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L.A. 'Hound loose in Triangle - Updates and Recs?

Hey all - I've been reading this board for first time tonight - interesting topics and some great threads and recommendations - I have enjoyed staying up late tonight/this AM getting to know (read?) a few of you Carolina 'Hounds and I've decided, based largely on your posts, to stay in the area after my upcoming business trip to Cary and explore for the weekend instead of rushing back to L.A.!

So I hope I don't bother everyone, but let me ask you if I can get some last minute answers, confirmations, suggestions, and/or wave offs if you don't mind too terribly:

First, Saturday AM I want to hit biscuit breakfast kind of early somewhere and then drive around and explore - is Sunrise Biscuit still good? Or would I do as well at a good local chain?

I have pretty much decided on B.B.Q. at Allen & Son for the leisurely drive and whole real-hickory-wood-deal and I'm totally into trying eastern/Lexington style BBQ.

Saturday night I've been invited to a private home so I'm set there - can anyone recommend a good wine shop or bakery so I don't show empty handed? (I read about La Farm Bakery - still good?)

I am contemplating a big brunch on either Saturday or Sunday depending on your answer - does NC allow cocktails during brunch on Sundays? Maybe I should switch days with Saturday? I know this isn't New Orleans, but I was kind of hoping that on one of those weekend days I could sit down to a big, southern food-centric brunch - and I find it is one of the pleasures of eating alone when you travel that you get to take your sweet time and relax as long as you want over a meal and a cocktail and maybe a glass of wine, desert, coffee . . . :-)

If you have anything else you'd like to recommend, some place that is a "don't miss" in the spirit of local North Carolina eats, I'd be much obliged . . . maybe you'd recommend I hit another B.B.Q.? (The Pit? Coopers?) or maybe Mama Dip's?

Really looking forward to my visit to NC and thanks in advance for your input!

Be seeing you!

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  1. You will LOVE La Farm, and since it sounds like you'll be spending some time in Cary, you should be able to get there with little problem. Go either early in the day or around 5 p.m. to catch one of the daily bakings.

    For biscuits, you won't go wrong with Biscuitville or Bojangles. Both are very good.

    Make sure you get to the Fearington to see the belted cows while you're here, too.

    If you do nothing else, SKIP MAMA DIP'S. That place is a huge tourist trap, and a monumental disappointment. The food is standard, but the service is deplorable. I've yet to have a friend go there in the last five years who had a good experience.

    Also, if you're in Cary, make a side trip to Henry's Gelato. His stuff is fabulous.

    Above all, have a great trip! The Triangle is a wonderful area full of great people.

    1. You pretty much hit the mark when it comes to BBQ if you are planning on going out that way. If you want to stay in the Raleigh area then I would recommend The Pit.

      As for Brunch...NC does allow cocktails after 12 noon on Sunday. It might be the same on Saturday but I cannot remember. If you do Brunch on Saturday I would go to Poole's in downtown Raleigh. Things don't move fast there but it is well worth the wait.

      You truly cannot go wrong with anything from La Farm...all their bread is excellent.

      1. You'll be out of luck on the Sunday cocktail brunch unless you sleep in. Liquor cabinets open everywhere at noon.

        Make sure you go to the right Allen & Sons. Go to the location (Millhouse Rd/Old 86 right near I-40, NOT 15-501. For an after lunch excursion on the way back to Cary, pop into Southern Season in Chapel Hill and get some grits for the folks back home (they also have an immense wine section for your dinner party needs).

        Agreed, skip Mama Dips. We went once right after we moved here, now we know better.

        1 Reply
        1. re: brokegradstudent

          Hi - Thank you all for the great input and very much obliged! I will be sure to hit the correct A & S I promise - it's probably a hassle for some of you to go driving around for BBQ you can get nearby or just as good, but being on my own I think it's part of the fun to drive around and explore a new town/region . . . The cocktail thing is really just a way to linger a little longer at a restaurant - I also always like to get a book to travel with that is specifically on the region or somehow associated with it when I travel - that way I have something to look at at the dining table when I am really people watching. ;-) (And honestly, I like learning about new places I visit - sometimes nice conversations get going with people based on some book I'm carrying!) Best to you all, Pigeage

        2. Skip Mama Dips. As long as your brunch plans start around 11:45, you can watch the clock and order your drinks. I always plan accordingly (but then I'm a big drunk - kidding, kind of).

          1. If you don't have time to make it to Southern Season in Chapel Hill, there's a Wine Merchant in the same shopping center as La Farm in Cary. I would think you can find a decent bottle to bring to your dinner party there. They do free tastings on Saturdays from 12 - 4.

            The Pit has good BBQ - I went for the first time a few nights ago. I also like Clyde Cooper's downtown, but I've seen some hit or miss reviews of it lately. There's also a local chain here called Smithfield's, and while it doesn't have the character of Allen & Sons, the 'cue isn't bad and their Brunswick stew is excellent - if you get stuck somewhere and need to pick up a quick bite, you could do worse.

            25 Replies
            1. re: Suzy Q

              Hope Valley Bottle Shop in Durham is the best wine shop in the Triangle. They have a tasting machine and a knowledgable staff to help you out.

              1. re: hungryphillip

                Thanks, amigo! I've Google mapped it already! What do you guys think about Watt's Grocery? I'm gonna look at Poole's online now . . . :-)

                1. re: Pigeage

                  I was unimpressed by Watts Grocery. My husband's collegues went often in the beginning, but he recently told me that they seem to have stopped being interested. Not sure how much that information is worth.

                  I'd love to know what book it is you're bringing with you.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Hi there - I just ordered from UNC Press the book "Holy Smoke" about North Carolina BBQ as reviewed in Carolina Arts & Sciences News. I did free second day delivery on Amazon - hope it shows it looks like a fun read! :-)

                  2. re: Pigeage

                    I've not personally been to Watts Grocery, but my friends who have gone give the same feedback as LulusMom.

                    1. re: Suzy Q

                      The one time I was to Watts Grocery it was perfectly fine, great service but the food was not that interesting or challenging. Magnolia girll is much better and worth a trip

                      1. re: chazzer

                        I've been to Watt's three times in the last year and it has been very good. I wouldn't say it's better than Mag Grill, but they aren't in the same class. I found Watt's to be better than Piedmont, which I think is a fair comparison.

                        1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                          I had brunch at Watt's Grocery yesterday and it was great. Nothing fancy, just good food done well. That said, I give a slight edge to Piedmont for brunch simply because I am in love with their croque madam and stone ground grits.

                          1. re: ToothTooth

                            I like Watts Grocery too, and plan on going there in a few days for my birthday, as a matter of fact. If you are looking for a southern-influenced menu, it fills the bill. Piedmont is more Italian/French influenced (and if that's what you are looking for in brunch, I can highly recommend Coquette in Raleigh - I had the croque monsieur there and it was very, very good).

                            1. re: romansperson

                              and I'll go ahead and recommend the brunch at Rue Cler if the OP is looking for something besides southern. They have a really nice brunch with a french twist and great beignets (and an early happy birthday Romansperson!).

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                Hi and thanks again for all the rec's - do I dare ask what an OP is? :-)

                                1. re: Pigeage

                                  Sorry ... Original Poster. Hope you have a great time.

                              2. re: romansperson

                                I didn't know that Coquette was doing brunch - yum!

                            2. re: Tom from Raleigh

                              Is the price point between Mag Grill and Watt's that much diffrent?

                              1. re: chazzer

                                I wouldn't say price point is terribly different but atmosphere and intent are quite a ways apart.

                                Watts dinner entrees 13-25, Mag Grill dinner entrees 20-30

                                Watts is a lot like Crooks in that if you evaluate them based on what they're trying to be, they're great but if you want them to be fine dining or casual you'll be disappointed. Watts and Crooks both neighborhood places with really good, fairly straightforward, localish, seasonal food. Magnolia Grill is southern inflected fine dining. Apples to oranges.

                                I LOVE the late night menu at Watt's. We've either done that or ordered at the bar, sharing plates the few times we've been.

                                1. re: brokegradstudent

                                  Hi again - I think I'm getting a clearer picture - and since I am not interested in fine dining alone but rather a good NC eatery serving a good local southern breakfast/lunch/brunch menu (with maybe a bloody mary or glass of wine after 12PM!) - I have a few places to consider, apparently, and I thank you all for your thoughtful comments and consideration. I will keep checking here in case anyone else has somewhere they think I shouldn't miss next weekend that hasn't been covered yet - I am so looking forward to the weekend! :-)

                                  1. re: Pigeage

                                    If you would like to try good southern food while you are here try Joyce and Family in Fuquay-Varina. Get the buffet.

                                    Don't look for for a bloddy mary here though. Sweet tea is the beverage of choice.

                                    http://www.chow.com/places/5326

                                    1. re: Pigeage

                                      I should add a couple of things about Allen and Sons - since you'll be coming from across town I thought they might be important:

                                      1) They have weird hours - Tuesday and Wednesday they are open from 10 am to 5 pm. Thursday, Friday and Saturday they are open from 10 am to 8 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

                                      2) They don't serve alcohol. Sweet tea is the traditional liquid refreshment there.

                                      It's in a rural area, so there's not much else around, but if you care to explore and the weather's nice, you could go over and visit Maple View Farm Dairy (http://www.mapleviewfarm.com/). It's about 4 miles away.

                                      1. re: romansperson

                                        "It's in a rural area, so there's not much else around..."

                                        That's not accurate. Allen & Son is just a few miles north of Chapel Hill proper and a few miles south of downtown Hillsborough. I would recommend checking out UNC campus and Southern Season, an amazing gourmet and wine store, at University Mall. In downtown Hillsborough you should seek out Matthew's Chocolates. Matthew has combined his backgrounds in perfumary and chocolate making to create some unique and delicious creations.

                                        1. re: bbqme

                                          I live in Hillsborough and drive by Allen and Son every day on my way to work, so I believe I can say with authority that it isn't real close to anything else. Southern Season is about a 20-minute drive south and Matthews' is about the same in the opposite direction, which means that's quite a bit of time in the car without much else worth seeing inbetween.

                                          1. re: bbqme

                                            But let's compare it to a walkable city - in those terms, Allen & Sons isn't really near anything.

                                      2. re: brokegradstudent

                                        I wish I could get them to serve those fried smelts earlier than 9:00.

                                    2. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                      All my meals at Watts have been very, very nice. I also find it better than Piedmont - they have been erratic and unconcerned about the customers experience during my visits. Watts is also good for solo dining, the bar allows for good people watching and is roomy enough to eat at. It is a good place for contemporary Southern done really well.

                              2. re: hungryphillip

                                Slightly OT: I've seen several wine shops with those tasting machines now and have yet to use one. They look pretty cool, though! Both Wine Merchants have one, I've seen one at Total Wine - not sure if Southern Season's gotten one yet.