine the festival didn’t last long after that.  Such a pity that the worst storm in years happened to coincide with the Great Grapes! festival.

For next year they could make a few improvements.  More food booths, more art booths, and live music throughout the 11am-7pm festival would have made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.  As it was though, it was a good time at a fairly cheap price.  At only $20 per ticket though, I really can’t have too many complaints.  I look forward to attending next year.

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My husband has brought home take-out from Thai Spices and Sushi in the past, so I figured it was about time to stop in and do a proper review of the place.  The restaurant is tucked away in a tiny corner of a shopping center, so it’s not visible from Cary Pwky or High House, and in the 5+ times I stopped at the Lowes Foods there I never even noticed it.  I imagine they don’t get a lot of pedestrian traffic either, so instead they send out flyers in the Pennysaver trying to attract business.  If you try a bit, you can probably find a coupon somewhere around your house already, or print off one online.

The restaurant itself is actually pretty narrow.  It’s just one long, main room, with seating on both the walls, and down the middle.  There’s also a very small sushi bar, and what looked like some small additional seating in the back, though it was difficult to see.  The restaurant seemed abnormally dark for noon.  With the size of the tables and booths, I don’t think it’d be a good place if you have 5 or more in your party.

Kid's Chicken Nuggets

We were given a few different menus.  The main menu, several pages long, the lunch specials, and the chef’s specials.  They did have a kid’s menu on the back of the main menu, which thankfully featured chicken nuggets for only $3.95.  I always like it when my son will actually order something off the menu.  I checked over the different sections and thought that for a restaurant offering Thai and Japanese, their selection seemed lacking in both.  They didn’t have masaman curry or pad see ew on their Thai menu, and they didn’t really have any yellowtail makizushi or yellowtail cheek in their sushi selection.  I didn’t see a nigiri list but I may have overlooked it.  My husband usually orders tonkatsu at Japanese restaurants, but they didn’t have that either.  It was odd, having such a diverse and extensive menu selection, but yet feeling like so much was missing.  I finally decided to order the Tom Kha soup with chicken and the Kang Ka Ree yellow curry with tofu, and my husband ordered the soup as well, with the Best Sellers Bento (Pad Thai and gyoza).

Tom Kha Soup

My son’s chicken nuggets came out pretty quickly.  He ate most of his chicken nuggets, because they were a lot like the frozen Tyson ones he gets at home.  He wasn’t nearly as interested in the fries, but did try a few of them.  I ate the steamed veggies, they were pretty good.

Our soup came out soon after.  It was pretty good size for a cup of soup, but at $5 it’s more expensive than the one at Tangerine too.  I thought it was a pretty good Tom Kha, with a good balance of chicken and mushrooms, and a really good flavored broth.  It wasn’t as spicy as some, but it can be ordered spicier if you want.  Perhaps next time I’ll go for the medium-hot instead of the medium.

Lunch Bento Best Sellers - Pad Thai and Gyoza

There was no one else in the restaurant the entire time we were there, but the entrees took surprisingly long to come out.  I don’t really mind a whole lot when it takes a while, but usually during lunch I don’t have enough time for this sort of wait.  Luckily it was a Saturday, so I could just relax and wait.

My Kang Ka Ree came out with nice big chunks of potatoes, tofu and onion.  The sauce was good, but not as spicy as I would have thought for a “medium”.  I’d order it a notch higher next time.  I ate all I could, and still had enough for a full meal on Monday.  I added chopped cashews to the leftovers though, because I thought they needed a bit of crunchy texture.

Kang Ka Ree with Tofu

My husband’s bento box was pretty impressive.  He said the Pad Thai was better than the one at Tom Yum Thai.  The salted edamame was pretty tasty, I had a few.  The salad was okay, but he said the dressing was a little too thick and chunky.  The gyoza was perfect.  The spring roll had an odd taste, but unfortunately he’s not very good at describing his food.

I think Thai Spices and Sushi is a good, solid restaurant, and it worries me that I didn’t see anyone else even stopping by for take-out.  This was the week they were donating 15% of the sales to the Red Cross effort in Japan.  I think if they had a more visible location, or a more focused menu, perhaps they could bring in some more business.
Thai Spices & Sushi on Urbanspoon

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Biaggi’s is one of my husband’s favorite restaurants. Whenever he has to set up a business meeting over lunch, he always tries to make it Biaggi’s. The place does have a nice, formal atmosphere for business meetings, and I also see a lot of kids coming here for things like prom and formals. Yet it’s also casual enough that you can come here with some visiting family for lunch or dinner and have a nice, relaxing evening.

Kid's Cheese Pizza

Generally we go to Biaggi’s for lunch, because my husband loves the panini. But last Saturday we went for dinner, so it was a slightly different menu than we normally see. No panini, but at least they have the stromboli he likes too. This time he ordered the mushroom and pepperoni stromboli. Even at dinner time, the stromboli is only $9.99 which is pretty decent for the size and quality of the dish. I usually try the pasta dishes. I’ve had the Rigatoni alla Toscana before and it’s one of my favorite meals, but I wanted to try something else today so I ordered the Veal Parmesan. It was a bit more expensive than the stromboli, at $18.99, but I don’t think it’s unusual for an Italian dinner entree. We also ordered the Calimari Fritti as an appetizer because we were pretty hungry. The kid’s menu includes several different entree options and a drink and ice cream sundae included, all for $5.99. My son ordered the kid’s cheese pizza (hold the sauce) with some orange juice.

Calamari Fritti

They bring out a bread basket which is really good dipped in the olive oil and parmesan cheese. It makes for a good snack before your meal. My son’s pizza came out in just a few minutes, so he could get a head start on us. He usually takes a while to eat. My husband and I helped ourselves to his pizza, because it was huge. I couldn’t imagine any child could actually finish a pizza like that in one or even 3 sittings. Even without the sauce, it was a pretty good pizza. I was disappointed he didn’t like it, but it didn’t look exactly like Papa John’s cheese sticks so he didn’t even want to try it. My husband ended up finishing the rest for lunch the following week and he thought it was great.

Sausage and Cheese Stromboli

Our calamari wasn’t huge for $8.99, and it wasn’t extraordinary. I just think for the price, we’d either try a different appetizer, or save the room for a dessert afterward. I don’t really like paying more than about $5 for appetizers unless they’re mind-blowing. Besides, the bread alone could fill you up, so appetizers aren’t really required here.

Veal Parmesan

After our entrees arrived, my husband realized they had given him the sausage and cheese stromboli instead of the mushroom and pepperoni. It was taken back to the kitchen, but alas, the mushroom and pepperoni had already been given to another customer. They offered to make a new stromboli for him, but rather than wait another 10-15 minutes, he decided just to eat the sausage and cheese stromboli. He’s eaten both kinds before and likes them both. They were nice enough to take the stromboli completely off the bill for us, even though we said it was fine.

The veal parmesan was thicker than I’ve usually seen it, in 3 cheese-covered pucks of meat. I would have preferred thinner meat, but the cheese was fantastic. It also came with a side of spaghetti with a white sauce, and the sauce was unbelievable. I love their cream sauces here.

We didn’t get any dessert, since we were stuffed from all the food. I don’t think we’ve ever managed to have desserts here since the portions are so huge. I think the veal parmesan is probably not a dish I’d order again (the Rigatoni alla Toscana is just so much better), but I’d love to keep trying more entrees there. In my opinion it’s the best Italian restaurant in Cary.
Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon

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Burgers aren’t really my thing, but my husband loves them, and I like to try new beers.  It seems like the Triangle area has more pub food restaurants than any other type, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Cheesy Poofs

Tribeca is conveniently located at the NW corner of High House and Davis, despite the “Ledgestone Way” street name listed.  This is a nice little shopping center with Kilwin’s for my blue moon ice cream fix, Little Toy Shop for awesome kid’s toys, games, puzzles and books, and Stonehaven for longing looks at custom gem settings.  This also means that at the wrong time of day, it can be a battle to find a good parking spot.

We entered the restaurant at just after 5pm on a Saturday evening.  At that time the restaurant wasn’t that crowded, we were able to find a good parking spot, and the upstairs veranda was completely empty.  If you do happen to come to Tribeca on a day with nice weather, I really recommend getting a seat upstairs.  Sure, the view is just the intersection of Davis and High House, but it’s still a really nice spot to relax and enjoy a beer.

Kid's Pasta

Our server was very friendly and spent a lot of time explaining all the items on the menu, where the ingredients come from, all the beer specials, and specifics on particular burgers and appetizers.  From her descriptions it sounds like they really try to use lot of local ingredients.  I’m not a locavore, in fact, I love my French cheeses and Belgian beers.  But I do appreciate a restaurant that knows where their ingredients come from.

I didn’t catch the name of the beer, but I ordered the peach hefeweizen.  It sounded like the kind of beer I would like, and I certainly did like it.  It tasted a lot like the Lindeman’s peach lambic.  I took a brief look at the appetizer list and ordered the cheesy poofs at the same time.  It sounded like the most awesome food imaginable: puff pastry stuffed with brie, chopped cashews and bacon, and a raspberry dipping sauce on the side.  It came out in just a few minutes, and it was almost as awesome as I was hoping for.  The cashews didn’t seem to match well with the brie and bacon.  It would have been better with almonds, perhaps, or maybe no nuts at all.  The brie, bacon and raspberry all went perfectly together though.

The Tar Heel Burger

For entrees my son ordered the kid’s pasta, I ordered the Tar Heel burger, and my husband ordered the Wolfpack burger.  The kid’s meals seemed like a good deal, for just $5 you get the entree, drink and dessert.  I’m not normally into burgers, but since they were Tribeca’s specialty, I decided to go for the one with brie and sauteed onions.  My husband loves burgers and tends to like the ones with fried onions and BBQ sauce on them.  We both got the sweet potato fries with honey rum sauce.

We had the pasta come out early, since my son is a slow eater.  It was an odd shape of pasta, somewhat shell shaped, so that several pieces would stick together in lumps.  I tasted a piece, and the sauce was really good.  My son even ate some of it and didn’t have any complaints.

The Wolfpack Burger

Our burgers came out soon after, and they were huge!  I tried to smush down the bun as well as I could, but even so, I was loosing onions and burger everywhere every time I tried to bite in.  It was a good burger, but far too messy.  I couldn’t even finish it all.  I think I would have been happier if the patty would have been about half that size.  The sweet potato fries were probably the best part of the meal.  The honey rum sauce was the perfect compliment.  More fries, less beef patty, and it would have been a perfect meal.

My husband had no problem finishing his burger.  He said it was pretty near perfect, and liked his fries as much as I did.  He had always been a fan of Tyler’s burgers, but considers Tribeca’s burgers to be superior.

I think we’ll probably be frequenting Tribeca a lot from now on.  I like the beer selection and the fries, and my husband loves the burgers.  We’ll just have to make sure we arrive early so we can get a spot up in the veranda again.
Tribeca Tavern on Urbanspoon

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My husband is a fan of Italian and Bocci offers kids foods that would appeal to my son, so we decided to stop by Bocci for lunch on Monday.  It’s quite a ways further south than we normally go for restaurants, in a small shopping center off Kildaire Farm Rd.  There’s only a small sign that says “Bocci” visible from the street, otherwise the restaurant itself is not visible from either Kildaire Farm Rd. or the cross street.  The restaurant’s entrance is hidden down the interior walkway of the shopping center.  I guess this makes for some nicer outdoor eating when the area is somewhat enclosed, but I imagine they don’t get a lot of drive-by business because of this.

Kid's Lasagna

The interior of the restaurant was nicely decorated, but when I sat down my leg hit a strange wood piece hanging down from the table.  I’m not sure if it was built for extensions to be put in the middle, but it’s kind of a hazard to have your guest hit their limbs on unexpected table bits.

The menu offered a nice array of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pastas, traditional Italian entrees, and an extensive wine list.  It was nice to see they did offer some special lunch options in the Pasta section, with a smaller price tag, and I would assume a smaller portion.  They also had a kid’s menu.  Usually my son won’t eat the typical kid’s menu options, but he seemed interested in the kid’s lasagna so we ordered that for him.  He also ordered an apple juice, which we were informed later that they didn’t have.  So he ordered the orange juice.  They ended up not having any orange juice either.  So then he ordered the chocolate milk and they did have chocolate milk!  My husband ordered the Panini Club with fries (very Italian, I know), and I ordered the Ravioli Bolognese, the lunch portion.

Panini Club

We didn’t order any appetizers since my husband was in a bit of a hurry, but they do provide some free sliced bread at the table with some little pots of whipped butter.  The bread wasn’t fabulous, and they don’t serve it with fancy herbed olive oil like at other Italian restaurants, but it’s still nice to chew on something while you wait for your food.  My son’s lasagna came out really quickly anyway (we did request it to come before ours) and the sauce made for some good bread dipping material.

I tried to take the nicest picture I could, but no matter what angle, the kid’s lasagna just looked like a wad of red meat sauce that had cheese melted over it.  It looked like something I would have made working at Country Kitchen back in college.  My son ate a bit of it, and it did taste okay for a kid’s lasagna, but they could have tried a bit harder with the presentation.

Ravioli Bolognese

My husband’s panini came out looking like a panini is expected to look, but with higher, rounder bread.  I tried one of his fries; they were good but not as hot as they should be if they just came out of the fryer.  He said the panini was good, but didn’t like the bread very much.  He said it tasted like “Subway bread” and not like the Italian bread he’s had with other paninis.  He also said that the cheese hadn’t melted enough, another issue with the temperature of the food.

My ravioli bolognese came out looking like the pasta Darth Vader: more sauce now than pasta.  This was again like some trick we used to pull at Country Kitchen, back when we featured the lobster ravioli, drowned in a pint of sauce.  Except back then I think we served at least 5 raviolis, not these pitiful 4.  Designing 101 tells you never to make arrangements in even numbers.  Besides the terrible presentation, it was actually a decent meal.  The flavor was all right, and it was a filling meal for me.  But compared to the pasta dishes I’ve had at Biaggi’s, it really didn’t live up to my expectations.

The service wasn’t bad, and the restaurant itself was very nice looking.  I just really wish they could take some time to make their food look a bit nicer.  Since the price is similar to that of Biaggi’s, but Biaggi’s tends to have better food, I think we probably won’t be returning to Bocci.
Bocci Trattoria & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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Yuri in Cary

Yuri is next to Trader Joe’s on Kildaire Farm Rd, so I’ve driven past it many times but from the exterior it looked something like a fast food chain, so I’ve never bothered to stop by.  After our trip to Shabashabu last week, my husband was in the mood for tonkatsu, so I deliberately picked a restaurant that would serve it.  Yuri has a menu online so it’s easy enough to check it out, and I would advise it since the lunch menu and dinner menu seem to be quite different.  I only saw the tonkatsu offered at dinner so we stopped by at about 5:30pm on Saturday evening.

The exterior looked pretty cheap and generic, like all the other stores and restaurants along this strip of Kildaire, but the interior was really nicely done.  Immediately to your right on entering there are a couple of semi-private eating areas for up to 6 people, where you would sit on the floor and eat off a small table just a foot above the ground.  I asked if these tables were available and was told no, they were already reserved.  So instead we were seated in a booth, which was fine too.  Each booth comes decorated with a Fiji water bottle.  I ordered tap water and a Kirin beer, since I’ve never tried Japanese beer before.  My husband warned me they try to make their beers taste like American beers, and sure enough, it tasted like any other Bud/Miller/Coors I’ve had.

Vegetable Tempura

For the appetizer my husband and I got the vegetable tempura to share.  The included vegetables were two pea pods, green pepper, carrot, onion, broccoli, squash, and zucchini.  I thought they all tasted terrific and the onion was my favorite.  It was impossible to eat with chopsticks though, it was too big and unwieldy.  I ended up using my fingers for that one.  I usually like sweet potato too, but was kind of disappointed to see it wasn’t included.  My husband also got a miso soup that was included with his tonkatsu meal.  It was pretty standard for miso.

Tamago Nigiri

For entrees my husband ordered the tonkatsu, and I spent a great deal of time with the waiter discussing my options with the yellowtail.  First I asked about the “Hamachi Lovers” rolls, since it sounded perfect except it was lacking tamago.  He said he would ask the sushi chef if it could me made with tamago as well, and I got the reply that it would be too large if tamago was included.  So I decided just to get the Hamachi Lovers and order some tamago nigiri on the side, and that could be good enough.  I also asked about the hamachi kama (yellowtail cheek) I saw on the menu under the appetizers.  I understood it was commonly served grilled at many restaurants (and the grilled hamachi is pretty good) but I was wondering if it was possible to get nigiri with yellowtail cheek instead of the regular body slice.  Again this idea was shot down.  I was told that when the yellowtail comes in, it’s sliced off for nigiri, and the head gets thrown into the freezer.  They can cook the head then, but they can’t slice off the cheek from frozen.  What a pity.  Someday I’m going to finance my own sushi restaurant and demand all the leftover yellowtail heads for my own dining pleasure.

Tonkatsu

My husband was pretty impressed when his tonkatsu came out.  It was the perfect uniform color, compared to the pale, spotty-colored tonkatsu I make at home.  Though he didn’t have a side of tonkatsu sauce, they had liberally added the sauce to the tonkatsu already and he said it was just the right amount.  I tasted a bit of the sauce and yes, it was real tonkatsu sauce.  It was served on cabbage, which is normal, but the little bit of corn on the side threw him off.  The corn was cold as well.  Was he supposed to eat it?  Was it there for decoration?  I don’t know, we didn’t ask.  He didn’t eat it in any case. It would have been tedious to try and eat corn with chopsticks anyway.  The tonkatsu was also served with a bowl of steamed rice.

Hamachi Lovers

My tamago nigiri and hamachi makizushi were brought out at the same time.  I was very surprised to see so much hamachi used over the top of the rolls.  This was a very good portion of yellowtail, and I usually don’t get this much in rolls.  But I was also very surprised to see inside the rolls, there was cooked yellowtail!  How odd to have both raw and cooked yellowtail in the same roll.  I think the texture of the cooked fish really threw off the balance of the roll.  I think next time I will have to insist that either the tamago replace the cooked yellowtail inside the roll, or the inside be raw yellowtail as well.

The service at Yuri was excellent.  There didn’t seem to be much of a wait for anything, and the server was incredibly patient and responsive to all my comments and questions.  Though my makizushi was a bit of a disappointment, it seems it would be easy enough to correct in the future.  My husband loved his tonkatsu and would probably eat here every week.
Yuri Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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It had been a while since I had been to Tangerine Cafe. Though I remember loving the food, I always found during lunch that it was next to impossible to get a table (there are only about 15 tables in the restaurant I’d guess) and service was always very slow. Unfortunately now it’s much to far from where I work to stop by for lunch during the week, but I discovered Tangerine is one of the few restaurants that offers their lunch specials on the weekends as well.

Thai Ice Tea, Mango Lassi and Tom Kha Soup

The lunch specials here really are something special. All the lunch entrees range in price from $4.95 to $7.95, and include your choice of soup (miso, tom kha or dal). Some places give you a smaller portion then for your lunch entree, but not Tangerine. I think their lunch sizes are just as big as their dinner ones, with plenty of leftovers for a second meal.

We’ve ordered the appetizer sampler before and I thought the pakoras were especially good, so I ordered just the pakoras this time. You get 6 for $2.95 which is a really good price, but they weren’t quite as good as I remembered.

The Tom Kha soup was great though. The perfect amount of spiciness. Could have used a few more mushrooms, but for being free with the meal it was fine.

Vegetable Pakoras

The beverages here are a great deal too. The Thai ice teas were only $1.50 each, which is about half what you’d pay elsewhere. The mango lassi for my son was a bit thick for his taste, but you could tell it was made with real mango fruit and yogurt, not thinned down with milk or juice. It was only $2.25 for this huge glass, which is twice the portion you’d get at most other Indian restaurants around the area.

Though I’ve enjoyed some of the curries and Korean BBQ here before, I decided to get the Pad Thai this time. I got mine vegetarian, and my husband got his without the shrimp (but still with chicken). This place does their vegetarian Pad Thai a bit different than most. Instead of just substituting tofu in for the chicken and shrimp, they also add various vegetables such as broccoli and beans. They also ask you how spicy you want (unlike some places that just serve it without spice) so you can get it pretty hot here if you like it. It’s a decent Pad Thai, and I had a good meal of leftovers the next day as well.

This visit we got really quick service. There was just a few minutes between when we ordered, when we got our drinks, our appetizers, our soup and entree. The check was even taken care of in a short amount of time. The seating situation was still a bit dismal, only 2 open tables when we arrived at near 1pm. But it’s good to see they still get plenty of business.

Pad Thai with Chicken (No Shrimp)

The restaurant has a pleasant atmosphere with brightly painted walls, large mirrors to make the place look bigger, and cute little Asian decorations around the walls. But I’d really like to see Tangerine move to a larger location where they can have enough seating for all the people who’d like to try their delicious and reasonably priced entrees, and a location closer to where people shop and work, instead of in this mostly residential corner of Cary.

Vegetarian Pad Thai

Tangerine Cafe on Urbanspoon

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