Thursday, February 24, 2011

How Sweet It Is

In a perfect world, dessert would be served first.

That said, recently, my good friend Forrest recommended I check out self-serve frozen yogurt bar The Skinny Dip (“The Skinny Dip Frozen Yogurt Bar of North Carolina” on Facebook), located near Trader Joe’s in Cary. I know what you may be thinking: Frozen yogurt? Didn’t that go out before the end of the 20th century?

Well, let me be the first to say that The Skinny Dip has brought frozen yogurt back into the sweet treat forefront.  Here’s the scoop (sorry, couldn’t resist): flavors change daily, free samples abound and topping selections like pound cake cubes, brownie chunks and fresh fruit are worth the price of admission—which is a true bargain at just 39 cents an ounce!

If frozen yogurt doesn’t appeal to you, then consider checking out The Cupcake Bite (search “CupCakeBite” on Facebook), a new gourmet dessert shop in Fuquay-Varina. Owner Gina Pettaris bakes all her cupcakes daily, uses all-natural ingredients and offers distinctive varieties every time the doors open.

My favorite so far is the Not-So-Red Velvet with buttercream icing; the wife loves the blondie (think chocolate chip cookie) with maple brown sugar icing. Cupcakes are $2.50 apiece and well worth it.  The one drawback: Due to huge demand, the store often sells out by early afternoon. Your best bet is to go by lunchtime to get the best selection.

Now go get your sweet on.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don’t Overlook This (Not-So-Ancient) Chinese Secret

I can’t remember the last time I took a sick day from work, but in the last week I’ve burned more than a few.

My weakened physical state aside, I take the Lunchboy Says blog seriously, and I’m pleased to report one worthwhile find even during ill-fated times like this.

If you’re a hot & sour soup fan, you absolutely must check out China Uno, an underrated full-service establishment in Holly Springs that’s my go-to place for takeout Chinese food. China Uno, which features all MSG-free cuisine, is located in South Park Village Center near Harris Teeter.

For just $3.25, you’ll get a quart of piping-hot savory golden goodness filled with chunks of bamboo shoots, mushrooms and—don’t knock it—tofu. It’s enough for at least three full servings. Ask nicely and they will throw in an extra pack of crispy noodles for no additional charge.

If hot & sour is not your cup of, well, soup, you can try any of among six dozen menu choices, including 15 Chef Special selections (think steak & chicken with black pepper sauce).

What’s more, some 18 tempting “lunch box” specials are just $4.95 and are available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Consider either the zesty Kung Pao chicken or the Hunan steak.

Oh yeah, did I mention there’s only one stop light between my house and China Uno? Now that’s enough to make me feel better!

China Uno on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Some Restaurants Just Don't Get It

NOTE: On occasion, I may venture off the proverbial beaten path a bit and provide some broad commentary about food or restaurants. This is one such incidence.

I’m continually amazed that so many local restaurants seem to care so little about engaging with customers or making a solid first impression. In today’s tough economic times, you would think more restaurants would bend over backwards to attain and retain customers.

Case in point: A few days ago I checked out a new fast-casual place in Cary. I was intrigued by the simple concept (just a few all-American staples), and my hopes were high.

Arriving early, I was among only a handful of patrons. Somehow I managed to make it across the restaurant to the counter but was never greeted until I asked to place an order. Seriously? No “Welcome!” or “How may I help you?” or anything remotely hospitable? Sigh.

After getting my food, I ate at my usual slow pace, then got up, dumped my trash and left. Once again, there was no acknowledgment of my patronage. Not even a “thanks for coming in.” Guess what. They lost a customer, because I won’t go back. Ever.

On a brighter note, there are restaurants that “get it.” Whenever I go to my favorite haunts, I’m immediately greeted by an eager-to-please staffer with a smile on her face. At one particular Asian spot in Cary, I always get the simple yet cordial “see you next time!” when I leave. And guess what: There are plenty of “next times” in the future for this place!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Top Five Cary Lunch Spots

In order of preference and awesomeness, here are my Top Five Lunch Spots in Cary, North Carolina:

1. Tangerine Cafe ( Where else can you go and find six kinds of Asian cuisine all on the same menu? Never mind service with a smile, frequent diner rewards and discount coupons e-mailed to your inbox. Oh, it also doesn't hurt that the house favorite Korean-style beef is less than $6 and comes with fresh veggies, rice or noodles and the best spicy coconut soup on the planet. Speaking of coconut, try the coconut rice pudding for dessert. It's to die for.

2.  Ruckus Pizza, Pasta and Spirits ( So much more than a pizza joint, Ruckus dishes up killer burgers, salads, wraps, sandwiches and pasta. For something different, try the crispy mahi sandwich with a side salad and the phenomenal house-made thousand island dressing. Service is crazy good, and managing partner Ryan Pilz is always nearby to ensure your dining experience exceeds expectations. There's nowhere better to watch a big game on TV or play cornhole.

3.  Sushi-Thai Cary ( What can I say? I'm a sucker for great Thai food, and this place ranks among the best anywhere. The signature pad Thai is the star attraction, and it's my go-to dish virtually every time. On the rare occasion that I order sushi, I always get a side of the fantastic eel sauce. Service is impeccable and prices are reasonable.

4.  Cafe Capistrano, Cary ( Who knew California-style Mexican could taste so good? Order the amazing and substantial Mexican Salad with lime dressing. The house burrito with Angus beef also reigns supreme. Great ambiance and reliable service make Cafe Capistrano my top hidden restaurant in Cary.

5.  The Food Factory ( This fast-casual New York-style deli is as legit as you'll find around here. The extensive menu offers dozens of tempting options. Can't-miss selections include the chicken salad spinach wrap with bacon and tomatoes and the classic Reuben. You can also customize your sandwich any way you like it. Bonus points for bottomless Pepsi on tap!