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Help w/ Trimming Research Triangle Itinerary

Hello,

I'll be in the Research Triangle next month, alone, and only have a few short days in which to cram food and activities. I will be staying in Cary, but will have a car.

En route from Kentucky, I plan on stopping at Lexington #1 BBQ, followed by Allen & Son - both are on the way. After that, I'm pretty much overwhelmed with the wealth of options.

I will be having dinner Friday or Saturday night at ONE Restaurant in Chapel Hill. A day trip to the Skylight Inn in Ayden and Grady's in Dudley is also in order.

On Sunday, I will be driving back home - thought about having brunch at Crook's Corner or Beasley's in Raleigh.

I may even double up on dinners or have a few snacks at several restaurants. Places that are currently on my radar:
Rise
Scratch
Rose's Meat and Sweets
Bida Manda
The Stanbury
Mateo
Lantern
All of Ashley Christensen's places
The Pig
J Betski's

I'm sure I'm leaving out a few. Any help is appreciated. I'd like the best of what your area has to offer.

Thanks for your time.

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  1. What are you wanting to try? I'd skip the Pig after having those other bbq places. Out of your list I would recommend Mateo, Lantern, and The Stanbury.. followed by Bida Manda. Rose's is nice but it strictly counter service and mostly a Meat and sweet shop. I would get snacks at Loaf or Scratch but not a meal at either (not that you really can at the former). Piedmont is another place that is catching fire again Durham. In Cary, I'd check out AN Cuisine and/or Herons. I just have a feeling you are all over the place. Give us a bit more info on what you are wanting to try or don't have in your area of KY.

    8 Replies
    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

      I am a bit all over the place! I am not really seeking anything out specifically, aside from regional BBQ, and possibly regional Southern. Crook's seems to fit the bill for Southern.

      The afternoon tea at Herons sounds really nice!

      Thanks for your suggestions.

      1. re: cocobinga

        Wow, would love a follow up to know how many of those you get to, as it's a great list.

        I'd add Harvest 18 in Durham for the brunch - it's the same chef/owner of 18 Seaboard and Cantina 18 in Raleigh, and the menu is very local southern.

        And for a twist, Elements of Chapel Hill, (the chef used to be at An in Cary) does some great things with an Asian/Southern fusion.

        Happy eating!

        1. re: ksbee

          I hate to be the lone voice of dissent in here but I have to throw out there that we went and had a very underwhelming brunch at Harvest 18 two weeks ago. Not to say that it was bad but it was nothing special to go out of your way for. What was special however were the donuts we shared after from Rise (in the same shopping center). I can't stop thinking about those delightful pastries!

          1. re: Erika RollerGirl

            I love Rise's donuts too.

            Also agree that with the other bbq stops the OP should take the Pig off the list.

            1. re: Erika RollerGirl

              Rise is hit or miss and overly sweet. I like Monuts offerings in both sweet and savory a bit more.

              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                You're correct about Rise being hit or miss from our one experience there. We shared a few donuts and some were not so memorable (blueberry wonut in particular) but others went above and beyond (the banana pudding donut was incredible). I have not yet tried Monuts as I don't get out to Durham that often from Raleigh but I'd certainly be interested in a comparison!

          2. re: cocobinga

            I don't consider Crook's Southern regional.. but that is just me. I do like their banana pudding and if they have honey suckle sorbet it is a rare treat. I bet some people could recommend better southern regional at a stop somewhere between Ayden (skylight) and back to Raleigh Durham area. Actually you should segue over to Kinston and grab dinner at Chef and the Farmer.

            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

              Took your advice and booked a table at Chef and the Farmer on Saturday. When I found about Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, that sort of sealed the deal.

              Planning on doing The Stanbury once I get back into Raleigh that night.

        2. Looks like you've done some good research. Of the places you listed, Mateo, Lantern, Stanbury, Scratch, and Rose's would get my vote. You can probably skip Rise. I do love the Pig but you've got BBQ covered. As for Ashley Christensens places, the best is Poole's but it's dinner only. Joule or Beasleys would make a good brunch spot. I'd choose those over Crooks Corner. I'd also throw in Watts Grocery in Durham for good southern food. Finally, for some other options you might try KoKyu BBQ food truck or we also have some good Mexican food around here as well.

          1. Solid list. I love Betski's, Mateo and Stanbury. The Pig is great, but would probably skip it with all the barbecue stops (The Pig is not a barbecue joint, but is very porky). Superwok in Cary is fantastic Chinese and should be in consideration. Straw Valley is a very cool space and we had a great meal there during soft opening. Scratch and Joule are my current favorite brunch stops, with Joule holding a slight edge (one caveat, it might be too expensive for your taste. Check out the menu online before you go). Give us a full report.

            8 Replies
            1. re: veganhater

              Good list however I would recommend Captain J's (weird name but fabulous authentic Chinese) over Super Wok after our last experience at Super Wok which was extremely underwhelming. Banana Leaf in Cary is also a solid Chinese choice to consider however.

              1. re: Erika RollerGirl

                Capt. J's and Super Wok are very different, with Super Wok being traditional Sichuan. I also find that I do better at Super Wok when I get a waitress rather than a waiter. The female staff will bring your food the way you asked for it. The men may bring you toned down, "Americanized," food and, when you call them on it, tell you some variation on, "You wouldn't like it the Chinese way." Funny, I liked it just fine every other time I've had it here. I figured that one out after I realized that every meal I enjoyed there was served by a woman, every meal that was unsatisfactory was served by a man.

                1. re: rockycat

                  I can't remember who served us last time however I want to say it was a woman so I'm not sure that your theory holds a lot of water. We've eaten there 3 or 4 times in the past 5 years and in the earlier days of our visits the food was out of this world however in the past year the food was mediocre to good, just not outstanding. The last time we were there it was about as good as any other Chinese restaurant around, which is to say, decent but not memorable. We have knocked it off our list to return to because with other better options around, why go for average?

                  1. re: Erika RollerGirl

                    Well, it holds water in that that has been my experience. As always, YMMV.

                  2. re: rockycat

                    Strange. I've only had waitresses on my dozen or so visits. I've never had an issue with underwhelming food or americanized dishes, although it's been 6 months since I've been there. Reason enough for a visit to see what's going on. I haven't been to Captain J's yet, but rate Superwok a touch above Gourmet Kingdom (which I also love) as the best Chinese option around. Things that I love and order every time include pea shoots, dan dan noodles, every tripe dish, eggplant custard, squid, pork belly with lotus root, fried fish cut like squirrel tail and chicken with three peppers. I hate hearing about any sub-par experiences, but I can say I've been there enough times to warrant them an anomaly.

                    Along with LulusMom, I'm sold on Straw Valley. Love the food, beverage and service, but what separates the dining experience there are the grounds and dining room. Truly unique experience.

                    1. re: veganhater

                      Four BBQ meals planned? Skip one and get the braised pork sandwich at The Federal with a side of their fries.

                      I ate at Black House at Straw Valley for the first time last week, loved it.

                      I'd go to Watts before Crooks.

                      Tacos at La Vaquita.

                      Tonali.

                2. If you're looking for a meat-n-three, I'd like to give a shout-out to Shrimp Boats in Durham:

                  http://marieletseat.com/2014/04/10/sh...

                  1. Just wanted to thank all of you for your help. I have a much better idea of where and what to eat now in the Triangle!

                    Cheers

                    1. Just wanted to thank you again for your suggestions. In my short amount of time, I managed to hit nearly everything on my list - Lexington BBQ #1, Allen and Son, Lantern, Poole's, Rise, Scratch, Mateo, The Parlour, ONE restaurant, Skylight Inn, Joule Coffee, Stanbury, J Betski's, Ed Mitchell's, Rose's Meat and Sweet.

                      You can find some photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cocobinga/

                      Loved both styles of cue, Skylight Inn being the slight favorite due to the crispy bits of skin mixed in with the meat.

                      ONE in Chapel Hill was superlative. I did the impromptu tasting, which is quite a bargain for what you get. Daniel and Kim are supremely talented.

                      Mateo was only for lunch, and I regret not devoting a full dinner there. The food was incredible; the clams dish with boiled peanuts, ham, and sherry is a must-order.

                      Rose's in Durham is such a cool concept. If I lived locally, I would find myself going there all the freakin' time.

                      I'm not so great at recapping my experiences, so I'll leave it at that. I look forward to returning in the future!

                      Cheers

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cocobinga

                        You did more in your short time here than most of probably do in 2 months. Glad you had a positive experience. Not sure how often you'll be back but hopefully there will be some rewarding things to try when you return.

                      2. Returning in September and hoping to hit the places I missed the first time around...

                        Definitely going to check out Pizzeria Toro and Bida Manda.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: cocobinga

                          We went to the re-opened Toro a few weeks ago and were very pleased.