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Apr 23, 2011 10:24 AM

Chef and the Farmer (Kinston, NC) - recent experiences?

We are thinking of a visit for an upcoming anniversary. It's a bit of a hike, so curious about recent experiences. Last posts were some time ago, hoping this place is still doing great things!

Thanks all!

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  1. I had a fabulous meal there a month or so ago. Collard ravioli, yum

    1. Thanks! Their blog posts about planning winter menus mentioned a number of interesting collard dishes. It will be fun to see the spring options.

      1. We made the 1.45 hour drive and had a wonderful meal!

        The entrance is by the off street parking lot. Nice use of space, lots of old brick, contemporary touches. Nice lighting, kitchen visible from just about anywhere. Noise level was energetic, but conversation was easy to engage in.

        We shared "Brown Sugar & Jalapeno Glazed Bacon Meatballs, mustard creamed greens". The meatballs were tender yet full of beef flavor. The sauce made you wish you could lick the plate. Settled for sopping it up with a nice assortment of bread! The greens were perfect, nice foil for the sweet/sour of the meatballs.

        We had our entrees decided upon until a server walked by with a burger. My SO promptly decided the burger was the dish for the evening. This was a good choice, easily about the best burger I've tasted. Finished with blue cheese butter, caramelized onions served on a nice brioche bun. Burger came with an enormous mound of skinny, perfectly prepared fries. One of the two minor quibbles with the meal was the ketchup - tasted like regular grocery store ketchup. I'm not a ketchup fan and the fries were fantastic naked, but with every other part of the meal being house made or local artisan fare this seemed like an odd oversight.

        The other entree was the "Pan Seared Chicken, grilled romaine, fennel/olive relish, tomato confit, smoked caesar". This was a generous portion of moist white meat. The grilled romaine upped the flavor combination. Nice presentation, well prepared, much more delicious than the description sounds.

        Dessert was a skyscraper of a chocolate cake with caramel icing. Plenty for two, my SO had no problem polishing it off after my taste. (I'm more of a meal eater, not as big on dessert.) The last quibble of the meal was the caramel icing. The flavor and color were lovely, but there was a bit of sugar crunch - not the smooth, creaminess I anticipated. Not enough of a distraction to takeaway the pleasure of the dish!

        A few alcoholic beverages, coffee and an additional side plus tip came in around $100.
        You could get by for less if desired.

        We really enjoyed the evening. The flavors and service were top notch. I got to say, even at $14 for the burger, it was well worth it. I suspect I'll hear it's siren call on a drive back from the beach this summer!

        Big, bold flavors yet nicely balanced with the integrity of the ingredients shining through. Service was very good. Personal yet professional, helpful suggestions, enthusiastic about the food and the experience. I wish it was closer to home, but I'll have no quibbles about making the drive again.

        3 Replies
        1. re: meatn3

          Happy anniversary! I recall having a grilled romaine Caesar salad in Vancouver about 15 years ago at a spot that claimed it invented the dish. It started showing up in San Francisco a few years later, then disappeared. In the last year, I've seen it on a few menus . . . not that I'm complaining, I like the extra smokiness a lot and the dressing seems to meld better with the hot spots on the lettuce.

          Chef & the Farmer
          120 W Gordon St, Kinston, NC 28501

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Thank you! Hard to believe how fast time goes by.

            The smokiness really transforms the romaine into a whole new beast! I seldom order chicken out, but I'm glad I tried it! The fennel/olive relish was what really made the decision.

            We're going to miss you on this board! You really covered a lot of territory in a brief time. It was fun getting so much feed back. Looking forward to trying your find in Fayetteville next time I pass through.

            1. re: meatn3

              You're sweet . . . but you haven't seen the last of me yet. I've only posted about half my eating. :-}

        2. What's the latest on the restaurant? Still awesome? On the television show they were planning an oyster bar next door? How's that going?

          4 Replies
          1. re: rcburli

            I took my two daughters last month for a night out, and everything about the evening was fantastic. One of the highlights was a simple veggie garden plate, complete with roasted local mushrooms and heirloom carrots. So good.

            Fried collards are a crowd pleaser, for good reason. My vegetarian daughter loved her veggie Hoppin' John, and the omnivore enjoyed the lamb and olive pizza.

            Desserts were beautiful, generous, and freakin' great.

            No room for oysters this trip.

            1. re: rcburli

              The oyster bar may be the place titled The Boiler Room (I think) which also serves a massive burger. I want to go back and haven't been since before the fire.

              1. re: rcburli

                I have made it in three times this year and loved all three meals. Charming space, extremely friendly staff and the food is just fantastic (and nice beverage program as well). My only complaint is that I wish they offered a tasting menu as I would love to enjoy a larger range of what is offered; portions are quite large so you really have to pick and choose what seems best - which is very tough as so many menu items seem appealing. Finally had the privilege of meeting Chef Howard during our most recent visit (beginning of this month) and she was so friendly (we are big fans of her TV show).

                I recommend requesting to be seated at the counter that looks into the kitchen if you are a party of two; so much fun watching the chefs work their magic and many of them are really engaging.

                We also had appetizers and drinks across the street at Boiler Room prior to two of our dinners. Enjoyed that as well; far more casual, less expensive and less creative food - but still quite good.

                There is also a nice brewery nearby (couple minute walk from Chef & the Farmer), Mother Earth and that is a great spot to have a beer or two before or after dinner. They also offer free brewery tours. The brewery is not a part of Chef & the Farmer or Boiler Room, but both do carry some of their beers.

              2. We ate there about a week ago -- all the food was really delicious and elegantly presented, service was first-class -- the whole evening was truly memorable.

                We had the vegetable plate, one of the selection of grits dishes, a serving of grilled shrimp with blueberries and cucumber, and a serving of lamb, both chop and sausage, with sauteed greens.

                Also, a really nice Spanish red wine. The wine list is extensive and high in quality.

                We rounded things out with the berry cobbler with basil ice cream.

                AND, you get a gift certificate for the wine shop, based on the size of your check at the end of the night -- helped to fund a really nice bottle of wine we took home as a souvenir of a fine evening.

                This place does Southern cooking at its very best. We've been recommending this place to all our friends.

                Folks in the Triangle who do not head out to Chef and the Farmer are missing out on an exceptional dining opportunity.

                35 Replies
                1. re: jnwall

                  How long is the drive? is this a place one should consider for an overnight?

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Kinston in on US-70 east of Raleigh, about 90 minutes, downtown to downtown.

                    Its about 2 hours east of Durham or Chapel Hill, according to Google Maps.

                    We made a day of it in eastern NC, heading out for a BBQ lunch at the Skylight Inn in Ayden, then moving on to Kinston for dinner.

                    Stopped at some antique shops, etc.

                    A 90 minute drive each way -- occasionally -- for a dinner as good as we had at Chef and the Farmer is not too much driving for us.

                    Your sense of proportion may vary.

                    1. re: jnwall

                      Thanks - very helpful. My sense of proportion is insane compared to most people in NC. I consider a drive to Raleigh a day trip ; )

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        OK, but from where we live its 45 minutes to Oak Leaf in Pittsboro, and an hour to the Saxapahaw General Store.

                        If we want to eat there, we take the time it takes.

                        Believe me, Chef and the Farmer is worth the trip.

                        Although you might plan to stop in on your way to -- or from -- New Bern or Beaufort or Morehead City. Still worth the trip.

                        1. re: jnwall

                          Oh, I totally believe you! I just think I'd end up making it an overnight somehow.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            You don't want to overnight in Kinston... :-p

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              !! Something charming nearby, surely?

                              It occurred to me this morning that I don't think I've ever had dinner in Raleigh when I/we didn't spend the night there. I've had lunch twice and driven back.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                For an overnight in Kinston, this looks good --


                                or here, in Goldsboro, 20 miles away


                                1. re: jnwall

                                  Yes, both of those look very nice. Thank you so much. Makes the trip much more likely!

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Forgot about Bentley.. it was Vernon Hall for the longest time until the people that live right next door (huge mansion.. for Kinston) turned it into a B&B. Could also visit MotherEarth while you are there if you fancy a beer.

                                  2. re: jnwall

                                    I tried to stay at the Bentley during two visits this year (early April and early June) but had a horrible time getting in touch with anybody. E-mails were not returned and voice messages not returned. I finally reached somebody prior to the April stay and they said they were not sure if they'd be open and would get back to me (and never did - I finally managed to get through to them again and they said they would be out of town and not open). I left a voice mail and e-mail prior to the June stay and never heard back. Not sure if I just had back luck, or if this is typical. The place looks nice and is very conveniently located compared to the hotels in Kinston, but such drama trying to make a reservation. Ended up staying at the Kinston Hampton each time which was adequate, but not exactly great accommodations.

                                    The GM at Chef & Farmer mentioned that the farm they often feature on the TV show (Brother's Farm) has a B&B service on their farm; it sounded nice but was just a bit too far from the restaurant for us. Might try that next time we are in town though.

                                    1. re: Gonzo70

                                      I wonder if the McConnells are the ones still running that place.

                                      1. re: Gonzo70

                                        Thanks for posting this - sounds like a PITA and probably not worth spending more than one (unanswered?) email on.

                                        1. re: Gonzo70

                                          I've stayed at Brothers Farm many times and it's wonderful. Peaceful, historic, with awesome hosts if they're around.

                                          1. re: peetoteeto

                                            Just so I'm straight on this, Brothers Farm isn't one of the two mentioned above, right?

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              I think so! It's not in Kinston or Goldsboro, as mentioned above.

                                              Brothers Farm is in La Grange, about 15 minutes west of Kinston. Warren is the farmer who provides a lot of the produce for the restaurant.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  Brothers Farm is here:


                                                  Looks cool. Maybe we will stay overnight the next time we eat at Chef and the Farmer.

                                              1. re: Gonzo70

                                                The Bentley web site says "now open for business" and also "the Bentley is for sale."

                                                1. re: Madrid

                                                  !!! Perhaps not the very *best* advertisement for the place.

                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                    Shall I talk to my Kinton connections and see if they know the true story and who to talk to?

                                                2. re: Gonzo70

                                                  Good news for those looking for accommodations in Kinston; I noticed on Chef & Farmer announced via social media a new boutique hotel is opening soon across the street from the restaurant! Very excited about this and might even make a trip this fall back to Kinston in part because of this.

                                                  Here is a link to the hotel's website:


                                                  1. re: Gonzo70

                                                    This is very cool looking. I'm assuming they're not open yet, since there aren't any links for room prices, etc. But it does say opening in early 2015. Thought maybe I could take Lulu for a day/night during spring break (LulusDad will be out of town).

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      When you do go, look ahead as there may be a nearby festival that would also be intriguing for you and Ms. Lulu.

                                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                        I just figured it would be something fun to do while she has the week off. But it doesn't look like it is in the cards.

                                                        What is the festival?

                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                          No particular one. Was that this week?

                                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                            No, her spring break is at the end of the month.

                                                    2. re: Gonzo70

                                                      Not a good idea to leave that vault door open. Doing so stresses the hinge pins over time and can cause the door to fall off the hinges. There was a municipal employee in Virginia who was killed last year when a bank vault door fell on her. Town hall was in an old bank, and they used the vault for storage, with the door open.

                                      2. re: jnwall

                                        "Your sense of proportion may vary."

                                        No need for the snark.

                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                          Absolutely none intended, or meant. One of the characteristics of life here in the Triangle is that some folks move around a lot, and others never leave home.

                                          I can't imagine living here, and enjoying eating out, and settling for what's on offer in Raleigh. We have good restaurants, but I'd be missing a lot without enjoying what's on offer in Durham, Chapel Hill, and our environs.

                                          But other people feel differently. People have different senses of what is important, different senses of proportion when it comes to making decisions about how to spend one's time.

                                          Who am I to say they are right and I'm wrong? Or vice versa?

                                          1. re: jnwall

                                            My apologies for misreading your comment.

                                            1. re: carolinadawg


                                              Thank you for all your helpful comments on Chowhound.