Saturday, February 25, 2012

Super Wok Mostly Satisfies

Cary’s Super Wok Chinese restaurant has been on my must-visit list ever since esteemed food critic Greg Cox of The News & Observer gave it a four-star rating and ranked it “Best in Class” for 2011. After eating there today, I will say that the food lives up the hype, but the atmosphere and service leave something to be desired.

Bento-box style lunchtime specials are attractive at just $6.25, and that includes iced tea. A wide array of “American menu” offerings range from Chicken Pad Thai and Mongolian beef to Hunan tofu with vegetables and stir-fried string beans. As designated on the menu, the tri-pepper chicken was piquant and contained more residual warmth than an infrared heater.  Still, I enjoyed it.

When it comes to authentic Chinese fare, Super Wok offers up an extensive selection of legit options like the fish-head and tofu hotpot, fried whole fish in Sichuan spicy sauce and pork tripe with pickled vegetable. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can always try the stir-fried intestine with ginger & scallion or the steamed eel with black beans.

Super Wok’s décor is typical of most strip-mall situated Chinese establishments, only more unpretentious. Vinyl flooring, Formica-type tabletops and fluorescent lights provide a trifecta for lame ambiance.  Service during my visit was spotty (for example: my tea glass remained empty for nearly 10 minutes) and lacked warmth and enthusiasm. But perhaps the waitress was overwhelmed by the busload (literally) of Asian customers that arrived just after my food hit the table.

Super Wok was good enough to warrant return visits, but it won’t be a go-to destination for me like Tangerine Café or Ginger Asian Cuisine.

Super Wok on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Racin' Java Worth the Pitstop

Since the closure of popular drive-thru coffee kiosk Leapin’ Lizards, patrons seeking to support an independent coffee business in Fuquay have been out of luck.

Until now.

With the opening of Racin’ Java in early 2011, there’s much to get excited about when it comes to quality hot and cold coffee-centric selections as well as shakes and other beverages.  Whether you prefer standard fare like lattes, espressos and brewed coffee or frappes (frozen coffee drinks) and smoothies, Racin’ Java has you covered.

As refreshing as it is to have the new business up and running, it’s even more energizing to see it sourcing coffee from Stockton Graham & Co., an esteemed specialty beverage purveyor based in Raleigh. The coffee is smooth, robust and satisfying, lacking only the bitterness of other well-known beans.

Then there are the creative offerings like Frozen Left Turn (espresso, chocolate coconut and almond) and Gas N Go with chocolate, caramel and hazelnut. Shakes like Oreo, peanut butter cup and M &M’s will keep young and old patrons alike happy during the warmer months.

While the quick service is certain to appeal to the soccer mom set, an all-female barista staff will undoubtedly resonate with male patrons. It’s just one more sharp approach to help make Racin’ Java a pitstop worth visiting time and again. 

Racin' Java on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Nil's Offers Reliable Lunch Spot

The only thing better than the inimitable chicken salad at Nil’s Café and Bakery in Varina is the always-friendly service of proprietors Sibel and Mustafa Hizaroglu. Winning bread choices include made-fresh pumpernickel, sun-dried tomato, sourdough, Italian or wheat, or for a bit extra you can get a croissant. For your side, go with either taboule, German potato salad, a small side salad or any of the available winning soups (not-so-subliminal hint: lentil).

When it comes to pastry and dessert options, you can’t go wrong with chocolate croissants, baklava, or lemon squares.  An assortment of oversized cookies are also available, but these don’t leave a lasting impression. For something different to drink, Turkish coffee is a good option to consider.

A mixture of two- and four-top tables provides seating for approximately 30 patrons in the cozy dining area.  Ambiance leans toward the quaint European café, although the bridal portraits adorning the walls seem like an afterthought.

One small drawback: At lunchtime, when business is usually bustling, it would be nice to have access to ice without having to ask for it from behind the counter.  Just consider going early for window seat so you can watch passersby or enjoy the free WiFi without having people bump your chair on the way by to get their food.

Nil's Bakery - Cafe' on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 6, 2012

Georgina's Hits Its Stride

Much more than a typical strip-mall situated pizza joint, Georgina’s Pizzeria & Restaurant is a full-service Italian eatery that has plenty to offer when it comes to charm, service and cuisine. The restaurant’s owners, gregarious husband and wife duo Tom and Roe DeMattia, relocated from Queens, N.Y., in 2005 and quickly fashioned their own niche in the Morrisville dining scene. What began as a straightforward pizzeria some five years ago has evolved into a warm, inviting bistro-style spot named after the proprietors’ middle child.

Georgina's uses the well-regarded Baker’s Pride brand oven for cooking its signature hand-tossed, thin-crust pizza, which is available by the slice or whole pie. It also serves gluten-free pizza as well as Grandma pizza, a cross between thin-crust and thicker Sicilian. It’s square with cheese on the bottom and marinara sauce dolloped on the top.

More than two dozen gourmet pizza selections include everything from Italian Meat Lovers with prosciutto, capicollo and salami to Mediterranean Greek with artichoke, roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives and feta cheese. More eclectic — but still delicious — alternatives are found in the Portabello & Spinach White and the Hot Tex Mexican with Chorizo sausage, jalapeno peppers and onions.

Menu starters run the gamut from mozzarella sticks to chicken wings, but don’t overlook Georgina’s stuffed mushrooms filled with seasoned bread crumbs and crabmeat or the delectable carroza (fresh mozzarella on focaccia bread that’s battered and fried with pink sauce on top).

The restaurant’s extensive dinner menu ranges from the expected, such as penne alla vodka and pasta Alfredo, to the distinctive, including cranberry spinach salad with slivered almonds and pan-fried tilapia Florentine. Among the most popular entrées are eggplant parmigiana, veal marsala and lobster ravioli.

Weekly specials include elegantly prepared selections like beef brigiole stuffed with bread crumbs and sautéed caramelized onions or gourmet ravioli featuring butternut squash, tomato basil or chicken and spinach.

Dessert options range from tiramisu and cannoli to cheesecake and limoncello mascarpone cake. The restaurant recently added cappuccino and espresso to the mix.

A variety of domestic and imported beer and wine is offered, and a weekly “Winedown Wednesday" special features half-price bottles of select wine.

Though the restaurant elicits a classy, Tuscan-inspired vibe, it also serves as a family-friendly place that’s open to all people who come through its doors.Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, Georgina’s gladly accepts reservations.


Georgina's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 2, 2012

La Taqueria es Excelente

After several recent visits to Fuquay-Varina’s  La Taqueria Mexican Grill, the biggest question I have to ask myself is this: Why haven’t I visited this restaurant sooner?

When it comes to bona fide south-of-the-border fare, this counter-service restaurant is as legit as it gets. Traditional tacos cost only $1.65 each and comprise soft tortillas filled with any of more than a dozen meat options.  Whether you choose brisket beef, marinated pork or even fish, you can’t go wrong. Just be sure to order a side of the tasty guacamole, which will only set you back $1.50 for a sizable portion.

Other winning menu items include enchiladas, flautas and traditional plates like pollo ranchero (marinated chicken) and costilla asada (short ribs). Seafood choices range from the shrimp-filled chipotle burrito to tilapia-laden La Mojarra to a Campechano  seafood cocktail.

A well-stocked garnish bar contains everything from pickled carrots and whole jalapeño peppers to grilled onions, fresh cilantro and pico de gallo. There’s also an ample selection of Mexican beverages like Jarritos.

Fittingly, avocado-hued walls and booths make for warm, breezy surroundings.  The one drawback: Spanish soap opera blare overhead on two wall-mounted TVs. Thus it’s advisable to find a seat near the back of the house where the din is less bothersome.  

Bottom line: For no-frills Mexican grub as fresh and tasty as you’ll find anywhere, La Taqueria will not disappoint.

La Taqueria on Urbanspoon