Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Night Confession

Confession time: Last night, in a moment of total weakness, I dropped my standards and went to a fast food restaurant. Even worse, I used the drive-thru.

Yes, it’s true. I momentarily lost my way. Threw my high standards out the window and frequented—gasp!—a national chain. That’s right. Lunchboy forsook his pledge to patronize locally owned eateries all for the sake of filling his pie hole. Wow, I’m even referring to myself in third-person because I’m so ashamed!

At least it was Arby’s and not some totally mainstream place like McDonald’s or Burger King. Still, it’s no excuse.  I could have just come home and made a sandwich. In case you’re wondering, my wife met a friend at Panera for dinner, so that’s why I was on my own.

There’s more. I ordered a fish sandwich. What? No roast beef? I can’t explain it. I’m just spilling my guts here, OK?

While I’m being totally transparent, I’ll go ahead and admit that the fish sandwich tasted pretty doggone decent. I know that may surprise you. Honestly, though, it was much better than a poke in the eye. And it only cost $2.50. (There I go again trying to justify my poor decision.)

So now you know. Lunchboy’s dining adventures sometimes take a wrong turn. Lapses in judgment happen.  Please forgive me!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Surprised in Durham

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been fortunate to visit half a dozen Triangle restaurants on the annual “Taste of the Town” assignment for Cary Magazine (release date May/June 2011). You’ll read more in the coming weeks, but I want to shine the spotlight on one eatery that surprised and impressed me.

It’s called The Federal  in Durham (locals call it The Fed). This place definitely fits into the don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover category. That’s because for all intents and purposes, The Federal is, well, a bar.

Let me just say right up front this is not a place you want to take the wife and kids on a Friday night—or perhaps any night. That said, if you’re ever in Durham during lunchtime or feel daring enough to go with another adult in the evening, the Federal will surprise you in a big way.

Never mind the hanging cage lights, vinyl seats, stainless steel tables and cement floor. The food more than makes up for the lack of adequate ambiance.
This past Friday when the Cary Magazine crew rolled up in search of dessert, chef and Durham native Scott McKenney whipped up a mean strawberry shortcake, crème brûlée with blackberry compote and a life-changing good flourless chocolate cake topped with peanut-infused caramel sauce and made-in-house vanilla ice cream. “Is this for real?” I asked one of my colleagues. Let’s just say this dessert was as memorable as any I’ve enjoyed elsewhere.

Word has it that the food on the menu, not to mention the daily specials, are equally rewarding. Heck, when the lunch menu features saffron risotto and beer-braised pork carnitas, that’s reason enough to go back to Durham really soon. Just one more thing: Don’t bother looking for a website for The Federal. “We don’t have or need one,” an employee told me. I won’t hold it against them—as long as I get another piece of flourless chocolate cake!

Federal on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Breakfast with Attitude

Even though my nickname is Lunchboy, I love breakfast.

When it comes to my favorite go-to place for a no-nonsense morning meal, Jus’ Enuff Home Cookin’ in Fuquay-Varina is my top choice. Tucked away in a nondescript Main Street strip mall near the Guardian Angel Thrift Shop, this casual eatery serves all the breakfast favorites like grits, hash browns, biscuits and toast along with nearly 20 types of omelets. Surefire options include popular specials “Fuquay” (two eggs, bacon, link sausage or red hots) and “Varina” (two eggs, two pancakes, bacon, sausage or red hots).

For something different, try the $5 “hobo” plate, my absolute favorite, which features savory sausage scrambled with eggs. Jus’ Enuff owner Cindy Johnson told me recently that the sausage is made exclusively for her restaurant by Carly C’s IGA in Angier.

Hubcap-sized pancakes also are available with pecans, blueberries, spiced apples or—my recommendation—chocolate chips. Added bonus: Coffee or tea is free with all breakfast specials.

Make no mistake: Jus’ Enuff exudes bona fide Southern charm. Waitresses call regulars by name, often with some jocular attitude thrown in for good measure. Oh, did I mention that they all sport tattoos? What’s more, the Formica-laden tables under fluorescent lighting create an it’s-about-the-food atmosphere — exactly what you expect from a hometown diner.

Jus’ Enuff is open Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Breakfast is served all day, every day.

Jus E Nuff Home Cookin on Urbanspoon