Archive for the ‘Durham’ Category

Thai Lanna is tucked away in the Greenwood Commons off Hwy 55.  We visited the restaurant on a snowy night, so most of the evening we were the only ones in the place.  As a result, the food came quickly and the service was attentive.  I can’t comment on whether this will always be the case, since it was my only time at the restaurant.  The server did do one odd thing though, when I asked for ice water, she brought out a glass full of ice (no water).  I asked her to please fill it up with water for me, and she did.

Spring Rolls

For appetizers we got the Tom yum kai soup and the spring rolls.  The spring rolls were good, with a bit of spice to them.  I think I made a mistake ordering the Tom yum kai soup.  It had been a while since my last visit to a Thai restaurant, so I couldn’t remember which one was the one I liked so much.  Tom yum kai was good, very spicy, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.  I believe I meant to order the Tom ka kai, and I think I would have been a lot happier with my meal had I ordered that.  It’s no fault of the restaurant though, I’ll just have to be more careful in the future.

Tom yum kai

For the entree I ordered the Kaeng Kari Curry with tofu.  It was decent enough, but not the best curry I’ve ever had.  There was more than enough food there for 2 meals though, so I had some good leftovers for the next day.

My husband got the Kaeng Matsaman with chicken.  He was disappointed they used peanuts instead of cashews.  The sauce on his was really good though, much better than mine.  I had them box up his leftover sauce just so I could use it with my meal the next day.

I think the restaurant has a really nice atmosphere, very beautiful decor.  I think next time I’ll make sure to order the Tom ka kai, and switch to the Matsaman curry instead, and I’ll be happier with my experience here.

Kaeng Matsaman Curry with chicken

Kaeng Kari Curry with tofu

Thai Lanna on Urbanspoon

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I had intended to try Maggiano’s before, but I’ve found it difficult to get reservations on short notice.  It’s at the Streets of Southpoint, next to Firebird’s and Champs, so I was hoping it’d be the kind of place you could just drop by after a day of shopping.  I guess we were lucky last Sunday, and were able to call ahead for a reservation only an hour later.

Chicken Potato Soup

The interior was very cozy, with dark wood, framed pictures, dim lighting (hence the poor photos), and it reminded me of a Godfather-esque type atmosphere.  We were seated at a nice little booth at the back of the restaurant.  The restaurant was pretty packed for being 5:30pm on a Sunday.

My husband ordered the chicken and potato soup for an appetizer.  They do provide free bread and olive oil to each table as well.  I liked the bread, a good solid crust with very soft starchy goodness inside.  I tried a bit of the soup, it was also delicious.  The soup had a very strong garlic flavor, and the chicken was moist white meat.  It was decently priced at $2.50 a bowl.

Kid's Ravioli

For entrees, my son ordered the ravioli off the kid’s menu, I ordered the beef tenderloin medallions (medium), my mother ordered the grilled salmon lemon & herb, and my husband ordered the veal parmesan.  The kid’s ravioli came with a small drink (he got orange juice) and a small bowl of ice cream.  He usually doesn’t eat food in restaurants besides pancakes, so I was really impressed that he ate all but 1 of the raviolis.  He ran out of room for the ice cream, eating only a few bites before giving up.  Plain vanilla ice cream without any chocolate sauce or sprinkles is pretty boring though.  For $5.95 though it wasn’t bad.

Kid's Vanilla Ice Cream

My husband’s veal parmesan was good.  He’s had it before at other Italian restaurants, and it was up to his expectations.  Served on 2 plates though, even he had enough left over for lunch tomorrow.

I loved the beef tenderloin medallions, but they didn’t seem evenly cooked.  I had ordered them medium, but it seemed one was medium, one was medium rare, and one was rare.  I’d rather have my beef undercooked than overcooked though, so I ate them without complaining.  The mashed potatoes they were served with were very garlicky but I liked them that way, and the mushrooms that came with the beef were perfectly cooked.  There was a ton of fried onions on top, but they weren’t French’s fried onions, they were real, fresh-made fried onions.  I think there were probably too much, but they were so good.

My mother liked her salmon well enough, and she was able to finish it.  It was the side dish that confused her.  It was a few long-stemmed broccoli pieces in butter, with about 20 cloves of garlic.  She ate one of the garlic cloves and wasn’t sure what to do with the rest.  I thought perhaps the garlic butter was just to be poured over the salmon, and the garlic was for flavor, not for eating.

Veal Parmesan with Spaghetti

For dessert my husband ordered a tiramisu.  It was so big enough, we cut it into 3 pieces and shared it.  I can’t imagine one person finishing a dessert that big.  It was really good though.  I’ve made a lot of tiramisu, and it comes close to mine.  They could have used more coffee liquor though.

The veal parmesan was $24.50, the beef medallions were $22.95, the salmon was $18.50, and the tiramisu was $7.50.  At many restaurants the entrees might be considered overpriced, but I thought that given the quality of the dishes, it was worth it.  I was really impressed with the tiramisu too, such a large piece at such a reasonable price.  I can see now why the restaurant is consistently booked.  Even though it is a chain restaurant, I think they do a really good job on the food, the atmosphere is very warm and inviting, and all the servers and staff were very friendly.

Beef Tenderloin Medallions

Grilled Salmon Lemon & Herb


Maggiano's Little Italy on Urbanspoon

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The following is a news release courtesy of Michele McKinley.

Enjoy a truly delicious, local Thanksgiving by shopping pre-Thanksgiving markets on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at five Triangle area markets. The Carrboro Farmers’ Market, Durham Farmers’ Market, Eno River Farmers’ Market in Hillsborough, S. Estes Farmers’ Market in Chapel Hill and the Western Wake Farmers’ Market (WWFM) in Cary are all hosting holiday markets to provide shoppers with the freshest, locally and sustainably grown foods available.

Together, the markets have created a web site as a resource for a local Thanksgiving, complete with details on each of the markets’ hours, offerings, guest chefs and special events, and recipes. Visit http://trianglefarmersmarkets.wordpress.com/ and be sure to bookmark it as recipes will be added over the coming weeks.

Farmers and artisans at each of the markets will feature a variety of seasonal produce, as well as meats, eggs, cheeses, desserts, flowers and more for a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. Shoppers can go local with help from the N.C. 10% Campaign, which is putting together a holiday menu featuring local foods from local farms as prepared by local chefs. A limited number of copies will be available at each of the farmers’ markets on Nov. 23.

WWFM in Cary will be open from 3-6 pm, and special events include a Chef’s Tasting, Herons Gift Certificate Raffle and Gingerbread Houses and Cookies. Martin Sreshta, chef/owner of Martins’ Curry Rice in Morrisville, will dish up samples of a locally-inspired dish that you can make for Thanksgiving. Karen Barlow’s lighted gingerbread houses will be on display, and the kids are invited to decorate gingerbread cookies! Plus anyone who signs up for the 10% Campaign is eligible to win a gift certificate to Herons Restaurant in the Umstead Hotel and Spa.

“The goal is to get more people thinking about our farmers and local food,” said Sarah Blacklin, manager of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. ” We want them to think, ‘Where is my farmers’ market?’ when they are planning their weekly menu and ‘Where is my farmers’ market?’ when they are planning for their holidays. Partnering with our sister markets in the area is a great way to involve the community and get more support for eating locally.”

Most of the markets will be closed on Sat., Nov. 27, for Thanksgiving weekend, but the Carrboro Farmers’ Market will be open.

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It had been my intention to try out the Thai China Buffet in the same shopping center, but unfortunately that restaurant is closed on Sundays.  So instead we stopped by Brig’s, knowing that it probably wouldn’t be terrible.  I had been to the Brig’s in Cary and I figured it would probably have the same atmosphere and menu, and my son always loves restaurants that have pancakes.

When we first entered the restaurant there were no hosts in sight, but a large crowd waiting for a seat.  We were just standing around in the for a few minutes before a guy came out and asked if we had signed up yet, and I said no and gave him my name.  We were told it would be about 15 minutes, so we went outside to wait.  Seems they could have a better system for dealing with crowds.

Grilled Ham and Brie

After about 15 minutes we were seated.  This restaurant has pretty much the same decor as the Cary Brig’s.  Not particularly inspired, but not oppressively ugly either.  Pretty much the typical family diner.

My son got the Kid’s pancake as usual, which came with bacon and a scrambled egg.  He doesn’t actually eat bacon or eggs, so I got to have his.  He was able to eat most of his pancake, and he liked it quite a bit.  But he said it wasn’t as good as the blueberry pancake he had at Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe the day before.  It’s his own fault though, Brig’s makes blueberry pancakes but he ordered a plain one.  Maybe it was just the lack of whipped cream he didn’t like.  I didn’t ask if they had whipped cream at Brig’s, but it seems to be the one thing that really inspires him to eat.

I had already tried the breakfast at the Cary Brig’s, so I decided to try something different this time.  I got the Grilled Ham and Brie on rye bread with fries and fresh fruit.  The sandwich was pretty good.  The bread had some great rye flavor and the perfect buttery toasted texture, and brie is always delicious.  I think they really used way too much ham though, it didn’t balance well with the bread and brie.  I think they probably could have used about half the amount of meat they had crammed into that sandwich.  The fries were good, and the fruit was tasty, though it was odd the cantaloupe wasn’t diced, it was just one huge 1/8th chunk of a cantaloupe.


My husband got the B.L.T.C. with fries and macaroni and cheese, which I thought would have just been a regular BLT sandwich with some cheddar cheese slices in it.  But what they brought out was a huge skillet with a roll on the bottom, piled up with lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and melted cheese all over the top.  I don’t even know why this was under the sandwich section at all, it looked nothing like a sandwich.  He didn’t much like the macaroni and cheese; he said it was undercooked.  The B.L.T.C. was “worth trying” but said he probably would stick to a more standard entree in the future.

When my husband finished his meal, the server said “Wow, I’ve never seen anyone finish one of those before!”.  I took that to either mean A. She thinks my husband is a gluttonous pig, or B. The entree is pretty crappy so no one else really wanted to finish theirs.  Either way, she probably should have thought what she was going to say before saying anything.

It’s not a bad restaurant.  The entrees are decently priced, no one got food poisoning, and our time there was somewhat pleasant.  It’s just the kind of place you end up going to when the restaurant you actually wanted to go to was closed.

Brigs at the Park on Urbanspoon

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We stopped by Benetis on Sunday for lunch.  It’s in Greenwood Commons on Hwy. 55 near a bunch of other restaurants, so if you show up and decide not to eat there, there’s plenty of other places to go.  I’m always on the lookout for a good breakfast-serving restaurant, because that means my son will actually order and eat something off the menu.  Despite the big sign outside that said “LUNCH BUFFET”, there was no buffet on Sunday.  That’s fine though, I generally don’t like to get buffets.  What made me really hesitant was the menu posted next to the door that didn’t show any breakfast items.  But when I asked the hostess if they had pancakes, she said yes.  The menu we received at the table was very different than the one next to the door.

Kid's Pancakes

The menu featured typical breakfast diner food, with pancakes, waffles, french toast, eggs Benedict, sandwiches, salads and other American entrees.  I didn’t see anything on the menu that would suggest it was Greek.  Maybe they serve a completely different menu for dinner.

I got the waffle with spiced apple topping, my son got the kid’s pancakes that comes with 2 strips of bacon and scrambled eggs, and my husband got the Broadway skillet which was potatoes, eggs, bacon, ham and miscellaneous other foods cooked up in a skillet, and an English muffin.

My son got a huge gob of butter on his pancakes, which is great because he loves butter.  He didn’t like the eggs and bacon touching his pancakes though, so we quickly removed them.  He at nearly both pancakes, and I tried some of the leftovers and they were pretty good.

Waffle with Spiced Apples

My waffle was as good as waffles get, and the spiced apple topping went perfectly with it.  I was a bit disappointed though, I didn’t get a big gob of melty butter on my waffle.  I guess next time that’s going to be something I have to ask for.  I thought the Broadway skillet looked pretty gross, but my husband thought it tasted great.

For 3 entrees and 3 drinks it was about $25, which is pretty decently priced.  I had no complaints with the service until we were done eating, and then our waitress was no where to be found.  I waited 20 minutes for the bill before going up to the cashier and asking for it.  I know, it’s a petty complaint, but if you’re going to make people wait for their bill that long at least refill drinks our drinks or something.

Broadway Skillet

I really can’t judge the rest of the food they might serve here at other times.  Maybe the buffet and Greek food are super awesome too.  All I know is, the breakfast foods were great and I’d definitely take this place over IHOP.
Benetis Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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This was my first year at the Durham World Beer Festival.  I was expecting something like the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival, or Triangle Uncorked.  But I was very surprised when I came into the stadium to see so many people.  I was thinking to myself that surely they would run out of beer with all those people, and I would probably spend the evening shoving my way through, waiting in line.  But after a while I discovered that everyone was being polite and respectful, and the waits were not actually so bad. 

I went to the 6pm-10pm session, and the weather was perfect.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the temperature was nice and mild.  The lights in the stadium were on so it was as bright as day the entire time.  There was live music playing and the delicious smell of hot food from the food booths.

When I entered I was given a small 4 oz. shot glass, same size as the one I received at the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival, but the one at the World Beer Festival was plastic.  There wasn’t any swag given away at this one either, just a Beer Guide with the beer vendors listed with a brief description of each beer.  Unfortunately I had forgotten to bring a pen so I was unable to take notes.

I wanted to try a bit of everything, but there were simply too many beer stands.  Each booth had 1-5 different beers to try as well.  I tried to skip over the beers I knew I wouldn’t like, like the ones from Anheuser-Busch, Pabst and Michelob, darker beers, and I’m sorry to say I don’t have an appreciation of IPAs.  I tried to seek out some of the girlier, lighter beers, like the ciders, hefeweizen, and ales.

The beers I liked best were Abita Purple Haze, Magic Hat #9 and the Blue Point Brewing Co. beers.  They had 3 that I tried there, the Hoptical Illusion, Rasta FaRye, and the Blueberry Ale.  I loved the Blueberry Ale the best, but I was really amazed by how smooth and flavorful all 3 of the beers were.

I’m sure there were more that I tried and liked, but it’s so difficult to remember.  I ended up drinking way more than I intended too.  With the noise and the crowds, it was difficult to keep track of your sobriety level, and many of the beer booths were putting a lot more than the 2 oz. they were supposed to in each glass.  Honestly I was really more interested in trying as many beers as I could, and not trying to get drunk, so I would have been satisfied with 1 oz. or less of each beer.  But once they fill up your glass, what are you to do, dump out half of it?  I would have felt bad wasting the beer.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I would come back again next year.  Smaller festivals, like what I’ve seen at Koka Booth, have a nice, relaxed atmosphere where you really get a chance to talk to the people at the beer booths and get a good idea of where the drink has come from.  Koka Booth also has much nice bathroom facilities.  I hated having to wait in line to use port-o-potties.  It’s also easier to try at least one beer from each booth if there’s not so many booths!

Still, it’s nice having the program.  As I read through it now, I see there’s plenty of beers that sound like they’d be nice to try, and the next time I’m at Sam’s or Tyler’s I’ll be sure to check out something new.

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I still haven’t had an opportunity to eat at Guglhupf’s cafe so I can’t review the meals at all.  But I’ve been to the bakery many, many times.  The pastries at Guglhupf are the best in the Triangle, maybe even the best in North Carolina.  It’s quite a drive for me now from Cary, but still so worth it.

The parking lot for Guglhupf and the surrounding stores is always completely packed.  Many times you’ll need to park on the other side of the building, or even along the road or in the next lot.  Guglhupf’s bakery and cafe is on a lower level, down some stairs next to a waterfall.  The landscaping and atmosphere here is really beautiful and serene.  The outdoor seating was packed even though it was already 85 degrees out.  The bakery entrance is directly to the right as you go down the stairs.  Sometimes during an especially crowded time, the line for the bakery will be out the door.

Guglhupf has 3 bakery cases.  The first one on the left has savory pastries such as their delicious ham and cheese croissants.  I got 2 of these, as I know my husband loves them and I can’t find them anywhere else in the area.

The middle bakery case is chilled.  They have cream puffs (my son’s favorite), tarts, cheesecake, cakes, cookies, and mousse.

The bakery case on the left is sweet pastries.  On this particular day the selection included chocolate croissants, elephant ears, cherry cheese danishes, apple turnovers, bismarks, and danish curls.  I usually get some of their fruit pastries and turnovers.

In total I got 2 ham and cheese croissants, chocolate dipped elephant ear, cream puff, apple turnover, chocolate croissant, and cherry cheese danish.  Most of the items cost approximately $2, and the total for these 7 pastries was just over $16.  It’s a lot more than the dozen donuts I used to be able to get at Sweet Traditions for $7, but the quality of these pastries are superb.

The bakery area also has breads and coffees, but I’ve only tried the pastries so far.  Some day I’ll have to eat at the cafe, but I think I’ll wait until the weather is cooler so I can enjoy their outdoor seating more.

Guglhupf Pastries

Guglhupf Bakery on Urbanspoon

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I’ve been to the P.F. Chang’s across from Southpoint a dozen times, mostly with coworkers for lunch.  It’s much easier to get in and out of P.F. Chang’s than some of the restaurants that are actually in the Streets at Southpoint because you don’t have as big of crowds to deal with.

Coconut Curry Vegetables

I’m sorry I didn’t get many nice pictures like I normally try to.  I got my usual favorite, the coconut curry vegetables, my husband got the honey chicken lunch bowl (it’s a smaller portion that comes with soup), and the other guy we were with got General Chang’s chicken.  We all liked our food, but I’ve never been disappointed by P.F. Chang’s.  I just wish they made the coconut curry vegetables in a frozen entree, but I suppose the veggies don’t hold up well after being frozen.  I’ve tried some of the appetizers here before.  The eggdrop soup is decent, not the best I’ve ever had, and the egg rolls are reliable.  I tried the mini desserts once and was kind of disappointed.  I like my desserts to be big portions, but then again we usually split the desserts as well.

My husband has been to Pei Wei, which is the cheaper, faster P.F. Chang’s alternative.  He said the food is just as good there, and cheaper.  I’ll have to check it out sometime soon.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Firebirds has a convenient location just off Hwy 40 at the Streets at Southpoint, so we end up going there a lot after movies, or on shopping trips.  Sometimes we come here just to eat, when I get a craving for ribs.  The parking here is usually terrible because it’s one of the more popular malls in the Triangle area, and if you come after 5:30pm or so you might have to wait for seating.  We called ahead and got there by 5:45pm, and there were just a few tables left.  We usually try to get seated down towards the grill so we can watch all the delicious food coming up, but unfortunately the last time we were there we got stuck at a table towards the front.

Baby Back Ribs with Fries and Coleslaw

I nearly always get the baby back ribs.  The sauce is delicious and has a strong molasses flavor.  I love the fries and coleslaw too.  One time I got the ribs and they were hard to cut, whereas normally they’re fall-off-the-bone tender.  I emailed Firebirds later and they were very apologetic, and sent me a coupon for 2 free entrees the next time I came in.  I really appreciate when a restaurant tries hard to make their customers happy, and I’ve never had a bad meal since then.  The ribs at this particular occasion were great, very tender, moist and flavorful.  I was only able to eat half the ribs, but the leftovers reheat great.  The ribs are a bit pricy at $19.95, but it’s a lot of food, and they’re really good.

New York Strip Steak with Fries

My husband got the NY strip steak with fries.  It didn’t come with any sauce, but my husband said it didn’t need any.  It was very well seasoned.  Normally he gets the burgers, but he was in a steaky mood.  He said it was good, but for $26.95 it was probably too expensive to get again.  It wasn’t “27 dollars good”.  He says in the future he’s going to stick with the burgers.

Firebirds also serves some good crusty bread with the meal.  My son never likes any of the other food here, but he loves the bread.  He also likes the atmosphere here, he’s got plenty to watch with the grill, and the aspen-lodge type decor.
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill on Urbanspoon

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Tyler's Taproom in Apex

Tyler’s has some pretty good bar food.  The chicken fingers with honey mustard is great with some beer, the fried pickles are surprisingly awesome, the fries are great if you love garlic, and their other appetizers are pretty good as well.  They also make some pretty good burgers here.  The only problem is, most of their other entrees aren’t all that good.  Most recently I tried the ribs with the sweet and tangy barbecue sauce.  The ribs weren’t cooked properly, so I needed a knife to cut them off the bone, and the ends were so hard they couldn’t even be cut.  The fries with it were good, the beans had some delightful little bits of crunchy bacon in them, and the coleslaw was very soggy and flaccid.  It may have helped a bit if they had the coleslaw in a separate dish instead of just throwing it under the ribs, but the core sauce was bland so it wouldn’t have helped much.  I’ve been to the Tyler’s in both Durham and Apex many times, and for both of them I’d say the entrees aren’t cutting it.  I’ve tried the french dip, the pear salad, the fish and chips, but I have to keep coming back to the burgers.  They only seem to do the burgers and appetizers well.

The reason I keep coming back to Tyler’s is for the beer.  They have a wonderful selection of beer, and you’ll never run out of things to try.  It was at Tyler’s where I first tried the Kasteel Rouge, and began my love affair with Belgian Beer.  They also have the Lindemans Frambois (raspberry lambic), Chimay, and Delirium, as well as many others I haven’t had a chance to try yet.  They have beers from all over the world here, so even people who don’t like beer are sure to fine something they do like.

Tyler’s has a 20’s speakeasy vibe, with the woodwork, tin beer ads, and jazz music playing in the background.  They have private rooms for parties and other group functions, which makes it an ideal place for after work gatherings.  The Durham location has some excellent outdoor seating with a good view of the American Tobacco Campus.  The Apex location has outdoor seating as well, but no good view of anything.  I haven’t been able to visit the Carrboro location yet, and I hear they’re opening up a Tyler’s in Raleigh soon as well.

Tyler’s is at the southern end of the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, and at the Beaver Creek Commons (west, past the movie theater) in Apex.  Their site is here: http://www.tylerstaproom.com/

Tyler's Restaurant & Taproom on Urbanspoon

Tyler's Tap Room on Urbanspoon

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