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Glasshalfull, CH

So I stopped in for dinner last night-- and I didn't even need a menu to lure me in! Just kidding, of course. I actually talked with the owners and mentioned that there was some demand for a posted menu. Their reply made sense, I thought. Since they're open all day, and the menus are printed on paper that they're giving away to everyone that comes in the door, they figured that that would suffice for the time being. Not sure I totally agree, but the place was very busy during UNC spring break on a Wednesday night, so...
Anyway, very pretty room-- lots of warm browns and oranges in the granite bar, nice lighting, pretty exposed brick walls, lots of giant vintage wine ads-- very tastefully designed. The bar stools were comfortable, and gave a view back into the kitchen.
The menu is simply and efficiently laid out, with a good mix of medittereanean rim cuisines (french, italian, spanish, turkish) represented. I enjoyed a well-put together, refreshing nicoise salad, with very tasty anchovies and nice fresh tuna, excellent caper berries (altogether underutilized, imho), etc. My only criticism is that the dressing masked the flavor of the anchovies a little bit. otherwise, very nice. I also had a juicy lamb and beef sausage (seemed very similar to a merguez style, although not listed as such) with french lentils. Beauty in simplicity. Great cook on the sausage--cooked through, but very juicy. The french lentils, one of my favorite foods, were also perfectly cooked, and provided a nice earthy foil to the sausage. Nice to see such attention paid to detail in such a simple dish. Rounded things out with a side of frites, which were nice and crispy, but a touch undersalted. For dessert, I had a delicious valrhona chocolate crostini with sea salt and olive oil--totally righteous.
The wine list has a great variety of choices to please geeks and neophytes alike; surely to be expected given Jim and Mickey's backgrounds in the wine biz. Well chosen and well priced, with all bottles available in the retail area of the shop. My one criticism here is no dessert wine! :( I'd have loved some banyuls with my dessert, but satisfied myself with some woodford's reserve bourbon (another sign of good taste in bar design, imho--only a couple of places around here carry it).
Bravo to these guys-- I'll be back often. They're filling a niche that was sorely lacking in Carrboro. I only wish I had done it first! *grin*

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  1. What were the prices like? We're going for a birthday party this weekend and were deciding whether to come early for dinner.

    1. nothing more expensive than $14. but they're small plates, remember. The plates I had were good sized for the money, but i've talked to people who thought differently (and had different dishes).

      1. I agree with HeelsSoxHound's assessment.
        I loved the decor and the atmosphere was nice and energetic - it was full on a Thursday evening and there was a nice buzz of conversation, etc. I wouldn't go *too* hungry, though, unless you're prepared to spend a good bit of money (though the food is excellent and artfully plated). The cheese plate is fantastic; the 3 cheeses were great choices and we liked the two chutneys that accompanied them. We also enjoyed the glazed salmon and the Spanish-style spicy shrimp. All in all, very nice, and a great place for appetizers or a light dinner.

        1. heh, Hound you are a braver man than me;-)
          Actually it just shows how clueless people can be as I didn't see the free menus. I liked the look of the place & gave a great review. Very helpful, I really enjoy a buzzy wine bar. pity though, as I really enjoy dessert wines, hmm vin de constance would be so good.
          Anyway about portion size, we've got to find some objective way of conveying info. Any ideas chowhounders?
          I'm definitely going & will give the size appraisal

          1. Great report, it sounds wonderful. We'll try to go later this week.

            1. Visited Glass Half Full last night for a birthday celebration - we were five for dinner (expanding to 10 or 12 for drinks after). Overall, I think this place is a great addition to the local scene, and I hope against hope that they can maintain the current level of quality once word gets out.

              First of all, they've done a great job with the space, which is pretty large but still manages to feel intimate. The acoustics were suprisingly excellent - probably helped that they kept the music turned down low. It was SO refreshing to go out for drinks with a group and not have to scream at one another (I'm looking at you, MILLTOWN!)! There are plenty of tables both large and small, plus a large bar (with a small tv for keeping up with the game). Wine is the star, but there are 3 beers on tap, and they actually have a full bar as well - you wouldn't know it if you walked in, because they don't keep the liquors on display, so our waitress had to make a special point of telling us, but when I imagined how it would ruin the aesthetic to line the back wall with liquor bottles, I appreciated the decision. Anyway I ordered a scotch at the end of the evening and there were 4 or 5 choices, including the Macallen 12 I chose.

              The wine list is interesting and reasonably priced - and you can order 3 oz tasting portions as well as 5 oz glasses. They are measuring those pours pretty precisely, so they felt stingy, but I guess I can understand that in a place that is careful about its wine. Glasses ranged from $5-9, but most were in the $5.50 range, and there were several interesting varietals on the list. No bottles over $40 that I saw. The wine list also lists the retail price of a bottle, if you wanted to take one home, which was a nice bit of transparency that I guess is necessary if you are going to have a retail wine shop in your restaurant. The wine shop seems to be a work in progress - there were lots of boxes on the floor and very few price tags - but at first browse it seemed well-curated.

              OK, the food! As HSH mentioned, it's all small-plates style. We ordered 10 plates to share among 5 people, which isn't really the way to do it - we got to taste lots of things, but only about one big bit of each, and we left hungry. It was more like a cocktail party than dinner. That said, the food was very, very good. Our waitress put in half of our order at a time, so that it came in two rounds, which was considerate of her because everything came out of the kitchen fresh and piping hot. The cooking was of consistently high quality - I don't know who is in the kitchen (although his/her name is prominently featured on the menu), but the attention to detail was apparent. Some dishes I remember in particular:
              -Sage and squash risotto. I don't know how the chef attained such a perfect risotto texture in a small portion - probably there was some cream involved, but I don't care. Creamy, with just the right bite in the grains, and delicious.
              -Zucchini and onion latke with an egg over easy. First latke I've ever had that could be called "pillowy" - light, creamy, savory.
              -Lamb and mint meatballs with some sort of really delicious tomato relish.
              -Roasted asparagus with a smoky red pepper sauce - like everything else, this came out piping hot and the texture was perfect - this is a dish that could really be ruined if it sat around.
              -Spicy shrimp - tail-on shrimp, cooked well, in a garlic/hot pepper oil.
              -Warm french lentils with feta.
              We also ordered a charcuterie plate (tasty but kind of sparse), and a cheese plate, which was excellent - Humboldt fog, a goat cheese, and something else I don't remember, with an onion/rosemary chutney and another kind of preserves.

              All in all, it was a wonderful experience for my palate - although we were all tempted by the Wendy's drive-through on the way home. (If Maple View had been open, we would have been there in a heartbeat). But you could make a meal there, especially if you are a smaller group - we also didn't try any of the serious proteins (filet mignon, a chicken and a salmon, all about $12-14) because we didn't think they would be easily share-able. Didn't try the desserts for the same reason, although they sounded good - I saw some going by and saw that there was no way we were going to share a single cannoli five ways. (Perhaps you can tell that "let's just order a bunch of things to share for the whole table" was NOT my idea!).

              Total bill: 10 small plates + 4 glasses of wine + 4 or 5 draft beers = $111 before tip. Pretty reasonable, for very good food and drink in this town. I think two people could put together a filling meal for $20 each, before wine.

              It was not crowded last night, and I think they had every employee on duty, so it was easy to get a drink at the bar, etc. - I've lived here long enough to know that service that good probably won't last, but here's hoping that Glass Half Full can find the secret other local restaurants can't. Here's also hoping that the place isn't overrun with pre-fraternity-formal dates once spring break ends!

              1. We went there Friday night and it was quite crowded, so I guess the word is out. Overall a good experience. I thought the portions/ prices were fairly reasonable. I think it helped that they brought out bread, which a lot of tapas-type places I've been don't seem to do. I second the above opinion on the risotto; it wasn't something I would have ordered, but my husband wanted to try it and it was a good choice. We also tried the miso-glazed salmon, the frites and the manchego and ham croquettes, which were all tasty. Was disappointed by the chocolate crostini, though.

                My one big complaint is this: can I not go to dinner anywhere in this town without having to put up with a damn TV?! I know I'm in the minority when it comes to basketball, but I'm sorry a wine bar doesn't say to me hey, let's watch the game. There are plenty of sports bars for that, and if I wanted to watch television I'd stay at home.

                3 Replies
                1. re: kerdragon

                  not trying to sound snide, kerdragon, but welcome to chapel hill at tournament time... hopefully it didn't detract from your dinner too too much.

                  1. re: HeelsSoxHound

                    Yeah, at least they were willing to serve you before the game was over . . . if you try to go see a band in a rockclub in Chapel Hill in March, you may as well stay home until the final buzzer, because no musician is willing to go onstage when every eye in the bar is glued to the TV set . . .

                    1. re: rossgrady

                      Sigh. I know. The worst thing is when my commute home from RTP doubles on home game nights. Anyway, the night I went Carolina wasn't playing, so at least nobody was shouting at the screen. But I don't allow TV watching when we eat dinner at home, so I certainly don't want to be distracted when I'm paying to eat out at a (somewhat) fancy restaurant. Besides, it seems like kind of a pretentious place to go if your purpose to watch the game.

                2. We ate there for the first time tonight. The food was generally mediocre, and the prices were far too high for the quality and quantity. The shrimp had the spicy bite of red pepper but were cool and soggy from the oil in which they were drenched. The asparagus spears were appropriately cooked but were served in a big puddle of red pepper sauce that tasted like it came straight out of a jar. The cole slaw on which the lamb chops were served had a nice mix of flavors--salty feta and pungent cabbage. But the entire soggy heap was drenched in oil, which deprived the cabbage of its crunch. It also needed some acidity--lemon or vingegar--to brighten it up. The lamb chops were good but nothing that couldn't be done easily at home. The salmon was acceptable, though it tasted at least several days old. The scallops had a nice brine but were served cool. The pomme frites were cool and limp. The salad nicoise was pleasant though the vinaigrette was rather workaday.
                  Our server was very pleasant but he forgot to bring one of the dishes but didn't forget to charge us for it.
                  Due to the size of the plates, we dubbed this place stomachhalfull. We were here at 8 PM on a Saturday night, about two months after it opened, and about half the tables were empty (restauranthalfull?). This is a telling sign. While it's possible that we just hit it on a bad night or that we selected losing dishes, there were enough problems with the food that I suspect the problems are systemic. I'll be surprised if the place lasts a year if it keeps up the current performance.

                  1. Finally got around to trying Glasshalfull last Saturday and I'm mad at myself for waiting so long. This place is awesome! As others have mentioned, they did a great job renovating the place. My wife and I aren't really wine drinkers so I can't comment much on this aspect (I had a Brooklyn Brown Ale and my wige had the ginger mint mojito that was very tasty). We chose five small plates: chorizo croquettes, frito misto (me), petit tenderloin (wife), turnip soup, and swiss chard. The croquettes were the equal to the ones I've had at the Cuban joints in Miami. I've had a lot fo frito misto over the years as it's one of my favorites dishes and this had to be among the best I'vbe ever had. The seafood was very fresh, there was no hint of greasiness, and the batter was light and crunchy-- tempura-like-- and not overcooked like many places tend to do. But the biggest hit was the chard, believe it or not. It was hot so the scent of olive oil and garlic hit my nose and made my mouth water; the balsamic was sweet and tart, and the pine nuts added nice texture, the chard was perfectly cooked-- the diced stems still crunchy. My wife really enjoyed her soup and tenderloin (and couldn't keep her hands off my chard).

                    The only negative comment is that there dessert menu wasn't very interesting. I opted for a 3 oz. glass of prosecco instead and was quite happy (and only $3.25!). Wife ordered a cranberry apple crisp, which was well made but way too small for the $6 charged. As Open Eye Cafe (along with Cafe Driade) is our fave coffee joint, we crossed the street and decided to have our lattes there afterwards. Next time-- and there will definitely be a next time-- I think we will just eat at Glasshalful and opt for the Guglhupf sweets and coffee elixers at the Open Eye instead.

                    1. Pet Peeve: We went to Glasshalfull for a drink the other night. I ordered a Napa red, C ordered a french white. The red wine came out warm ... not just room temp, but warm, as if it had been sitting directly under a lamp or something. We made a quick trade (he wasn't that thrilled with his white anyway) and I was happy enough. When we paid I mentioned the temp. issue to the bartender - not in order to get anything free or to be a pain, just so they'd know. He just shrugged and said "yeah, we don't really have room to keep the reds cool." Heck, this place just opened (and was fully remodeled to do so) just about a year ago, with the intention of being a wine bar, and they don't have room to cool the reds? At $10 for a 5 oz. pour, I think the wine needs to be at least close to the right temperature. Irked me. End of rant.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Totally agree with your comment but think it was misplaced. It should have been made to the owners instead of the bartender. Even though they should realize that their employment is continegent on the survival and well being of the business, many employees just look at it as a job. The owners on the other hand (the wife was working as the hostess when we went) would be very interested in such suggestions-- or if they elicited a similar response that would be the last time they saw my patronage.

                        1. re: bbqme

                          I agree - and the owner was standing right there when I said it, and basically looked the other way. But you're right - I should have addressed it to him directly.