If you had to pick...
a restaurant in Durham -- between Tonali, Rue Cler, and Piedmont -- which would win on a Friday night?
I haven't been to any, but I'm curious about all. A friend from Greensboro is coming for a visit, so I figure it's a good excuse to try one.
Piedmont, hands down. I haven't had dinner at Rue Cler, but the lunch I had was just so-so, and if you've only got the one night, why risk it? I understand that everybody loves their dinner, but my impression is that it's in that "this is solid bistro cuisine" kind of way, rather than a "omigod this is to die for" kind of way (I will say that the bread at Rue Cler, baked in their own bakery next door, *is* outstanding).
Whereas Piedmont so far seems to be batting pretty close to 1000, not just with me, but with pretty much everybody who's posted here about it.
I don't get what all the fuss is about with Tonali. We may have just been there on a bad night, but I found the service to be wretched (to the point that I got into an argument with the owner in which he insisted that the plate of mixed greens I'd been served was, in fact, endive, rather than admitting that someone had screwed up), and the food was just kinda meh. Of course, the seemingly random temperatures of the various dishes may have had something to do with the equally random rate at which they were brought to the table.
Don't do Tonali unless you absolutely hate your friend from Greensboro, and you wish upon him the worst restaurant service in the history of man.
I've only been to Rue Cler out of the three places mentioned, but I wasn't too impressed with my dinner there. Hopefully it's just working out the kinks of a newly opened place. The reviews of Piedmont have been amazing, so merely based on that, I would go there.
wow... i haven't had negative experiences at any of these places. i'd agree with detlef that rue cler tops the other two, but all three have been pretty darn good in my book... not life changing, but for 25 dollars a head at MOST, that's okay with me. i've heard lots of griping about tonali's service, and while it isn't super polished, it's not even close to the worst i've had. *shrug* guess i've been lucky!
Wow. I'm really surprised to hear all the raves about Piedmont. I ate there with my husband last week, anticipating all the goodness I've read here on Chowhound and was left severely disappointed - from service to food. I'll write about it in another entry. For my money (and I, too, have eaten at all three spots) would go to Rue Cler, hands down. Wonderful service, clean, creative food, and fair prices. The wine list was everything it needed to be, too.
We had to start eating around 4:30 to make it to the timed-ticket Monet show. Unfortunately, none of the three start dinner until 5:30, so we went to Verde.
We split the bread and dip appetizer: warm pita, cold sundried-tomato loaf, and wheat toast with good tzatziki, bad hummus, and awful olive/tomato mixture.
She ordered the white bean soup which she liked and a Caesar salad which was unexceptional.
I ordered the Kobe burger medium well; it came out sliced in half, medium rare with a lot of pink in the middle. Take two: the cook just seared the sliced sides down, so when I quartered the burger, it was still raging pink.
The waitress was nice and apologetic about it, so when I asked for a new burger, well done this time, she said "The burgers are really thick so they're hard to cook (huh? it couldn't have been more than 1/4 lb)" and "The kitchen always undercooks them, so next time, you should order it one level up than usual." wtf. Isn't that sort of pertinent information that you should tell your diners before they order? Or better yet, just go ahead and cook the burger as requested?
Anyway, the well done burger was nicely charred and sufficiently gray, so I just ate it. The mixed greens were good as was the Chipotle sauce -- too bad the about the Kobe briquette in the middle.