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May 19, 2012 01:17 PM

Venable Bistro Carrboro

It's opening May 23, at Carr Mill, where the old Fleet Feet is. Hope it's good.

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  1. Wow, that is great news. I'd love a bistro nearby. I do wish they'd have more on their website than "visit facebook for more information." Shockingly enough, some of us aren't on facebook (meaning me). Anyone who is on it, can you tell me if they have a menu and what it looks like?

    21 Replies
    1. re: LulusMom

      no menu just pictures of the build out

      1. re: chazzer

        Thanks, chazzer. Good to know I'm not missing something. But man, I want to try the place asap.

        1. re: LulusMom

          Was at Weaver St yesterday so I checked if they posted a menu - none to be seen. But I did look in and there is a granite bar, shiny open kitchen, booths, tables & ledges; a really nice space. I would so love bistro food too.

          1. re: Rory

            I'm seriously excited. I'm trying to stop myself from going opening night, when you just know there will be some screw ups ... I may fail in this attempt.

            Anyone know anything about who is opening this place, or who the chef will be and what his/her history is?

            1. re: LulusMom

              LM: from FB the couple opening the place are Vanessa and Drew, with Drew cooking again. Does anyone know where he cooked previously?

              hehe, you should go;-)

              1. re: Rory

                You're the little red devil on one of my shoulders - and I like it.

                So ... anyone on the Vanessa and Drew info?

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Just a guess: Drew from Piedmont and Farmhand Foods?

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    It's Drew who was the chef at Tyler's 5 years ago or so. Seen the menu, it's different, going to the soft opening tonight.

                    1. re: BC1976

                      Please let us know how it goes. Since you've seen the menu, maybe you can give us some idea what to expect?

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Okay, just got back... I guess I should start off by saying I'm definitely going back since the food was good, but i will have to say the overall atmosphere is... unsettling? Probably first night jitters.

                        I got the steak, my friend got the rotisserie chicken, both were very good.

                        I would write more, but my longing for a true neighborhood bar (and grill) would just obstruct my ability to do so.

                        1. re: BC1976

                          Thanks for writing. I do think it takes a month or two to get rid of the opening jitters and problems with staffing, etc. That is why I'm going to try to hold off if possible ... that said, I really want to go.

                          I assume steak and chicken come with fries? How were they? Is it basically a typical bistro menu?

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            The chicken came as 2 halves, cooked perfectly, and seasoned perfectly as well. It came with roasted asparagus and shoestring fries. I don't eat fries, but they were tasty and I like asparagus and it didn't disappoint. Priced at $14, I thought it seemed pricey at first, but the portion size was enormous and could honestly feed two.

                            I don't remember what came with the steak, but it was bone-in ribeye and tasted amazing.

                            What I meant about being 'unsettling' is having twice as many employees as customers and someone always seemed as if they were watching us eat.

                          2. re: BC1976

                            Thanks for the feedback. Now hopefully the whole mall won't smell like a steak when I go in or I'll never leave without eating there. Question is will parking become an issue. Also, what do you mean by unsettling atmosphere? I think I know what you mean but hte connotation seems like it made you nervous or was scary.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              I go to Weaver Street a lot. I can always find a space. There's more parking near the comedy club behind the Teeter. I'm looking forward to trying this place.

                              1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                and there is a public parking lot across the street, and more behind Tylers.

                              2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                I find that the mall smells like creosote and I'd be thrilled to have it smell like food instead. Doesn't seem to have worked with the other two restaurants being in there though. A girl can dream ...

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  Nice report; now I'm dying to go but is there anything for the non-meaty set? Eggs, fish, vegetarian?

                  2. re: Rory

                    Sounds a little bit like the space that Kitchen has in Chapel Hill but maybe with some more wiggle room.

              2. re: LulusMom

                They do have a website. No menu though, just a blurb about locally sourced food at reasonable prices.


                1. re: bbqme

                  Right - I had found that, and saw that it said something like "more information on twitter and facebook" and had wondered if the menu showed up there. Chazzer let me know it didn't. I'm guessing/hoping that more info will be on the website soon.

              3. OK, thanks to burgeoningfoodie, who took a picture of the menu (which, unfortunately, would be a bit too small to read if I put it here), I can give people some idea of the menu items:
                Snacks and starters include: bresaola, arancini, bruschetta, artichoke, and something I can't quite make out or haven't heard of before (right away I'm thinking this isn't so much a bistro as an Italian restaurant).
                Soups and Salads: bistro, caesar, cobb and chevre salads and a chickpea soup.
                Sandwiches: Knife and fork BLT, banh mi, burger, caprese, caponata, salami (more Italian seeming, again, at least those last 3 items)
                Entrees: steak, roast chicken, root veg. pot pie, cavatelli, shrimp and crab (not sure how), salmon, and fried chicken

                So, I have to say that while this all sounds nice, it isn't really what I consider bistro food. At least not most of it. I am still interested in trying it, but not chomping at the bit anymore. Again, thanks to bf for sending me the photo to me.

                11 Replies
                1. re: LulusMom

                  LM & burgeoningfoodie; thanks again. Hmm I agree, bistro food is French: mussels, poulet grandmere, omelettes, steak au poivre etc.. Why are they doing Italian? Panzanella does that oh so well.

                  1. re: Rory

                    Perhaps, it would make sense to remember that the word, "bistro" can be used to refer to a casual restaurant that serves comfort food. Unless they're calling themselves "a French bistro", I won't deduct any style points.

                    I look forward to trying this place.

                    1. re: Rory

                      Bistro food is not French unless it is a French Bistro (though my memory of bistro vs. brasserie is forgotten). There are American Bistros. Though I understand what you mean about the connotation. As I mentioned to LulusMom the menu will probably undergo some changes once they get feedback.

                      I am unsure of what a Rotisserie bistro is as that is the first I've heard of that term. I must be the only one who doesn't think Panzanella is all that (beside the point). It is a staple.

                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                        Brasseries were originally restaurants that specialized in booze, most especially in beer.

                        Good point on the fact that they don't call themselves a "french bistro." Still, to me (obviously) the word connotes a French place.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          Aren't we missing the point? What does "Venable" mean? Are they cooking some dishes on a rotisserie?

                          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                            Venable is a local old family name. And I said that I get that they don't call themselves French and that this particular bias lies with me.

                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                It's expensive. Kitchen has a great menu, there was plenty I could eat. But Venable cooks bacon with the pasta, chickpea soup & fish dish....and the veg sandwiches are $10.
                                And root veg pot pie in the summer? That's so heavy. I wish them well, but unless I hear rave reviews I'll pass.

                                1. re: Rory

                                  Just relooked at the menu, and you're so right - not only is it not vegetarian friendly, but it isn't friendly for non-pork eaters at all. Three of the 6 items on the salad/soup portion of the menu have bacon in them. One of the two seafood options has bacon.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Update on the menu at Venable: they seem to change it fairly often, and it is now *much* more vegetarian friendly. We stopped by for a drink last night and looked, and there are now 3 vegetarian sandwiches, and I believe 3 or 4 salads, most if not all of the appetizers are vegetarian, and the fish no longer has pork. We talked to the bartender and she said that there is definitely a push to make it more veg. friendly. My husband's comment, and I think a reasonable one, is why is it called a rotisserie when only one item on the menu (the chicken) is cooked on a rotisserie. So for those of you who have been holding back because of the lack of vegetarian options, you have nothing to fear.

                              2. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                Carrboro was called West End from 1882 to 1911. Then renamed Venable, after UNC president Francis Preston Venable, from 1911 to 1913, then Carrboro in honor of mill owner Julian Shakespeare Carr after he began funding road construction and electric lines to the town, per Wikipedia.

                      2. Funny that people were mentioning a trattoria.. .Guess what is going into the former Rita's space across from Elmo's...

                        "The Herald Sun is reporting that another pizzeria is making its way into the historic building, this time in the former Rita's Italian Ice space. And it will be a familiar face to pizza lovers in Chapel Hill & Carrboro. Craig Samuels, who just sold his Franklin Street Pizza & Pasta to Tomato Jake's, will open Carrboro Pizza Oven. Look for them to open sometime this fall. "

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                          That seems redundant, with Panzanella there. Also seems surprising because the name of another place was up for a few months as "coming soon." But of course real estate transactions don't always work out.
                          I miss Rita's.

                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                            Also curious why he would sell Pizza and Pasta, then open another pizza shop? People were pretty upset when Pizza and Pasta became Tomato Jake's.

                            1. re: mpjmph

                              I imagine he collected a handsome sum for the right to the location. Even if he leased the space, getting bought out of a long-term lease isn't likely to be a bad deal.

                          2. Finally had a chance to try Venable Bistro last night with my friend and fellow chowhound romansperson, along with her husband and Lulu. I would say it was a mixed bag. We started with arancini, which were a big hit with Lulu (she ordered another round) and the caponata which was perfectly fine but nothing extraordinary. There was also brezelstick. I didn't try it, but I think this was a hit. My main was the vegetarian banh mi. I wasn't in love with this, but the fault lies with me, not the sandwich. it is on fabulous bread - a great baguette, nice and crunchy. But I hadn't made the mental leap of realizing that a vegetarian banh mi wouldn't have fish sauce on it, and without it I was a little bored. My fault, not the restaurants. Lulu got the children's pasta. There was something sour about the sauce, and she didn't eat it (I tasted it and completely agreed with her that it was better if she didn't). The others ordered Cobb Salad and a burger. Lulu finished off with the cupcake trio - three small cupcakes: carrot cake, chocolate and coconut. She said it was wonderful. I don't think anyone was overwhelmed by anything, but it was pleasant enough that I'll give them another try in a month or so and try something else.

                            edit: they seem to have changed the menu slightly since they opened. It is now on their website.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: LulusMom

                              One thing burger lovers should be warned about is that for the time being, Venable will only serve a burger medium-well (and in fact, my husband's burger ended up being a lot closer to well done). I know this is a sore point for a lot of folks, so I thought I should mention it.

                              I had the Cobb salad and found it to be very good - generous portions of avocado, lardons, and rotisserie chicken. Everything was very fresh and I would absolutely order it again. We also tried the chocolate mousse and found it to be quite good.

                              The brezelstick appetizer was also good, but it's better to eat it right after it hits the table - I let the last half of it sit for awhile and it became soft and chewy and not nearly as delicious.

                              I also tried the arancini but personally found it to be a little bland.

                              For now I would say it's good but not great. And don't let your kid order the pasta off the kid's menu.

                            2. I go there often now, read: every two weeks at the least, food is always good...