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Jan 26, 2007 10:09 AM

Dinner in the Triangle Tonight (no reservations)

Hi Chowhounds,

An unexpected babysitter has appeared in my life and I have an opportunity to have a nice dinner tonight with my hubby and another couple. Where would you suggest we could go that would be excellent but okay with no reservations? We're in S. Durham near Chapel Hill, but could travel.


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      1. Would suggest Rue Cler and Talullahs (the first of which doesn't take reservations, the second of which gets crowded fairly early so you'd have to get there early to avoid not getting a seat). My guess is that Elaine's will be fully booked on a Friday night, but you could give them a call.

        1. We ended up at Rue Cler, and although we were disappointed in the wine list, the food was quite good.

          6 Replies
          1. re: anne7134

            Was there something specific you were looking for on that list that they didn't have?

            1. re: tablewines

              They didn't have any bordeaux, at least according to the bartender and the wine list. We were a bit at a loss as we were not familar with any of the wines (and we were with quite a wine fiend), and although we asked for advice from the bartender, we didn't get good guidance and ended up with a serviceable bottle that was expensive ($52).

              1. re: anne7134

                Sorry to hear that. I know that their wine list is not only from one importer (Louis/Dressner), but very esoteric and difficult to manage without some help from the staff. You're not going to find any recognizable "brands" on there and several of the regions are virtually unknown outside of the people who live where the wines are produced and serious wine geeks (your average wine fiend would be out of his league here). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the bartender and server should have enough knowledge about this small wine list to give you a recommendation that you would enjoy. If not, then that may be Rue Cler's Achilles' heal. Keep in mind that these wines are very typically French tasting, so if you have a typical American palate geared towards soft, bold flavors and ripe fruit, then you're pretty much out of luck. The list is loaded with wines that have higher acidity, earthy-spice flavors, and smells of nature, exactly what you might find at a good Paris bistro geared towards the locals there.

                Check out The wines are authentic, foodie stuff, but they have almost no Bordeaux outside of Fronsac which can really taste like dirt! Good dirt.

                Vin Rouge has several Bordeaux on their list and also serves typical French Bistro fare which is quite authentic.

                1. re: tablewines

                  Thanks for the information. The bartender mentioned Louis/Dressner but it didn't mean too much to me. I totally agree that it would have been very different had we been provided with more guidance from the staff.

                  We do enjoy Vin Rouge, but I think the food at Rue Cler was miles above Vin Rouge in quality and inventiveness (and that's not a knock on Vin Rouge)

                  1. re: anne7134

                    They need to hear that their staff not knowing the wine list intimately will dramatically influence the success of their sales and customer saitisfaction.

                    I don't agree that RC is miles above VR. IMHO, VR has more humble fare (caricature of a French Bistro) while RC is more typical of what you would actually find in France, influenced to some degree by haute cuisine. RC is more inventive, while VR is comfort food.

                    Either way, we are lucky to have both in Durham now. I can't wait to try Bonne Soiree if I can get them to take my reservation (ref: your other post). Just kidding!

                    1. re: tablewines

                      Interesting comment on VR. As I said, I think that RC is much more inventive, and I do understand the humble fare aspect of VR, but I feel like the past few times I've been, I've been disappointed in the freshness of the fruits, vegetables and bread. Even so, they have a mean brunch!

          2. Hasn't been mentioned in awhile, but don't forget about Tonali. Went there last Friday night and had a nice experience. The creamy veg soup was outstanding. I wasn't familiar with the flavor so I asked the waitress what it was and she said it was herbe sainte. I had the ribeye with a chile salsa and my wife had house smoked turkey quesadillas. For dessert we shared a dulce de leche creme brulee. To drink we had mango agua fresca and she kept refilling the glass and we were only charged $2/each!

            Looks like Tonali has improved its previous service issues hile maintaining its outstanding value, freshness, and creativity.