Monday, October 29, 2012

Bonefish Grill Offers More Bang for Less Buck

Let me get this out of the way right up front: I’m not a chain-restaurant fan. There are at least a dozen reasons why I’d rather dine at independently owned restaurants, but I’ll save those for another time.

This post is primarily dedicated to spotlighting a showcase dish at Bonefish Grill. Anyone who’s ever dined at Bonefish is familiar with the wildly popular signature starter bang bang shrimp. I’d like to go on record and make this proclamation: bang bang shrimp is the best appetizer on any menu at any restaurant. Period.

Worth every penny of the nearly $10 tariff, the lightly fried crustaceans likely comprise mayonnaise, Thai sweet chili sauce, hot chili sauce, cornstarch and scallions. Somehow the dish manages to provide a spicy kick without overpowering the palate.  

Image courtesy of Bonefish Grill

The one drawback: This is an exceedingly fattening menu item. Coming in at more than 1,100 calories for the entire dishful, bang bang shrimp is certainly splurge-worthy, but it’s best to share with someone to offset the load.

As if any of us needs further temptation, bang bang shrimp is available all day on Wednesdays for just $5. God bless the folks at Bonefish Grill!

Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Anna's Pizzeria a Welcome Addition in Fuquay

Downtown Fuquay-Varina got a much-needed boost recently with the opening of Anna’s Pizzeria, the sister location of the wildly popular same-named restaurant located in downtown Apex. And while the Fuquay store is considerably smaller and lacks some of the charm found in the flagship eatery, it’s beneficial to have a solid Italian joint to bring more people downtown.

When it comes to décor, a large floor-to-ceiling mural and local artwork line the vibrant-colored bead-board walls. A nice array of two- and four-top tables fills the dining room, along with comfortable banquettes.

Pizza is the star attraction here, and for good reason. Nearly 20 gourmet pie offerings include distinctive items like chicken marsala, baked ziti, eggplant and bruschetta. Standout selections are the spicy chicken (similar to buffalo chicken) and barbecue chicken, and one slice may possibly fill you up. It’s nice to have the option to order gourmet pizza by the slice.

As for less adventurous options, thin-crust personal pizzas, Sicilian and regular hand-tossed pies are also available.

Besides the requisite pasta dishes like baked lasagna and stuffed shells, tempting entrée choices abound. You can’t go wrong with the lemon-infused chicken Francese, the veal Marsala and prosciutto and the breaded eggplant parmigiana.

Be sure to save room for dessert. Espresso-soaked tiramisu, decadent cannoli or kid favorite zeppolis (Italian donuts) will finish the meal nicely.

While execution from the kitchen seems fairly solid at this point, service at Anna's can be somewhat spotty. On one occasion when I visited, I had to ask twice for my Diet Pepsi. It also took a bit too long for the check to arrive at the end of the meal. It would be good for a manager to oversee front-of-house operations to ensure things run smoothly. All things considered, though, Anna’s is a welcome addition to the growing Fuquay culinary scene.

Anna's Pizzaria Fuquay on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spirits Hits Its Stride

Daniel and Janet Perry, renowned for their Daniel’s Italian restaurants in Apex and Fuquay-Varina, have also done well for themselves in the upscale sports bar market. Spirits Pub & Grub, located near downtown Cary, opened back in 2009 and has grown in popularity ever since.

No doubt it’s attention to detail that sets Spirits apart from other similar establishments.  It certainly doesn't hurt that the eatery grinds its beef in-house using a combination of chuck and top sirloin. Then there are the distinctive menu offerings like the award-winning firecracker burger (topped with a house-made cheddar and habanero cracker) and black and bleu, which features blackened seasoning, bleu cheese and applewood bacon.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Burgers are six ounces and served alongside “wedgies,” or hefty baked potato wedges that are cut and fried extra crisp. These are a nice alternative to typical fries.

Weekday lunch specials are available for $7, and other deals include daily drink specials and discounted wings on Thursdays and Sundays during football season. The $3 fried pickle chips on Tuesdays also are first-rate (just don’t check your cholesterol afterward!).

Spirits showcases 16 large televisions throughout the airy restaurant, which is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week starting at 11:30 a.m. 

 Spirits Pub & Grub on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 8, 2012

Beasley's Chicken + Honey is Legit

Beasley’s Chicken + Honey is one of those downtown Raleigh eateries that’s all the rage, and let me just say up front that it pretty much lives up to the hype. I'll also mention that it rivals Dame's Chicken & Waffles in Durham, but I'll have to give Dame's the edge when it comes to the overall dining experience.

I was somewhat surprised to walk right in at lunchtime on a Monday and find an open table, but it was a damp, chilly day. After surveying the various selections on the chalkboard menu, I ordered the lunch special, which comprised a quarter white meat fried chicken with two sides for $10. The chicken was delightfully juicy and coated with a just-right golden crust. It was lightly drizzled with local honey, but I requested a bit more since it wasn’t enough for my taste.

A distinctive mac & cheese custard was equally rewarding, as was a bowlful of perfectly prepared summer squash. I washed everything down with a Mason jar of not-quite-sweet-enough iced tea.

Service at Beasley’s was attentive, although the male server could have smiled a bit more often. As for décor, high ceilings with exposed beams and ductwork, wooden flooring and aluminum stool seating make for urban chic meets country diner. Amazingly, it wasn’t too loud to carry on a pleasant conversation with a friend. 

No doubt Beasley’s will have a fixed place in the downtown culinary scene for years to come. I know I’ll do my part to keep it going strong.

Beasley's Chicken & Honey on Urbanspoon


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guglhupf Stands Apart

Pronouncing this restaurant’s name is not easy (Guglhupf derives its moniker from a German specialty cake), but don’t let that stop you from heading to Durham for a distinctive dining experience.

While the restaurant serves lunch and dinner, breakfast/brunch is my favorite meal served here. And for good reason.

Take, for instance, the wild mushroom omelet with sautéed leeks and Emmenthaler cheese. Or maybe it's the breakfast cheese plate with St. Andre cheese, seasonal fruit and assorted fresh breads. Then there's the swoon-worthy chocolate croissant that all by itself is worth the price of admission.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Fredin/S&A Cherokee

Proprietor Claudia Cooper, who hails from Heilbronn, Germany, has seen the small bakery she opened in 1998 evolve into a full-scale restaurant. The bakery still thrives, but now an open, two-level dining room and spacious patio provide patrons abundant room to relax and enjoy themselves in a bona fide European-style café.

Guglhupf imports some products from Europe, but the business is also committed to using local vendors and artisans like Cane Creek Farm, Latta Egg Ranch and Goat Lady Dairy whenever possible.

Closed Monday, Guglhupf serves breakfast Tuesday through Friday and offers an extensive brunch on the weekends.

Guglhupf Bakery on Urbanspoon