Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Beautiful Beaufort By the Sea

Beaufort is hands-down one of my favorite places in North Carolina. Three hours from Raleigh, the historic district has a great waterfront with some fantastic restaurants and bars, unique shops and great scenery. If you’re lucky, you may see some of the wild horses grazing on Carrot Island, which is just across the waterway. You can sign up for various water tours and cruises at the dock, or just kick back and watch the boats come and go at this charming little town by the sea.

If we stay in Beaufort instead of nearby Emerald Isle, we usually choose the Inlet Inn or the Beaufort Inn. During the summer, both require a minimum 2-night stay on the weekends. Neither have pools, which is their only drawback. I have also stayed at the Pecan Tree Inn, a great little bed and breakfast place if that is your thing (I’m not a big fan of B&Bs, but this one is nice.)

Unfortunately, you have to drive to the beach, but it is not too far away, approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on time of year and traffic. We like to go to Fort Macon, which is a great place to watch the boats go by, but no alcohol is allowed since it’s a state park. If you want to enjoy some adult beverages, head down Highway 58 and park at any of the public beach access places.

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Restaurant Review: Sunflowers Café, Raleigh, N.C.

One of my favorite lunch places in Raleigh is Sunflower’s Café (8 West Peace Street, Raleigh, N.C.  27603), which is located next to Peace College and in front of the Seaboard Station shopping area. I am not alone – Sunflowers is usually packed during the week, especially from 12:00 to 1:00, as long lines form at the counter where you place your order. While I love Sunflowers’ chicken and tuna salads, it is my go-to spot when I’m on a vegetarian diet, due to its extensive offering of delicious meatless sandwiches. Everything I’ve tried has been fresh and tasty.

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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!

Angus Barn Pavilions – What a Treat!

My company just had its picnic at Angus Barn’s Pavilions and until I got the invitation in the mail, I didn’t even know it existed. I’m so glad that I know about it now! To be honest, I had no intention of blogging about this, especially since it was a rainy and untypically cool day for a late April day and, well, it was a company picnic. That is, until about 10 minutes after we got there. What a great place to hold an event, either corporate or private. Beautiful setting, superb service, excellent food. It’s a well-hidden gem behind the famous “barn” that houses the main restaurant, and I would jump at the chance to go back!

According to Angus Barn’s website, “The Pavilion seats 350 with additional space for 150 on the enclosable patio which can be quickly tented. Perhaps no other Raleigh area dining and event facility has a structure more adaptable to changing weather. It takes a mere 12 minutes to slide the removable walls of glass and cedar away and create a beautiful, open-air setting. If cold weather calls for a toasty environment, warm yourself inside by the skyscraping fireplace so tall that a person measuring 6’2” could stand in it.” The Pavilion is rustic, charming and cozy.

Plus it has a “Big Ass Fan” (seriously – look at the picture, that’s what it’s called) that is just too cool. And yes, it is huge.

Right outside is a beautiful lake that has a one-mile walking trail around it to enjoy when the weather is agreeable.

And even though it rained, the kids weren’t bored. There was the game truck, plus they played laser tag in the drizzle. They didn’t care. And some of the older “kids” had fun with corn hole!

But let’s turn to the food. Since our event was a picnic, we had traditional picnic-type fare, including burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, chicken wings (buffalo and barbecue), corn-on-the-cob, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans and ribs.

Oh my, the ribs – they were the hit of the picnic. Personally, I was not surprised, because the last few times I’ve eaten at Angus Barn I’ve opted for the ribs instead of steak because they are so, so, so delicious. On the way to the picnic I was hoping they’d be served and was thrilled when I saw a stacking heap of them. So were many of my coworkers!

There were some great desserts – awesome banana pudding and little velvety chocolate chess pie tart thingies.  And don’t let me forget about the table of hors d’oeuvres that included Angus Barn’s famous cheddar cheese spread and crackers. Yum.

But I do have to admit what thrilled me even more was that we were served by “Royal-ty.” That’s right, executive chef and Food Network’s Iron Chef winner, Walter Royal, was there, on a Sunday afternoon, serving up coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob and lots of smiles. Lexi and Gabe were rightfully impressed (so was Aunt Kelley!)

Speaking of service, it was all great, just what you would expect from Angus Barn, and maybe even better. Top notch – we were all treated royally.

Thanks to FMI for a great company picnic and thanks to Angus Barn for your hospitality, great food and outstanding service. A number of my colleagues hope we can hold our holiday party here!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Restaurant Review: Neomonde Bakery and Deli, Raleigh, N.C.

I was introduced to Neomonde Bakery and Deli (3817 Beryl Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27607), a great place that specializes in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, in the early 1990s by John, my then fiancé. John is of Lebanese descent and tried to teach me how to make tabouli and stuffed grape leaves. I have the tabouli down pat, but I have to admit his grape leaves were the best I’ve ever tasted. However, he rarely bothered to make his own hummus because he loved Neomonde’s so much (as well as its pita bread) and almost always had both on hand. John and I parted ways many years ago; luckily I cannot say the same of my relationship with Neomonde – it’s still going strong!

According to its website, the Saleh family emigrated to the U.S. from northern Lebanon in the 1970s, along with a passion for bread and their mother’s recipes. In 1977, the Salehs opened Neomonde Baking Company in a strip mall in Raleigh, and then later moved to its Beryl Road location in the 1980s. At first it offered just a few types of bread, but in 1989 decided to open a deli which featured the family’s recipes.

At first, food only was available for take out. However, over the years, the Saleh brothers created a dining area and patio seating. They also added a small Mediterranean grocery that sells the exotic staples and spices to prepare Middle Eastern cuisine at home.

In 2000, Neomonde opened a new café/market and relocated its wholesale baking facility and corporate offices to Morrisville Square in Morrisville. And just recently they opened their North Raleigh Café (9650-149 Strickland Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27615), much to the delight of many of my friends who live on that side of town.

Neomonde has a number of sandwiches, sampler platters, specialty pies, salads and sides and desserts that will satisfy anyone who loves Middle Eastern Cuisine. It has a wide variety of choices for vegetarians. While I have not tried everything, here are some of my favorites:

Sesame Pita Bread ($2.49 a package) – Neomonde bakes more than 10,000 pieces of bread every day. The sesame pita bread is absolutely my favorite – it’s so fresh and tasty. Pita bread is also available in white and wheat. Love, love, love this stuff!

Stuffed Grape Leaves– Neomonde chefs roll rice, ripe bits of tomato and Mediterranean spices in grape leaves and bake them to perfection. I like these either hot or cold.

Baba Ghanouj ($6.99 per pound) – This delicious and creamy dip consists of roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and spices that are blended together. It is great on toasted pita points or in a pita sandwich with chick peas salad or tabouli.

Tabouli ($6.99 per pound) – This traditional Lebanese salad has a ton of finely minced parsley, chopped tomato, cracked wheat, diced cucumber and chopped scallions, which are tossed in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and other spices. This tabouli is great on its own, or in a pita with hummus, chick pea salad, and/or baba ghanouj.

Chick Pea Salad ($5.49 per pound) – Whole chick peas are mixed with scallions, premium olives, parsley, red wine vinegar, spices and extra virgin olive oil to make a salad that is tasty and filling. I like to fill pita bread with a mixture of it and some tabouli or hummus, or just eat it on its own.

Kafta Kabobs Platter ($7.99 and it comes with two sides) – The kabob is made of spicy lamb and comes with Tatziki, a yummy yogurt and cucumber sauce. I usually get the fatoush and potato salad (both described below) as sides.

Fatoush ($6.99 per pound) – This salad has tomato, cucumber, green pepper, parsley, onions, extra virgin olive oil, spices and crunchy croutons. It is perfect on a hot summer day (or anytime, for that matter.)

Potato Salad ($4.99 per pound) – Neomonde takes baked potatoes and mixes in freshly chopped mint, scallions, green pepper, parsley, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and spices. It’s a wonderful alternative to mayo-based potato salads!

Chicken Salad ($6.99 per pound) – This is one of my favorite chunky chicken salads in Raleigh (I will be blogging about those soon). It has nice chunks of chicken with celery, golden raisins, walnuts, low-fat mayonnaise, parsley and spices. Great on its own, or on some pita bread.

Hummus ($4.99 per pound) – Neomonde’s award-winning hummus is made from chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and spices. It’s a true classic! If you like something a little spicier, check out my roasted red pepper hummus recipe.

Sadly, I have not tried any of Neomonde’s desserts, but they all look great, especially the baklava. Note to self: Get this next time. Seriously.

Ratings

  • Price: Good. Super fresh food at decent prices!
  • Service: 4.50.  You order at the counter, and the food is brought to you if you are dining in. The counter staff is usually quite efficient, so don’t balk at the long line – it moves fast.
  • Food: 4.75. Everything I’ve had has been great.
  • Recommend: Absolutely! Whether you decide to dine in or take out, you will leave happy!
  • Kid friendly: Sure, if your kids like this type of food.

1= hater, 2=poor, 3=adequate, 4=above average, 5=superb

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!

Beer and Bites in Breckenridge

We decided to take the kids skiing in Breckenridge, Colo., this year since they have steadily been improving from our past several trips to Snowshoe, WV. It works out great for me since I put up my skis about five years ago after being plowed down by a snow boarder – Breck just has much more to do in terms of shopping and eating and drinking. Which I did quite a bit of!

There were 15 of us who flew from Raleigh to take on Breckenridge during the Presidents’ Day holiday. The kids (six of them) had Monday and Tuesday off from school, so the timing was good, despite Breck not having much snow this year. They all had fun on the slopes anyway, and while they were skiing, I had fun going into town and trying out various beers, appetizers and more. So, here are some of my favorites that I suggest you check out if you get a chance to visit, whether you need refreshments when you come down from the slopes or after a hard day of shopping.

Beau Jo’s (1517 Miner Street, Idaho Springs, CO 80452)

This great pizza parlor is not in Breckenridge (the one we visit is in Idaho Springs) but is a great stop when leaving Denver’s airport on the way to the resort. I’ve eaten here three times now and absolutely love the pizza. Garlic lovers, you will be happy, since there is plenty of it in the sauce! One thing I love one that I’ve never seen in other pizza places is that since the crusts are so big, the servers suggest you take some of the honey that’s on the table and pour it over the crust, no matter what type of pizza you get. Sounds a little strange, but so, so yummy.

We got three pizzas on this visit to feed seven adults and six kids – the 3-pounder sausage combo, 3-pounder pesto chicken and the 5-pounder half pepperoni/half cheese. It was more than enough for all of us, and since we were staying in condos we took the leftovers with us. Great stuff!

Jake’s Dive Bar (100 N. Main St., Breckenridge, Colo.  80424)

I love dive bars, ever since I worked at the OLD 42nd Street Oyster Bar back in the mid-1980s when I was in grad school at UNC. Jake’s wasn’t nearly as div-y as 42nd Street, but having been there on a previous visit with Brad, it was on my list of places to revisit. I had an Avalanche draft and a cup of the chili. The chili had ground beef, jalapenos, kidney beans and small diced potatoes.($4.24 a cup) and was good and spicy with melted cheese on top. Yum.

Steve the bartender took care of me and what appeared to be Breck locals, since many of them were paying tabs from the a few days before. The UNC/Clemson game was on, but I paid more attention to the others in the bar – they were much more entertaining.  There was great music playing – Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, etc. Steve got slammed – it went from a few people to no tables available.  Happy hour specials each day. Probably wouldn’t take my kids there – too many “f bombs” and other bad words from some of the other customers.

Burke and Riley’s Irish Pub (520 S. Main St., Breckenridge, Colo., 80424)

The first time I came to this great little Irish pub, Brad and I had a great lunch – I had the homemade shepherd’s pie, which I remember being quite good. I have no idea what Brad got – neither did he. Anyway, on this visit I was here for just drinks – shopping was making me so thirsty. And when in an Irish bar in Breckenridge, do what the Irish do – order a Guinness on tap with a shot of Jameson’s on the side. ($9.00 total, which I thought was a great deal since the beer is usually $6.00 and the whiskey is $5.00. I am a good shopper, don’t you agree?)

This seemed like another local hangout – Suzy the bartender knew most of the patrons by name and, like at Jake’s, some of them were allowed to carry overnight tabs.

Quandary Grille (505 S. Main St., Breckenridge, Colo.  80424)

I stopped here for a late lunch and had a pint of Fat Tire and  a bowl of the wonderful pork green chili ($5.99) that was topped with cheese and served with a warm tortilla. The chili was spicy with nice chunks of pork, tomatoes and green chilies. Great stuff – I would get this again.

Once again, I had been here on a previous visit to Breck. It’s close to the base of Peak 9, where we had stayed on my first visit when I was learning to ski. From what I understand, the owner of this place also owns Jake’s Dive Bar.

Motherloaded Tavern (103 S. Main St. Breckenridge, Colo.  80424)

All I had here was an Avalanche Amber Ale draft ($4.00). Austin the bartender was nice, but it took a while for him to serve me since he was taking care of part of the dining room as well as the small bar in the front.

The big bar in the back was closed when I was there – it opens sometime between 4:00 and 5:00. Judging by the full dining room at 3:30 in the afternoon, I would guess the food must be at least halfway decent, and I will go back and try it next visit.

Rita’s Specialty Margs & Taco Bar (301 S. Main St. Breckenridge, Colo.  80424)

What a colorful and cheerful little place to enjoy a margarita! I had the Senor’s Rita ($7.00), which came with Hornitos, Patron Citronge and freshly squeezed (right in front of your eyes) lime and orange juices. I also ordered the avocado dip ($6.00), which came with a choice of salsas. I opted for the salsa verde and the pico de gallo.

Wow! The margarita was fantastic and refreshing, and the guacamole was nice and chunky (it did need some additional hot sauce and salt.) The salsas were good, especially the pico de gallo. Everything was fresh, fresh, fresh. Ritas was cranking some 70s rock – Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc. Great change of pace.

Swiss Haven Restaurant/Absinthe Bar (325 S. Main St., Breckenridge, Colo. 80424)

After a hard day of shopping, I needed something warm and chocolate. I decided to stop in the Swiss Haven Restaurant, which is a fondue place, since I thought the hot chocolate might be a specialty. I wound up going downstairs to the Absinthe Bar, since I didn’t want to eat, and ordered hot chocolate with a shot of chocolate vodka.

It took a little while to get my drink order straight since the bartender, whose native tongue was definitely not English, wasn’t sure what I wanted (hot chocolate with a shot of vodka and whipped cream – maybe since it wasn’t on the menu she was confused.) Anyway, she went and got a server from upstairs who made me an awesome drink ($7.00). The bar is dark and paneled – a cozy place to escape a cold winter day!

Breckenridge Brewery & Pub (600 S. Main St., Breckenridge, Colo. 80424)

My dear friend Trudy hurt her knee the week before we left for Breck, so she stayed off the slopes one day near the end of our trip to shop, etc. We decided to go to Breckenridge Brewery for a late lunch, before she went to do some shopping and I headed off to a massage. The Breckenridge Brewery & Pub opened in February of 1990 and is Breckenridge’s only brewpub, and offers a handful of craft beers and micro brews. Trudy ordered the Breckenridge Light and I had the Agave Wheat (nice!) She got the soup of the day, which was chicken corn chowder, and I ordered the vegetarian black bean soup (each $5.00 for an 8 oz. cup.)

I won – my soup was delicious; Trudy’s was kind of bland until she added some salt, which helped tremendously. I can also recommend the buffalo chicken wings.

Feel Good Massage (500 S Main St, Breckenridge, Colo.  80424)

So what does a massage parlor have to do with food or drink? Well, the water I got after my treatments was wonderful. OK, I know I’m stretching it, but I have to mention this place because I got one of the best massages ever. I opted for an hour-long, hot stone massage, followed by a 30-minute foot massage – heaven! Jin-E (I think that’s how you spell it) did an awesome job, and it’s the first time I’ve ever had anyone walk on my back (she was tiny and held on to a metal rod that hung from the ceiling.) Bliss!

The interior of this place has some great origami cranes hanging from the ceiling, oriental screens that are beautiful, cheerful lanterns, etc. I will be back!

Ullr’s Sports Grill (505 S. Main St., Breckenridge, Colo.  80424)

After my massage, I met Trudy (and later, Kris and Rusti) at Ullr’s. I started with a 1554 pint ($3.50). No chili on the menu, bummer. Ullr’s has two pool tables, an air hockey machine and a foosball table for the gamers out there or for the kids if you want to entertain them at lunch or early dinner.

Trudy got a roasted toasted almond, made with Stoli Chocolat-Razberi for a different twist. Our bartender Justin took good care of us. Ullr’s is also near the base of Peak 9.

Downstairs at Eric’s (111 South Main St., Breckenridge, Colo.  80424)

This is a Breckenridge tradition for our crowd – the pizzas are great! It is usually packed for lunch and dinner, so be prepared to wait for a table. Luckily, there a number of arcade games you can play while you are waiting. Or cozy up to the bar, where you can watch whatever games are on. On this visit I decided to get the Cobb salad, which was quite good – nice, fresh ingredients. And the pizza was great as always. This place is definitely one of my “musts” to visit in Breck.

I wish there had been more time to check out more places, and would love to hear your recommendations for our next trip!

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!

Close to Home: NOFO @ the Pig

NOFO @ the Pig opened in December 2001 in the former Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Raleigh’s Five Points neighborhood (2014 Fairview Rd. Raleigh, N.C. 27608.) Upstairs is a great little gift store/food market that has unique items such as kitchen wares and specialty groceries, baby things, linens, bed and bath products, jewelry, pet accessories, gardening items – the list goes on and on.

Downstairs is the Nofo Café, which serves lunch, dinner and Saturday/Sunday brunch. Menu items include soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees, and daily specials. The café has a whimsical and cheerful décor, especially the awesome hand blown glass chandelier encircled with pigs, which hangs from the upstairs market. There is also a small bar area in case you need to wait for a table, which is not unusual in this popular place.

Brad and I have been going to NOFO since it opened. I’ve tried a number of things on the menu and never have been disappointed. We went the other night for dinner, and once again left happy and full.

We each started with a glass of wine. Brad had the McManis Syrah ($6.95) and I had the Picpoul de Pinet ($6.50), a crisp French white that went well with my shrimp and grits entrée. With the wine, our server brought us homemade bread with soft honey butter that was sweet and delicious.

Brad had the prime rib special ($19.95), which came with green beans and roasted potatoes. He has ordered this before, and was wondering if he’d get a huge portion like he did last time. Score! Look at this slab of meat! It was cooked perfectly and did not stay on his plate long!

I decided to try something new, and opted for Bill Neal’s shrimp and grits ($16.95). Another score! Seven nice-sized shrimp sat on some creamy, tasty grits. Lots of crispy bacon, sliced mushrooms and scallions helped finish off the dish. It is now one of my favorite things on the menu, and come to think of it, one of my favorite renditions of shrimp and grits anywhere.

Another favorite menu item of mine is the black bean quesadillas that come with an avocado salad that is out of this world (click here for my previous post on guacamole).

Other recommendations include the meatloaf special offered on Thursday nights, grilled Thai chicken wrap and grilled pimento cheese. NOFO also serves brunch on the weekends – I have not been (yet) but have heard good things about it.

If you go for lunch, try and get there early – NOFO fills up quickly.

Ratings

  • Price: Medium. The nightly specials are a good deal.
  • Service: 4.25.  Servers have always been pleasant. Have had slow service a couple of times, which appeared to be a staffing issue.
  • Food: 4.50. On the whole, quite good.
  • Recommend: Absolutely. A nice, locally-owned, eclectic café and gift shop.
  • Kid friendly: Yes – there were a number of kids the last time we were there, and the boy sitting next to us was raving about his burger.

1= hater, 2=poor, 3=adequate, 4=above average, 5=superb

Eat, drink and be merry!