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An Outsider Review of eating in RTP

b
bubblesdlev May 24, 2011 01:33 PM

So I was down in the Triangle for business for a week and for those of you that are coming on this board to look for the best place to eat here is an outsider opinion that has lived and eaten some of the best places in the world.

Our first real meal came Monday night at The Pit in Raleigh while traveling there we thought we were in the wrong area until suddenly your at a quite nice restaurant. They take opentable reservations and I would severely recommend doing so. If you’re waiting in line already still check open table from your phone. 5 minutes out we made an open table reservation and when we got there they had a 30+ minute wait (if the waiting people only knew); however we were sat right away at a great seat in the nicer area. My Co-worker and I were slightly disappointed that the pulled pork was sold out but that’s what happens when it takes so long to make. We had an appetizer of Chicken wings that had a salty smoked taste to them and absolutely no heat. It was actually quite good and would have them a second time. For dinner I had the brisket and turkey while my Co-worker had brisket and meatloaf. We both found the brisket to be on par with other Bar-B-Que places we have been to in the past nothing outstanding. And our second meats of turkey and meatloaf fell flat.

Tuesday night my Co-Worker and I went to a CH recommendation of Watts Grocery in Durham. Once again we were surprised by the surroundings and in this case the building itself. It didn't look fine dining to me but I would put this up there with some of the fine dining in New York and Chicago (of around the same price point). For appetizer my co-worker had rabbit liver pate with strawberry and arugula salad and home made mustard. Which he felt was amazing, while I had the strawberry arugala and home made ricotta salad w/ peppered graham crackers and balsamic dressing. I felt the only thing wrong with my appetizer was that it needed a touch more of the sweet elements but that could be because they graham crackers were great. For entre I saw the words duck fat hollandaise and knew what I was having my co-worker had the seared tuna on a beet salad which he liked. Mine to be more specific was a perfectly grilled ribeye with grilled asparagus home made tater tots and a duck fat hollandaise. My meal was absolutely perfect and usually I can find a fault in almost everything I eat but this had everything I needed but never knew I wanted. I did have dessert here and it was a very good strawberry rhubarb tart with vanilla ice cream and chili caramel. As my company will be sending me to RTP hopefully often this is a must return every time I come back thanks to all that mentioned this.

Wednesday night we wanted to complete the Triangle and we were going to go to Elaine's on Franklin but we decided on going for home brewed Carolina beers at the Carolina Brewery down the street from Elaine's. The beer sampler was served in 4 oz. glasses and was the highlight of my culinary experience that night. It was what tasted like microwaved buffalo wings and a one temp (mid well to well done) burger. If your at Elaine's for dinner and want to go for a beer afterwards 5.75 gets you 7 4 oz glasses of 7 different home brewed beers and some are really good.

I stop the night dinning train for a second to mention our lunch. Up until now we had little time for lunch and we were going to Jimmy Johns or subway and what not. But for lunch on Thursday we went to a great little place in Durham called the Backyard BBQ Pit on 55. For practically nothing they serve up some of the most delectable brisket with gravy, baked beans, and greens. It was so good we made it a point to eat there for lunch on Friday. This place serves you fast, has homemade fresh squeezed Lemonade, and is a must hit lunch spot if you are in the area.

Thursday night we went over to the Angus Barn and were delighted with the atmosphere (I got my wife's present from the awesome gift shop). It was a great experience but the food did not match. Given the mixed reviews I was not going in expecting much and to that point the Angus Barn didn't disappoint but in the same vane it didn't wow me. Nothing sticks out from my meal (Prime Rib, Caesar salad, and baked potato) as great but nothing sticks out as awful either. It was a great ambiance but I feel like there has to be a better steak place than this in the triangle (Rib eye at Watts was way better). I know that right up the street is a Sullivan’s and if it is anything like the one in Chicago it has got to be good.

We left on Friday so no dinners to report. So without further adieu here is my List:

Must Returns places
Watt's Grocery
Backyard BBQ Pit (lunch)

Might Return to...
Angus Barn (wasn't awful I may give second chance)
The Pit (it was good and eventually I will return but not an every time stop)

Won't Return to
Carolina Brewery (unless it’s for a beer)

Thanks once again to all of you for your suggestions I was not disappointed with either of your selections that we chose.

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Watts Grocery
1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC 27705

Angus Barn Restaurant
9401 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27617

Watt's Grocery
1116 Broad St Ste 100, Durham, NC 27705

  1. j
    jonfrank604 May 24, 2011 02:21 PM

    Great review, thanks! When you come back, hit the Pit up for lunch, for the same fare, but cheaper & make sure you get the fries with pork and pimento, and the ribs...That's the best stuff there, and that will move it up on your list. In Durham, not far from Watts (Which I love), is Magnolia Grill, similar Southern gourmet, but even better..James Beard winning Chef, and his wife is a James Beard winning pastry chef..needless to say it's a match made in heaven! Also, when you back to Backyard, get the chopped pork...That's what we do here in the triangle!

    1 Reply
    1. re: jonfrank604
      c
      cstuart78 Jul 23, 2011 10:17 PM

      I second both Watts Grocery and Magnolia Grill. Traveling through Durham we were looking for a good lunch and dinner spot and were not disappointed with both of these choices. Watts was great for lunch -- a cute place and tasty food. The dishes weren't perfect but it had a great vibe, definitely where the locals go, and it is clear the restaurant is really trying to please the customers. Had the pimento cheese/pulled pork sandwich (my first time with pimento cheese) and the grits. The grits were phenomenal! I have no idea what a pimento cheese sandwich is supposed to taste like but it was delicious -- the pulled pork was weak and there wasn't much of it but otherwise good.

      Magnolia Grill was a great restaurant. It seemed like the place college kids probably go with their parents when they are in town. White table cloths with quirky decorations. Every dish was great: fresh, bright and well put together. The servers were attentive and answered all of our silly questions (where was the butter from, when did the chefs when their awards, etc...). Highly recommend!

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      Watts Grocery
      1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC 27705

    2. v
      veganhater May 25, 2011 09:28 AM

      Thanks for your report. I will note that you visited two barbecue joints and missed out on NC barbecue, which is chopped pork. This certainly is something you need to try on your next visit. The hamburger issue in NC is very frustrating. It is against code to serve a burger under 155 degrees, which we all know is completely stupid. Carolina Brewery is following a ridiculous health code. They do, however, get kudos for sending their spent grain to the cows that eventually make their burger.

      12 Replies
      1. re: veganhater
        Naco May 25, 2011 09:59 AM

        A friend sent me this recently:

        http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/...

        It hews closely to the Fox News house style by being short on actual facts- a bill number would be nice- but it's something, anyway.

        1. re: veganhater
          b
          bbqme May 25, 2011 07:06 PM

          Rallypoint Sport Grill in Cary will cook a burger perfectly medium if you ask.

          1. re: bbqme
            j
            jonfrank604 May 26, 2011 04:37 AM

            So will Players Retreat, Bull McCabes (My favorite), Gatehouse Tavern, the new Bull City Burgers and Brew, and even Frankie's Funpark....A lot of places will as long as they grind their own meat...those are some of my favorites though....

            1. re: jonfrank604
              b
              bbqme May 26, 2011 08:58 AM

              Bull McCabes is near my office and I've eaten there several times. They have not cooked their burgers medium when I've had them there. The patty was distinctly brown on the inside. I have not eaten at BCBB but know that they makes it a point to point out NC's min. cook temp standard on their menu so I doubt they will cook medium burgers. Also, as pointed out in other threads on this board, the "if they grind their own meat" is a falsehood. NC law makes no such distinction.

              1. re: bbqme
                s
                steveindurham3 May 26, 2011 09:54 AM

                Another place to try is Metro 8 Steakhouse in Durham. Argentine style beef and great other options as well.

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                Metro 8
                746 9th St, Durham, NC 27705

                1. re: bbqme
                  j
                  jonfrank604 May 27, 2011 03:49 AM

                  Bull McCabes will make 'em medium rare even, try again...

                  1. re: jonfrank604
                    c
                    cackalackie May 27, 2011 07:13 AM

                    Shhhh. The first rule about rare burgers in NC is that you don't talk about where you can get rare burgers in NC. (I'm guilty. But I'm now paranoid that all the places we keep mentioning will eventually get busted.)

                    1. re: cackalackie
                      m
                      mpjmph May 27, 2011 10:01 AM

                      I used to worry about them getting busted, then I read an article about a current push in the legislature to change the law (I think posted somewhere on CH?). The article mentioned that the only punishment for serving undercooked burgers is a couple of points off the sanitation score...

                      1. re: mpjmph
                        b
                        brokegradstudent May 27, 2011 11:39 AM

                        I thought I saw it here but, if not, here are the links
                        http://www.digtriad.com/news/article/176080/1/Rare-Burgers-Could-Come-To-Menus-In-North-Carolina
                        http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/...

                    2. re: jonfrank604
                      b
                      bbqme May 27, 2011 08:31 AM

                      Well you'll have to tell me what the special knock or code word is then 'cause it hasn't happened for me.

                      1. re: bbqme
                        c
                        cackalackie May 27, 2011 11:35 AM

                        It all depends on where you go. (Two hints: PR and RT.)

                  2. re: jonfrank604
                    b
                    BDM1 Jun 1, 2011 06:58 PM

                    Just FYI - they won't anymore. Once it's ground it has to be, by some crazy law, 165 degrees. People posted all the places in Charlotte that would do mid-rare and they all go busted within a few weeks. There are some thing better left unsaid. . . sorry.

              2. r
                rafeco May 26, 2011 11:11 AM

                As far as straight up steakhouses go, Bin 54 in Chapel Hill is my favorite in the Triangle.

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                Bin 54
                1201 M Raleigh Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 21517

                1. p
                  PeterB May 31, 2011 03:55 PM

                  Thanks for the outsider perspective. Glad you dug Watts Grocery, they do very nice work there. Next time try the hush puppies, they may be the best ever. Other good ones to try in Durham are Blu Seafood, Vin Rouge, Pop's, Rue Cler, Piedmont, and Toast. For really blowing it out there are The Magnolia Grill, Nana's, and Four Square.

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                  Rue Cler Restaurant
                  401 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701

                  Four Square Restaurant
                  2701 Chapel Hill Rd., Durham, NC 27707

                  Watts Grocery
                  1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC 27705

                  Vin Rouge
                  2010 Hillsborough Rd., Durham, NC 27705

                  Blu Seafood and Bar
                  2002 Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC 27705

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PeterB
                    l
                    LBD Jun 6, 2011 05:49 PM

                    You should have gone to Elaines or across the street to Lantern or down the street to Cypress On the Hill. All of PeterB's recs are solid too, skip a return trip to Angus Barn.

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                    Angus Barn Restaurant
                    9401 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27617

                  2. p
                    PeterB Jul 26, 2011 03:05 PM

                    Toast is another great place to try in Durham.

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