Category Archives: Raleigh’s Best

Raleigh’s Five Best Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

Grilled pimento cheese

I love pimento cheese and chances are if you’re from the South, you do, too. There’s nothing more comforting than a warm and gooey grilled pimento cheese sandwich and a bowl of yummy soup or some homemade chips. I recently shared my recipe for Kel’s Reduced-fat Jalapeno Pimento Cheese, which is quick and easy to make and tastes great.

Kel's Grilled pimento cheese

However, sometimes I want to order a grilled pimento cheese sandwich when I’m on my lunch break, so lucky for me a number of area restaurants offer this classic on their menus. Here are my Top-5 favorite places in Raleigh to get a great pimento cheese sandwich, hot off the grill.

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Raleigh’s Best Brunches: Part 2 — Menu-Only Ordering

Tribeca brunch

In May I asked my readers what were their favorite places in the Raleigh area for brunch. I received numerous recommendations and have tried to eat at most of the places suggested. So finally, after many months of research, I’ve come up with some of my favorites. I’ve divided them into two separate posts: Buffets (read about them at: and Menu-Only Ordering. This part focuses on places that serve brunch only from their menus, and many offer it both on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s always good to check with the restaurant first for its hours and to see if you need to make reservations.

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Raleigh’s Best Brunches: Part 1 — Buffets

Oxford buffet items

In May I asked my readers what their favorite places in the Raleigh area for brunch are (and congratulations to Jennifer K. for winning the $25 gift card to Target for her suggestion.) I received numerous recommendations and have tried to eat at most of the places suggested. So finally, after many, many months of research, I’ve come up with some of my favorites. Because I like so many places I tried, I’ve decided to divide this post into two separate parts: Buffets and Menu Only.

This part concentrates on some the buffets I visited in Raleigh, which are only open on Sundays. I actually prefer ordering from a menu rather than going to a buffet, mainly because I tend to eat too much because I want to try everything in sight. I then wind up feeling miserable for a few hours. Oh the things I do for this blog!

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Raleigh’s Best Creamy Chicken Salads


There’s just something about creamy chicken salad that makes it one of my favorite sandwich fillings. I like mine mixed with fresh chicken (preferably white meat) celery, onion, lite mayo, salt and pepper – that’s about it, although every now and then sliced grapes and sweet pickles can slide into the mix. I’m not too picky about the bread it’s served on (rolls, sourdough, rye, wraps, etc.) as long as it’s good and fresh. Or I can eat it right out of the container, plain.

Several months ago I posted my favorite Chunky Chicken Salads in Raleigh, with the promise to follow up with the best creamy chicken salads in the area. I could research this topic forever (and probably will) so I finally decided to get on with it and publish my favorites so far.

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Raleigh’s Best Chunky Chicken Salads

Raleigh’s Best Chunky Chicken Salads

Ahhhh – good old chicken salad, a true comfort food. Whenever I can’t decide what to order for lunch, it is one of my go-to meals. I see chicken salad falling into two categories: chunky and creamy. I love both of them. I prefer chunky chicken salad on a bed of fresh salad greens, with crackers or even on its own, although I occasionally will have it on bread. On the other hand, creamy chicken salad belongs on some sort of good, artisan bread or else maybe as a dip for celery and carrot sticks.

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Where’s the Best Brunch in Raleigh? Comment for a Chance to Win a $25.00 Gift Card to Target!


I am admittedly not a big breakfast eater, but I do like a good brunch on the weekends. My favorite brunch offerings include Eggs Benedict, corned beef hash or quiche, with hash-brown potatoes and fresh fruit on the side. Oh, and don’t forget the mimosas with fresh-squeezed orange juice and decent champagne, or maybe a spicy Bloody Mary instead. The kids love pancakes, French toast or waffles, although Lexi may opt for some link sausages and scrambled eggs. Brad usually goes for an omelet, especially ham and cheese. And all of us love nice, crispy bacon, of course!

So keeping all of this in mind, I’d love to hear what your recommendations are for the best brunch in the Raleigh area that is both kid and adult friendly.  BTW, I’m not necessarily wed to breakfast food if you can suggest a place that has some unique offerings that I’m not likely to find anywhere else.

All of you who respond (by 5/20/12) and suggest a great place to have brunch on the comment section of this post automatically will be included in a drawing to win a $25.00 gift card to Target. So take just a minute and please let me know where I need to conduct my next round of market research!

 Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Raleigh’s Best Potato Skins

Potato skins are one of my favorite bar foods. Traditional skins are usually filled with bacon and cheese (who can argue with that?) and maybe some green onions or chives, with sour cream on the side. I think the first ones I ever tired were at T.G.I. Fridays in the mid-80s, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

My favorite place to get potato skins in Raleigh used to be Crowley’s on Medlin Drive. I was thrilled when we bought our current house, which is less than two miles away from the restaurant. For me, these were the best skins in Raleigh for a couple of decades running. That is, until recently. The last couple of orders I’ve had have been pitiful – definitely not up to its old gold standard. This makes me so, so sad, but I decided to put on my big girl pants and find a worthy replacement or two. And I’m so glad I did, because I found several.

Here are my top five places to get potato skins in Raleigh:

Duffy’s Restaurant & Tavern (8021 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27615)

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum. These skins ($7.99) are so good – lots and lots of crispy bacon and melted cheese with the right amount of potato and still some crunch. Notice the long potato wedges, which I think are great. Love! BTW, if you are a Giants fan, there is a fan club that meets at Duffy’s during the NFL season when the games are not locally televised.

***Please note that Duffy’s recently closed and will soon reopen as another Hibernian Pub, which is a good thing for North Raleigh! (updated 10/17/12)

Draft Carolina Burgers and Beer (510 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, N.C. 27603)

These crispy fried potato skins come filled with BBQ short ribs (yes, short ribs) and Ashe Co. pepperjack cheese ($9.00). Wow. Just wow. I have to admit that I adore beef short ribs, so I was excited to try these skins. They rock! What a great twist on traditional skins. And believe it or not, I didn’t even miss the bacon. Draft hasn’t been open long, but I must say between these skins and its awesome burgers, this is becoming a great place to go watch games.

Edwards Mill Grill (3201 Edwards Mill Road Raleigh, N.C. 27612)

Luckily, Edwards Mill Grill is close to home. These skins ($8.99) are fantastic and come with lots of cheese and a good amount of bacon. The potatoes are long wedges (like Duffy’s), which I do prefer. These skins are only listed on the restaurant’s dinner menu, but I asked for them at lunch and the chef was more than happy to oblige. There is a great little outside seating area that I took advantage of since it was beautiful outside. Totally recommend!

Player’s Retreat (105 Oberlin Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27605)

What I love about these skins ($7.50) is that you have the option to add chili to them for $1.00 more. Good choice – the chili made them even heartier. I would have like a bit more bacon, but the chili did make up for that. Good amount of mozzarella and cheddar cheese. These are a great alternative to my usual Gabby burger order.

Sawmill Tap Room (7701 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27615)

Sawmill’s skins ($6.49) have been a favorite of mine for years, especially when I used to live closer to the restaurant. Again, lots and lots of crispy bacon and cheese, and one of my favorite things on the menu. If I’m in the neighborhood, I often stop and get an order to go. Or, for a different twist, try the New Orleans skins ($7.99) with Andouille sausage and bleu cheese crumbles – also quite tasty!

These next places (listed alphabetically) are also quite good and I would not hesitate to order skins at any of them.

Brickhouse Sports Restaurant and Pub (3801 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, N.C. 27607)

Pair these skins ($6.99) with a Brickhouse spicy Bloody Mary, and you have a winning combination. I wish Brickhouse would upgrade its televisions, but since it is so close to home I can overlook that. They have great outside seating area. Plus I have a soft spot for Brickhouse since this is where I won YMCA’s third annual chili cook off.

Fox & Hound Pub & Grille (4158 Main at North Hills Street, Raleigh, N.C. 27609)

These skins ($6.99) were nice and hot when I got them. They had an average amount of bacon and plenty of cheese. Quite nice! Also, for an additional $1.50, you can get them with BBQ chicken, which I will definitely try next time.

Sammy’s Tap & Grill (2235 Avent Ferry Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27606)

These skins (6 of them for $7.98) were so good – plenty of cheese and, more importantly, plenty of bacon. This is a great sports bar, especially if you are a Wolfpack fan. If it had been around when I was at NCSU as an undergrad, I probably would have been there a lot.

T.G.I. Friday’s (4210 Wake Forest Rd., Raleigh, N.C. 27609)

I feel compelled to include the skins at Friday’s on my list, because, well let’s face it, they are good. I have to admit that I don’t go to Friday’s that often, but whenever we travel by car I’m more likely to stop there for a meal than at your average fast food chain, especially with the kids in tow. These skins are great, with lots of crispy bacon, cheddar cheese and green onions.

And finally, I don’t mean to toot my own horn (well, yeah, I do), but my savory sweet potato skins are probably my favorite of all.

Kel’s Savory Sweet Potato Skins

I use sweet potatoes instead of regular ones to make my own skins. Once you try these, you may never want skins made from regular potatoes again. These are absolutely fabulous and so easy to prepare! Click here for the recipe.

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Raleigh’s Best Meatball Subs

In January I asked my readers where to find the best meatball subs in the Raleigh area (and congratulations again to Lee for winning a $25 gift card to Harris Teeter for responding!) Since then, I’ve been working my way through most of the suggestions (my mouth and tummy have been quite happy – my waistline – not so much.) Anyway, when I’m not in the mood to make my own (click here for the recipe for Kel’s spicy, saucy meatballs), I’m happy to visit any of these places for a great, tasty meatball sub. Just remember not to wear white.

Antonio’s Gourmet Market  (8460 Honeycutt Road #112 Raleigh, N.C. 27615)

(Note: Since my original, the meatball sub is no longer available as the market has restructured and the deli has changed. However, you can still buy the meatballs for $7.99 lb. – worth it if you want to make y0ur own sub or serve them on pasta. Special shout out to reader mghicks for the update!)

This was my favorite meatball sub, hands down! Messy and delicious doesn’t even begin to describe this sub, which is called the Goomba. The Italian meatballs are a house specialty, and I can see why. The hoagie roll is a New Orleans French bread that nice and soft on the inside. Lots of tasty mozzarella cheese on top! Well worth $9.99, and it comes with a pickle and a choice of potato salad, slaw or pasta salad. I saw another person eating this and he was using a knife and fork, which I wound up using as well, after my third napkin.

Assaggio’s Italian Bistro and Market (3501 W. Millbrook Road Raleigh, N.C.27613) This meatball sub was excellent. You order at the counter, and then someone brings it to your table. I got the 5” Meatball Parmigiana ($5.95), which came with chips. There were two huge and spicy meatballs on a toasted sub roll. Nice and hot – the marinara sauce is good and just the right amount. Lots of gooey cheese! The service was fast and good. One small drawback for me is that Assaggio’s only serves Pepsi products, but it does have iced tea as well as beer and wine. I can also recommend the Chicken Parmigiana, but that’s another post. I’ll be back!

Milton’s Pizza and Pasta (8853 Six Fork Road Raleigh, N.C. 27615) I’ve been going to Milton’s for years. Before I met Brad and was living alone, I would occasionally stop by on my way home from working at Duke and get the lasagna as takeout – good stuff at a reasonable price, and enough leftover for lunch the next day. I can vouch for Milton’s pizzas as well – great crust and fresh ingredients. So I knew I had to try the meatball sub (known as the ACC) and I was not disappointed. The meatballs were nice and spicy, and the sauce was good, too – you could tell both were homemade. Lots of provolone cheese as it should be. I could have used a little bit more sauce and it did need some salt. It came with fries and a pickle for $8.49. Milton’s recently added a new bar at the Six Forks location, which looked pretty nice.

Mellow Mushroom (601 West Peace St., Raleigh, N.C.  27605) I love Mellow Mushroom’s pizzas as well as a number of its sandwiches, so I knew I had to try the meatball sub. Very good and messy! I got the 5-inch sub ($5.25) on French bread with melted mozzarella. Chips were $1.10 extra – kind of pricy if you ask me. The meatballs were spicy and there was a lot of gooey cheese. The sauce was a little on the sweet side, but still quite good and there was plenty of it. I thought it needed some salt, but that was all. Groovy.

Amedeo’s Italian Restaurant (3905 Western Boulevard Raleigh, N.C.) Located across from N.C. State’s campus, Amedeo’s has been a Western Blvd. fixture since 1963. This sub came with big spicy meatballs and good crusty bread. The sauce was tasty and there was lots of it. My server brought extra napkins without asking because he knew I would need them (and I did!) While the sub had a fair amount of cheese, a little more would have been perfect. $8.95 included a choice of fries or chips. Very nice and messy!

Lynwood Grill (4821 Grove Barton Road Raleigh, NC 27613) This meatball sub was excellent – great bread, right amount of sauce, meatballs were spicy and it had lots of provolone cheese. I needed more than two napkins for this one! $6.99 included a pickle and choice of fries, chips, roasted potatoes, pasta salad or pickle chips. A great deal!

Honorable Mentions

Sub Conscious on Hillsborough Street, Anvil’s Cheesesteaks and Piccolo Italia all had decent meatball subs, but were just not messy enough. I’m sure I could order extra cheese or sauce on the side, though, and they would be fine.

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Raleigh’s Best Burgers

Give me a choice between a cheeseburger and a steak, and the burger will win nine times out of 10. In fact, the burger will usually be triumphant over most meat, with the notable exception of bacon.

Earlier this year I asked my readers to tell me where to get the best burger in the Triangle and had numerous recommendations (click here to see the suggestions, and congrats to Trina for winning the gift card!) I have been quite busy conducting market research since then and have come up with some of my favorite burgers in the area. In order to narrow down my list, I am only including places in Raleigh that grind their own meat so I can order to my personal preference (usually medium – medium rare.)

As an aside, the most decadent (and expensive) burger I’ve ever eaten was at DB Bistro Moderne in Manhattan. Daniel Boulud offers his Original db burger, which is ground sirloin filled with braised short ribs, foie gras and black truffle, served on a Parmesan bun. It comes with pommes frites or pommes soufflées for $32.00. Wow, and well worth every bite (special thanks to my senior editor and fellow foodie Jerry at FMI for the suggestion!)

I didn’t come across anything quite as fancy or expensive as DB’s burger in my search, but did find many excellent burgers just the same. So here are my Top 5 favorite places for burgers in Raleigh, not in any particular order (it was just too hard to rank them!)

Players Retreat (105 Oberlin Rd. Raleigh, N.C. 27605)

I love, love, love Gabby burgers and have been enjoying them for more than 25 years. This burger is fabulous and is the least expensive on this list at $6.95. It comes with bacon, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayonnaise. Click here for a full review of the PR I wrote a while back. The homemade potato chips are the perfect accompaniment. And now you can enjoy this burger in PR’s outdoor seating area – perfect on a nice day.

Draft Carolina Burgers & Beers** (510 Glenwood Avenue, Suite 10, Raleigh, N.C. 27603)

I had the Draft Burger ($10.00) with Ashe Co. cheddar (add $1.00) and bacon (add $1.00). This burger was huge and juicy – it was cooked perfectly. I will be back for more. My one complaint about the restaurant was how loud it was – turn down the televisions a tad and the atmosphere would be much better.

**Note: Draft closed it doors on 12/31/12. Mega sigh.

Porter’s City Tavern (2412 Hillsborough Street Raleigh, N.C. 27607)

Before Porter’s was the Rathskellar, a Hillsborough Street fixture for many years. I was so sad when it closed and I still crave the sweet potato ravioli and mushroom sandwich. However, it only took one visit to Porter’s to appreciate what took the Rat’s place. Porter’s menu has seen some changes over the years (no more of its yummy tuna melts – what’s up with that? No more bleu cheese burgers, either and I miss them both.) Luckily, Porter’s still has its Classic Burger, and it rocks! I sat outside to enjoy this tasty treat – Hillsborough St. is a great place for people watching, especially when N.C. State is in session. Service was excellent.

My burger ($7.95) was awesome – 8 oz. of perfectly cooked ground-in-house beef. I added cheddar cheese ($.50) and smoked bacon ($.95). Yum!

Abbey Road (1195 West Chatham Street, Cary, N.C. 27513)

OK, Abbey Road is in Cary, but I’m still including it because the burgers are so tasty! Abbey Road pays tribute to the 60s and 70s, with its walls adorned with pop culture items, especially posters, etc. of the Beatles. The kids enjoy looking at all of the memorabilia from the “olden” days (sigh!)

I ordered the George burger, a 10 oz. patty of ground chuck that comes with crispy bacon and American cheese ($8.99). You get a choice of fries, onion rings (excellent!) or pasta salad. These burgers have been voted “Best in Cary” and “Best in the Triangle” and I can see why – mine was seasoned and cooked just right. I can also vouch for the Down South Burger, with chili, cheese, slaw and onions. Definitely worth the drive to Cary.

Raleigh Times Bar (14 E Hargett St. Raleigh, N.C. 27601)

I knew I had to try this burger when Food Network Magazine named it the best in the state (click here for the article: 50 States, 50 Burgers). I can happily report I was not disappointed especially considering The Raleigh Times is one of my favorite bars in Raleigh. This burger rocks! It was cooked to perfection, and I enjoyed each mouthwatering bite. And for $7.95 (add $.95 for cheddar cheese and $1.50 for bacon) it’s a great deal. House cut potato chips are nice for $1.00 extra.

If you go to the Raleigh Times and want something a bit lighter, try the  guacamole – very nice! Click here for a short write-up of this wonderful appetizer.

Honorable mentions include Vinnie’s Steakhouse, Fat Daddy’s, Tribeca Tavern and Mojoe’s Burger Joint – you really can’t go wrong with the burgers at any of these places.

Of course it’s hard to beat a burger that you cook on your own grill, especially pricewise. I bought a great little contraption at Williams and Sonoma to make my own sliders, which the kids (and I ) love. I will be posting my slider recipe soon.

I hope to get around to reviewing Durham burgers at some point, but in the meantime please enjoy this great blog – Durhamburger - by fellow burger lover Crystal.

Eat, drink and be merry!

Ten Tasty Tuna Salad Sandwiches: Part 2 – Marvelous Melts

“The fishing was good; it was the catching that was bad” – A. K. Best

In Part One of Ten Tasty Tuna Salad Sandwiches, I wrote about some of my favorite “cool classics” where the tuna is served cold on some sort of tasty bread. The focus of Part Two is on tuna melts, where the tuna is topped with some sort of cheese (one of the world’s wonder foods as far as I’m concerned) and heated. As I mentioned in Part One, I am picky about my tuna salad and compare everything to my grandfather’s concoction (click here for his recipe.) All of these melts start with a great base of tuna salad that I would happily eat cold.

So cast your rods and catch some of these marvelous tuna melts:

Seaboard Café  707 Semart Dr., Raleigh, N.C.  27604

The Seaboard Café is a great lunch destination located in Logan Trading Company, right off of Peace Street near Peace College. Opened Monday-Saturday from 11:00-2:30, it does a great business and the line is often quite long, but moves at a steady pace. I order the Grilled Tuna Salad, Swiss & Cranberries Sandwich for $7.50, and really didn’t know what to expect with the cranberries. OMG – this is one of my favorite tuna melts ever! It comes on grilled sourdough bread and is a perfect mix of sweet and savory. It is served with raspberry-Dijon pasta salad which is tasty and a pickled carrot (they sell these delicious little things by the pound). I don’t go as often as I’d like to mainly because I always wind up buying too much stuff at Logan’s and across the street at Seaboard Wine.

North Ridge Pub - 6196 Falls of Neuse Rd., Raleigh, NC 27609

This place wasn’t on my original list for trying tuna melts, but it should have been as it has one of the best I’ve ever had. The tuna is mixed with light mayo, celery, onion and special seasonings. It has Swiss cheese and tomato on toasted white bread. The bread is quite good, and the sandwich is huge. It comes with a choice of fries, Caesar salad, house salad or coleslaw for $7.50. My server didn’t ask what I wanted and assumed I wanted fries, which was okay because they were good. I enjoyed this wonderful sandwich with a great mimosa (generous pour in a chilled glass.) Small and cozy, the North Ridge Pub is run by the same people who own Café Tiramisu, which is right next door and one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Raleigh (hoping to review it soon!)

Café Harmony - 5645 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27612


I tried the albacore tuna melt, which consists of tuna salad on an open-faced English muffin with tomato, Swiss cheese and sprouts, heated. The tuna salad was very good with onion, celery, mayo and parsley. $8.99, with your choice of veggie chips or blue chips. This place recently opened and is run by the folks who own Harmony Farms, which is located a few doors down. It is Raleigh’s first totally organic and natural café, according to its website. Café Harmony is located in the strip mall on the corner of Millbrook and Creedmoor Roads. I have also tried the smoky black bean burger there, which is awesome and will be featured in an upcoming blog. I hope this place makes it, and judging by the lunch crowds, it should.

Sunflowers Café - 8 West Peace Street, Raleigh, N.C.  27603

I knew I had to try the tuna salad at Sunflowers, one of my favorite sandwich shops anywhere! And I was not disappointed. The tuna salad had pickle relish, eggs, mayonnaise and onions in it, and even though I normally steer clear of the relish and eggs in my tuna, this salad was quite good and creamy. It came grilled on rye bread with avocado, cheddar cheese, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, mayo and house mustard. This was a great combination of flavors – I especially liked the cheddar and avocado. The tuna melt comes with a side of chips for $6.50.

Serendipity Gourmet Deli – 118 South Academy Street, Cary, N.C.  27511

This tuna salad is for the purist – it’s basically white albacore mixed with mayonnaise. It was very creamy, but did need some salt and pepper. It was served on a croissant with melted Swiss and tomato. I thought they toasted it a tad bit too much, but it was still good. It came with chips and a pickle for $7.50. Service was good and friendly. Serendipity is a quaint little place in downtown Cary. I remember going there in the mid-80s, and the food is still good.

So ends Ten Tasty Tuna Salad Sandwiches, parts 1 & 2. Be sure to check out my grandfather’s recipe if you just don’t feel like going out. And please send me your favorites if they aren’t on my list!

Bon appétit!