Tuesday, August 30, 2011

BullFeathers Still Finding Its Footing

BullFeathers Wings & Grille is a family-friendly restaurant meets sports bar with an impressive variety of burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads and—of course—chicken wings.

When it comes to the wings, more than two dozen distinctive flavors of sauces span five levels of heat. Worth checking out are garlic parmesan, tequila sunrise, hot raspberry, Jamaican jerk and Thai peanut. Classic buffalo is also a solid choice, and “spineless” (bone-free) wings are also an option.

Appetizers like fried pickle chips and crazy (onion) straws should not be overlooked. If you don’t get anything else, though, go for the bacon cheddar fries, which were halfway devoured before this photo below could be taken! A balanced blend of queso and cheddar jack cheese pair well with crisp fries and bacon. One discerning diner at the table declared them the best cheese fries he’s ever tasted. Lunchboy concurs.

Hand-pattied Angus burgers are reliable as well, particularly the mushroom Swiss. It’s also worth the extra $1 outlay to add the mouth-watering sugar-glazed sweet potato fries (think Krispy Kreme style).

Overall, service at BullFeathers is friendly, but often when tables fill up the staff gets overwhelmed and the kitchen finds itself “in the weeds,” to use restaurant vernacular. Alas, customers can find themselves waiting a long time to for food to arrive.

During lunchtime on a recent Sunday, all the other members of my large group received their food in a reasonable amount of time. I, however, didn’t receive my spicy Asian chicken salad until everyone else was virtually finished eating.

When I asked the server if he could comp my meal as a courtesy, he said he could knock off half the price. To be candid, this was a disappointing compromise. One friend said, "You shouldn't have even had to ask. They should have offered your meal for free." Perhaps management can keep this in mind for similar future encounters.  

As for the surroundings, a small video game room and an elevated electric train will keep youngsters happy while they wait for food. Live entertainment is also available on weekends as is NFL Sunday Ticket.

Bullfeathers Wings and Grille on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ruckus Raises the Bar

Caribbean-flared eatery Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits has become one of Cary’s most popular food haunts—and for good reason. Ridiculously good food, friendly service and a lively atmosphere make it a go-to place for lunch, dinner or late-night fun.

Winning starters include hand-rolled garlic knots served with marinara sauce; spicy guacamole with blue and yellow tortilla chips; and fried or sautéed giant buffalo shrimp.

For something decidedly different, try the crispy mahi sandwich with a side salad and phenomenal, scratch-made Thousand Island dressing. If it’s pasta you crave, try the house-favorite spicy chicken alfredo with spinach and mushrooms.

At lunchtime you can you get a sandwich, side item and a drink for just $7.77. What’s more, two huge slices of pizza and a drink costs only $5.50. 

Speaking of pizza, specialty pies abound. Among the tempting options are olive oil-based Mediterranean with feta and spinach; Tuscan with Roma tomatoes, salami, gorgonzola and fresh garlic; and the killer ranch bacon chicken.

Be sure to save room for dessert, namely the key lime pie. Chef Chris Tucker’s version is fashioned with fresh lime juice, homemade whipped cream and a Nilla wafer crust. It’s served with a flavorsome raspberry puree and then topped with a lime wedge for a picture-perfect presentation (see below).

All food is delivered by well-trained servers who execute their duties with poise and precision. Managing partner/chief good times engineer Ryan Pilz and other conscientious staff members are always nearby to ensure your dining experience exceeds expectations.

Ruckus is also kid-friendly and features the best mac & cheese you’ll find anywhere. An added bonus: Kids eat for half price all day on Mondays and Tuesdays.

There’s never a dull moment at the restaurant, whether it’s a patron attempting to conquer the 24-inch pizza challenge, folks playing cornhole or a group enjoying the robust selection of suds and watching a big game on TV.

Trivia night on Wednesday is always rollicking, and other highlights include wine tastings on Friday and live entertainment on the patio Thursday through Saturday nights.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Ruckus is its altruistic, community-oriented ventures like Military Appreciation Fortnight, St. Baldrick’s fundraiser to fight childhood cancer and the annual “Raising a Ruckus” initiative to provide Christmas gifts for needy local families.

Open seven days a week and even most holidays, Ruckus is located in Cary’s Tryon Village Shopping Center.

Photos courtesy of William Baker (williambakermedia@gmail.com)

Ruckus Pizza, Pasta, and Spirits on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Venture Down Abbey Road

Don’t be fooled by the gas-station exterior motif. Beatles-themed Abbey Road has dished out award-winning burgers for more than a decade. The restaurant attracts loyal locals-in-the-know who couldn’t care less that they are dining in a straight-up tavern.

While any number of menu options like overstuffed sandwiches, wraps and even fish & chips will vie for your attention, stay focused on the claim to fame: the hand-pattied ground chuck burgers.

For starters, consider “George,” a 10-ounce behemoth with bacon and American cheese served atop a toasted Kaiser roll. It’s the restaurant’s best-seller. More elaborate specialties list as “Sgt. Pepper” (grilled bell peppers, jalapeños, provolone cheese); “Lucy” (grilled mushrooms, Havarti cheese); “Paul” (blackened and topped with bleu cheese); “John” (American, Havarti, provolone); "Yoko" (barbecue sauce, grilled onions, American); and "Ringo" (grilled mushrooms, onions, American and Havarti).

Burgers are accompanied with fries, pasta salad or standout beer-battered onion rings that are worth the price of admission. Just be sure to ask for extra napkins.

Here’s a bonus tip for no extra charge: half-priced appetizers are available at the eatery’s bar side from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. For that price, you can’t go wrong whether you choose fried pickle chips, house-made hummus and pita chips or jalapeño poppers.

Abbey Road is open for lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. until later than you stay up.

Abbey Road on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thai Thai a Hidden Jewel

Continuing the fascination with Thai food one more time...

A 26-seat jewel-box-sized restaurant in Holly Springs, Thai Thai Cuisine serves authentic Thai cuisine with colossal flavors. Owner Jirawan Pavapotago from Thailand prepares each dish to order in her modest-sized kitchen.

Customers are treated to various attractions, including the house specialty—and Lunchboy favorite—drunken  noodle. This mouth-watering stir-fried entrée includes your choice of tofu, beef, chicken or shrimp with wide rice noodles, egg, onions, carrots, red peppers and broccoli, topped with Thai gravy sauce and basil leaves.

Another crowd pleaser: the Thai Thai sampler, featuring steamed soybeans, spring rolls, summer fresh roll, shrimp in a blanket, tofu triangle and chicken satay.

Save room for dessert, as fried banana, Thai custard or mango with sticky rice will surely hit your sweet spot.

The restaurant’s decor tends toward elephant-themed wall hangings, and usually a single waitress capably handles her responsibilities with grace and enthusiasm.

Thai Thai is located in a sleepy business complex somewhat out of sight from passersby, so you’ll want to lock in the address into your GPS device. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Thai Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tasty Thai and More

If you enjoy fresh, authentic Thai and Vietnamese fare, then you owe it to yourself to check out the Lotus Leaf Café in Cary. Delicious food and a cozy ambiance await all who visit this charming full-service café, complete with a tranquil covered patio and a rewarding menu that’s reasonably priced.

The restaurant’s more popular selections include pineapple fried rice, Thai curries and Vietnamese standout dish vegetarian duck with chili, a stir-fried tofu specialty with chili-basil sauce, bell pepper, scallions and onions.

An assortment of distinctive salads feature everything from honey-roasted duck to calamari to spicy shrimp. The must-try item, though, is the popular and distinctive papaya salad. This healthful, Thai-style selection steps up to the plate with shredded green papaya, string beans, tomatoes, carrots and roasted peanuts mixed with spices and lime juice.

Off-menu daily specials are also available. Lunch specials are $7.95.

Be sure to treat yourself to a refreshing Thai iced tea or Saigon coffee along with your meal. If you manage to save room for dessert, order the fried banana with vanilla ice cream.

Located in Northwoods Market at the corner of Harrison and Maynard, the Lotus Leaf Café is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Lotus Leaf Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Peppers Worth Picking

Peppers Market & Sandwich Shop owners Jess and Missy Fowler are committed to finessing distinctive, quality ingredients to keep loyal clientele coming back time and again. Scratch-made food never tasted so good.

Perhaps it’s the roasted-in-house meats, the fresh, flavorsome toppings or the artisan bread. Whatever the case, Peppers is a cut above other sandwich shops of similar ilk.  

The best choice on the menu? Without question, it’s the “Trippin’ Chicken,” a delectable concoction crafted by a Peppers customer during an in-store custom sandwich competition. The hot-served creation features grilled chicken and marinated portabella mushrooms with fresh basil pesto and lightly roasted garlic sauces, topped off with sundried tomatoes, avocado, roasted red peppers, spinach, goat and Swiss cheeses.

Other standout hot sandwiches include the mango mahi mahi; pork loin (seasoned with garlic, thyme and red pepper and topped with chunky apple spread and a specialty house sauce); and a vegetarian black bean burger on a ciabatta roll.

When it comes to cold sandwiches, you can’t go wrong with the aptly named “The Club (with a twist),” a two-hands-required offering with roasted lean turkey and ham stacked on a ciabatta roll with bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and roasted garlic sauce. Then there’s the turkey reuben with sweet jalapeño coleslaw, Swiss cheese and dressing.
Fresh salads are also available. Or, if you’re in the mood for soup, Peppers offers several choices daily such as slow-simmered Texas-style chili, turkey tetrazzini Florentine and roasted tomato and herb.

A “Grab and Go” section at the restaurant’s counter showcases tuna and chicken salad, fruit and pasta salads as well as black bean hummus, white bean dip and fresh baked goods. Most items are packaged in quart-sized containers.

Breakfast attractions range from California omelets and flatbread sausage and egg sandwiches to fruit muffins and yogurt with granola. Sunday brunch ups the ante with additional temptations like eggs Benedict Florentine and stuffed French toast.

The dining space at Peppers boasts a modern, airy atmosphere with an upscale fast-casual feel. Make no mistake: Peppers is one of Morrisville’s best dining destinations.

Photo Courtesy of Cherokee Publishing

Peppers Market & Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nirvana on Salem Street

Looking for a great place to grab a burger? Look no further than Salem Street Pub in downtown Apex, NC.

Husband and wife Jared and Jennifer Duckart have found a winning formula for success in their full-service downtown eatery, open since late 2008. Their modus operandi is simple but not easy to accomplish: provide fantastic food, exceptional service and reasonable prices.

You can’t go wrong with any of the 11 distinctive burger creations, including top-seller Patty Melt (features grilled onions, cheese and mayo on Texas toast); the exotic Greek (topped with feta cheese, kalamata olives, red onions and Greek dressing); and the succulent Surf & Turf (served with grilled shrimp, cream cheese and cocktail sauce).

My hand’s-down favorite is the black and blue burger, which contains perfectly melted blue cheese atop a Cajun-seasoned patty of beef. It’s absolute nirvana on a bun.

If you prefer a customized alternative, simply choose the “Build-A-Burger” option, which encompasses any three toppings from among 30 selections offered (additional toppings cost extra). All burgers weigh in at eight ounces and come with crisp, flavorsome fries cooked in no-trans-fat soy oil.

Salem Street Pub is a laid-back neighborhood bar and grill filled mostly with regulars. Perhaps you’ll become one of them. Be advised: the restaurant is closed on Mondays.

Salem Street Pub on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Smokey's Satisfies

If you’re not paying close attention, you could drive right by Smokey’s BBQ Shack (www.smokeysshack.com) in Morrisville and never see it.
But the building’s nondescript exterior and lack of prominent signage hasn’t stopped people from discovering this bona fide emporium for protein enthusiasts. Consider the juicy, Memphis-style pulled pork, the succulent beef brisket and the lip-smackin’ good spareribs.
It’s all served in one of the most unpretentious environments around. Just witness the cinderblock walls, wood-slat-chaired seating for 49 and order-at-the-counter protocol.  

Then there are the zany signs, such as one at the entrance that reads: “No trespassing. Violators will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.” A sarcastic notice near the cash register indicates: “Complaints will be heard on the second Tuesday of next week.” A clock on a wall is set to 5 p.m. and never changes.  

Proprietor and Raleigh native Kevin Mote exudes a good-ol’-boy charm and fun-natured persona that endears him to a loyal customer base. You rarely see him without a smile on his face.

When it comes to the food, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, most of which is dry-rubbed and cooked anywhere from 10-15 hours on a hybrid cooker fueled by propane and hickory wood. My favorite menu item is the succulent sliced brisket. Go for a regular-sized serving instead of a large or you’ll be asking for a doggie bag for sure. If you’re in the mood to feast on a bit of everything, a house-favorite sampler plate contains brisket, pork, wings, a rib and a side.

Speaking of sides, here are some surefire selections: creamy coleslaw, macaroni & cheese, fried okra, Brunswick stew and special baked beans cooked in a tangy sauce.
Smokey’s also has 20 picnic tables out back near a small yet serene pond.

Be sure to go early at lunchtime, as the parking lot starts filling up around 11:30. Be sure to tell ‘em Lunchboy sent you!

Smokey's BBQ Shack on Urbanspoon

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fredin and Cherokee Publishing

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Salvio's Serves Up Legit Pizza

It’s always rewarding to discover first-rate pizza for an affordable price, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Salvio’s Pizzeria in Cary. In fact, the lunch specials at Salvio’s, which features New York style and gourmet pies, are among the best I’ve seen anywhere.

Where else can you go and get two hefty slices with pepperoni and a drink for just $5—including tax? What’s more, for only a quarter extra, you can enjoy one regular and one gourmet slice.

Attractive prices aside, the pizza is absolutely fantastic. Slightly charred on the bottom, the well-cooked crust is bready but not too chewy. Abundant cheese, just the right amount of sauce and fresh, flavorful toppings enhance the satisfying experience.

When it comes to must-try menu items, the popular gourmet white pizza features mozzarella and feta, Roma tomatoes, spinach and olive oil. Ranchero, another crowd-favorite, comes topped with bacon, Roma tomatoes and ranch dressing. Gourmet selections change daily, and usually five or six choices are available.

If you’re in the mood for something different, try the deep-dish Sicilian, calzone, Stromboli or pizza roll. Tempting desserts include cheesecake, cannoli, tiramisu and zepoli.

Salvio’s is a classic, cozy Italian eatery with red-and-white checked tile floor, a mix of tables and booths and order-at-the-counter service. Though its strip-mall-situated locale makes it somewhat concealed, it’s just the type of neighborhood establishment that’s worth seeking out.

Salvio's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Photo courtesy of William Baker (williambakermedia@gmail.com)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tri-County Breakfast

Recently I ate breakfast in three counties at the same time.

It happened at Famous Louise’s Rock House Restaurant, an iconic little eatery located near Linville Falls in the mountains of North Carolina where three counties converge under one roof. As WRAL TV’s Bill Leslie once opined, “…at this restaurant the food is cooked in Avery County, picked up by waitresses in Burke County and served to customers in McDowell County.”

The restaurant’s laid-back ambiance features a wooden floor, an old-style screen front door and a stone fireplace where, according to a brief overview on the front of the menu, the three counties join.

Here’s the skinny on breakfast: all the basics are covered, including eggs any way you like them, hotcakes and French toast. There’s also fried bologna, livermush, pork tenderloin, country or sugar-cured ham and a 12-ounce ribeye steak.

You can’t go wrong with the $4.95 breakfast special, which comprises two eggs, bacon, grits or hashbrowns (go with shredded well done instead of home fries) and biscuits or toast.

Bonus points are added for the restaurant serving JFG coffee and the best made-in-house preserves I’ve ever tasted. On the day I visited, I couldn’t get enough of the delectable strawberry preserves, but my dining counterparts insisted the raspberry rhubarb were right on time as well.

Famous Louise’s serves breakfast daily from 6-11 a.m. The restaurant also serves lunch as well as home-baked pies (whole pies are available for purchase).

In case you’re wondering: the parking lot is in McDowell County, so the restaurant pays its taxes there.

Louise's Rock House on Urbanspoon