Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Dog Season

Memorial Day is a great time to enjoy a hotdog, and the approaching summer season provides even more opportunities to relish a quality frankfurter.

Having grown up in Washington, NC, where the legendary Bill’s Hot Dogs represents the gold standard, it takes a lot to impress me. Nevertheless, here’s the lowdown on several local places and one day-trip-worthy hotdog joint worth seeking out.

On any given day just outside a popular home improvement store in Cary, Jim Rivers serves Nathan’s brand hotdogs from his stainless-steel portable cart. Rivers owns Jim’s Ole Time Hotdogs, a business he has run since 1998.

While you can get the red variety, I highly recommend the all-beef wieners. These are served on fresh, steamed buns with copious free condiments, including two kinds of mustard, ketchup, chili, onions, slaw, relish, cheese, hot sauces, mayonnaise and sauerkraut. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jim’s Ole Time Hotdogs accepts cash only.

Down the road a bit in Raleigh, 70-year-old renowned hotdog emporium The Roast Grill (www.roastgrill.com) offers seating for just 12 patrons and features Swift Premium brand mostly beef wieners that owner George Poniros cooks until charred black. Texas sweet onions, house-made chili and glass-bottled Coke top things off nicely. Just be sure not to request ketchup—it’s strictly forbidden!

Whatever you do, save room for homemade pound cake or baklava. The Roast Grill is a cash-only eatery open from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Finally, well worth the drive to downtown Winston-Salem is Skippy’s Hot Dogs (http://www.skippyshotdogs.com/), which features Nathan’s all-beef wieners served on incredible homemade pretzel rolls. An absolute must accompaniment: the hand-cut shoestring French fries (a side order is plenty for one person, but baskets are also available).

Skippy’s accepts cash or credit and is open Tuesday through Saturday. Hours vary, so check the website for more details like how to find a good parking spot.
               

Monday, May 23, 2011

Katie’s Should-Be-Famous Chocolate Cake


Katie Burke, a friend and colleague of mine, bakes a chocolate cake that’s so wickedly good it should be illegal in all 50 states. I’ve had the good fortune of enjoying this delectable cake at various times over the last several years, as Katie has made it for birthday celebrations and other special occasions at work.

Let me be clear: Katie’s Should-Be-Famous Chocolate Cake is the best chocolate cake—or any cake, for that matter—I’ve ever eaten. Period. In fact, no other chocolate cake even comes close.

So what makes Katie’s chocolate cake so scrumptiously delicious?

“It’s a classic, all-American chocolate cake,” says Katie, 24, who lives in Apex. “I use Ghirardelli cocoa, half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour and real white sugar.”

It’s also worth noting that Katie has been making the cake half her life. “This is a recipe that started with my grandmother,” she says. “My mom always made it every year for my dad’s birthday, and then one year she agreed to let me make it. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with it and making it into my own version.”

It wasn’t easy, but I managed to get Katie to reveal a few secrets from the recipe. For instance: She substitutes applesauce for vegetable oil. “The applesauce is key for making it moist,” she insists. “Another trick is to make sure the eggs are room temperature. I also use 2 percent milk instead of whole milk.

Perhaps the best part of the cake is the decadent frosting. “The cake is four layers, and I like there to be frosting between every layer,” Katie says. “This is my favorite part, so I make sure to slather it on there.”

Katie has graciously agreed to custom-bake her Should-Be-Famous chocolate cake for any Lunchboy Says blog enthusiasts—for a special price of just $20. She’ll even make half a cake for $15.  “I can also use the same recipe for cupcakes,” she says. A dozen cupcakes are $15; two dozen cost $25. Feel free to contact Katie directly at katherinemarieburke@gmail.com. Be sure to tell her Lunchboy sent you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ten Surprising Things You May Not Know


1.       If you ever happen to wander into an Arby’s, the spicy three-pepper sauce is totally addictive.
2.       You can get a killer beef frankfurter at Jim’s Ole Time hotdogs just outside a can’t-mention-the-name major home improvement store in Cary (lock in your GPS to 2000 Walnut Street). Be sure to tell Jim I sent you!
3.       The Federal, a bona fide college bar in Durham, features upscale cuisine and desserts as good as you’ll find at any fine-dining establishment. Check it out sometime at 914 West Main Street. Sorry, but the Federal doesn’t have a website.
4.       Lotus Leaf Café (www.lotusleafcafe.com) in Cary has the best stir-fried tofu duck you’ll ever taste.
5.       The incredible Trippin’ Chicken sandwich at Morrisville’s Peppers Market & Sandwich Shop will change your life (www.peppersmrkt.com).
6.       Tangerine Café’s honey walnut shrimp (or chicken) is so amazing it should be illegal (www.tangerinecafecary.com). Order it with noodles instead of rice.
7.       At Sushi-Thai Cary, the Mary Roll with chopped tuna and spicy mayo sauce makes all other concoctions pale by comparison (www.sushithaicary.com).
8.       You don’t have to drive to Florida to find the world’s best key lime pie.  Just visit Cary’s Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits (www.ruckuspizza.com). Trust me on this one.
9.       Salem Street Pub in downtown Apex boasts the best black & blue burger in Wake County.
10.   The best $12 salad I’ve tasted this year:  LongHorn Steakhouse’s 7-pepper sirloin.