Report - Triangle eats from a couple of Bostonians
Well, originally I am from North Carolina though I have not lived there in many years and am not really on the up and up on the food scene. Just spent the weekend in Raleigh visiting my folks and decided to check out some of the great local food there. Quick report follows.
Allen and Son BBQ, Chapel Hill - this was, of course, a must do based on the many recs I've seen here and elsewhere. The BBQ and Brunswick stew are excellent. Hushpuppies a bit too dry and sweet for my taste. Beans, eh, they're beans. Well worth the 30 min. drive from Raleigh.
Jibarra, Raleigh - Here in Boston we have decent Mexican food but the HUGE Mexican population in NC encouraged us to check out this "upscale" Mexican place. The trouble started when the greeter welcomed us to "Gee-barra" (with a hard "J"). The fact that they were playing a Thievery Corporation record from 2002 on repeat was not a good sign either. Margaritas were excellent though and some of them were fairly inspired ("margarita del mar" with a "salty sea foam", for example). The quesadillas de camaron were basically microwave hotpockets with some kind of fake yellow cheese sauce... weird. Much better was the cabrito, which was served on the bone with tortillas and guacamole - very nice. DC ordered the sea bass in vanilla oil with mashed potatoes - the whole dish was monochromatically white and fairly bland. I do give them credit for not falling into the trap that so many other Mexican places do of serving only "obvious" dishes covered in melted cheese with rice and beans on the plate. So, some tweaking is required here, but keep in mind we have very high standards for Mexican (having lived in California and Mexico).
For REAL Mexican food we went out to Watson's Flea Market on Rock Quarry Rd in Raleigh. If you had any doubt that there is a burgeoning Mexican population in the Triangle, this is the place to disavow yourself of that misconception. Numerous taco trucks, pollo asada, you name it, blaring music, pirated DVDs... just like TJ. Went for tacos as Tacos El Corral. The lengua and al pastor were very good and at $1.50 a pop you can't complain. Horchata from the woman dishing it out from big jugs next door was a little too sweet for my taste. For 20 minutes we could pretend we were in Mexico with not a gringo in sight.
Finally, we got a few drinks at Foundation in downtown Raleigh one evening. This place really blew us away. I'm a huge fan of craft cocktail making (and we have great choices here in Boston) and Foundation really put a great Southern spin on the concept. Large bourbon selection, though I was disappointed to see few small producers represented, and they could certainly afford to have more rye. Bartending was fantastic and very inspired: Northern Aggression cocktail with Fighting Cock bourbon, Dubonnet rouge, and "homemade" amaro was fantastic. Legal moonshine was on offer too (we don't get that up in Boston). This is a place I will be going back to every time I make it back to the Triangle. Pity the location, though, and no sign from the street, but awesome concept.
Nice to know about "little Mexico" right there on Rock Quarry. Being closer to Durham I hear all about the places around here. Next time you are down you should check out some of the other places like Poole's Diner or several of the Indian places mentioned along the boards. I've been curious about Jibarra but not enough to actually want to go.
Great write-up! Nice mix of places, too.
Question: so the "no sign on the street" and the limited visibility was a detractor for you? (this question posed without any snark or irony). I'm curious how you reacted to the hard-to-find, in-the-know location. Sounds like you wanted it to be more obvious and readily visible.