Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taqueria del Sol: Quality Food for Good Value

Located at Crossroads Shopping Center in Cary, Southwestern counter-service restaurant Taqueria del Sol is quickly developing a loyal following. The attraction? A simple, focused menu features an affordable array of distinctive tacos, sides, soups and starters.

Among the half dozen taco offerings, the pork-filled Memphis with piquant jalapeño coleslaw and tequila barbecue sauce stands apart. The flavorsome fish tacos I tried contained fresh deep-fried tilapia, poblano tartar sauce and pickled jalapeños. Off-menu specials like cheeseburger tacos are also worth checking out. Never mind the bargain price of just $2.39 for each taco.  

Three types of soup appear on the menu, but I highly recommend the zesty shrimp corn chowder. At around $2.50 for a decent-sized cup, it’s possibly the best item on the menu. As for sides, you can’t go wrong with the slightly sweet turnip greens or the jalapeño coleslaw. Memorable guacamole, salsa trio and cheese dip starters are all served with tortilla chips.

One nice touch for the fast-casual concept, Taqueria del Sol’s “system” rightly treats its patron as guests and not busboys. When you finish the meal, you simply get up and walk away without having to carry and throw away any trash. If there’s anything that needs adjustment, arguably it’s the canned-soda approach rather than bottomless fill-it-yourself fountain style found in most other restaurants. But it’s hard to argue when a 12-ounce drink sets you back less than $1.50.

For those who enjoy adult beverages, Taqueria del Sol also features a full bar with a solid assortment of tequila, bottled beer and margaritas.

When it comes to décor, floor-to-ceiling windows allow plenty of light to penetrate the spacious dining room. Exposed ductwork and a nice combination of white wooden four-tops and stainless steel high tables create an informal, congenial vibe. Taqueria del Sol is a welcome addition to the Triangle-area’s culinary landscape.

Taqueria Del Sol on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lighthouse Lacks Shine

“I always go in to every restaurant for the first time wanting to like it.” So said well-regarded Triangle-based restaurant critic Greg Cox, and I think this is a good way to approach eating out.

It’s with this sentiment in mind that I visited LighthouseDeli & Grill in Apex. After entering the front door, I was surprised to discover that the deli had merged with an adjoining establishment formerly known as Paradise Pizza. Pie by the slice is available at lunchtime, although the choices I saw did not look remotely appetizing. Instead, I ordered a Reuben sandwich on white (since I hate rye) with a side of potato salad and dill pickle.

Lighthouse serves quality Boar’s Head meats, so I was relatively assured that the sandwich would hit the mark. It did. Flawlessly prepared corned beef was augmented by melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. The potato salad, however, wasn’t particularly memorable.

Now for the constructive criticism. You would think that a deli sandwich, side and soft drink at a counter-service restaurant would cost less than $10, right? You would be wrong. My order came in at just under $11. Thankfully, no tip was required.

Ambiance? Let’s just say that the Biscuitville in Cary gets four stars compared to Lighthouse. Stark lighting, drab walls and a mishmash arrangement of booths and tables gave me flashbacks to my junior high cafeteria days. Perhaps some art hanging on the walls or live plants would help liven up an otherwise utilitarian feel.

Service at Lighthouse was a shade beyond perfunctory, and it’s hard to put a finger on why this little eatery with so much potential lacks any perceptible soul. It’s possible that I had my first and last visit. I really did want to like it.

Lighthouse Deli & Grill on Urbanspoon