Sunday, April 28, 2013

Taziki's Tantalizes

Taziki’s Mediterranean Café is a fast-growing franchise concept, and thankfully the company’s first North Carolina store has landed in Cary’s renewed Waverly Place shopping center. When it comes to upscale fast-casual chains, Taziki’s is a breath of fresh air. Think Panera Bread meets Chipotle with a Greek-inspired twist.

The Cary restaurant features a polished cement floor containing mostly four-top dark wooden tables. Walls are adorned with bead board and old window panes containing various pictures. An outdoor patio makes for a nice al fresco option when the weather is nice.

As for the food, the Green lemon chicken soup is delicious, as are grilled gyros like the chicken basil-pesto, beef tenderloin and lamb and skordalia (garlic dip).  

The full dinners, or “feasts,” are served with Greek salad and basmati rice or the even-better roasted new potatoes. Among the nine available feasts, standouts include the wild-caught Atlantic grilled salmon and the herb-roasted grilled pork loin, a tender dish served with a too-good-to-be-legal tomato chutney aioli and a side of grilled asparagus. 

Daily fresh features range from portobello mushroom sandwich on Monday to the tilapia-infused Taziki’s taco on Thursday. A good selection of Mediterranean and domestic wines and beers are also available. Save room for dessert, as a generously sized scratch-made dark chocolate cake is attractively priced at just $2.50.

Although you place your order, pay and pick up your drink at the counter, servers bring your plate to the table. Food arrives quickly, but during my most recent visit I was never offered a drink refill nor asked by any employee how I enjoyed the meal. Though my overall experience was positive, Taziki’s could stand to work a little harder to ensure guest expectations match the quality of cuisine it delivers. 

Taziki's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Café 121 a Welcome Addition to Downtown Cary

Downtown Cary has gained a much-needed boost with the recent opening of Café 121. The restaurant is owned by chef Greg Hamm, a veteran culinary instructor who also runs a Sanford-based eatery with the same name.

Café 121 features American cuisine with hints of Asian influences. At lunchtime, distinctive gourmet salads and sandwiches vie for consideration. Among the standout offerings include the strawberry fields salad with feta cheese and pecans and the cranberry turkey sandwich on wheatberry bread.

On the day I visited, the server delivered a fried green beans starter to the table compliments of chef Hamm. This lightly battered Southern delicacy was drizzled with house-made ranch dressing. Nice touch!

When it comes to décor, white tablecloths cover the tables, which are contrasted by dark walls containing local artwork. The front-of-the-house dining room could stand a few more live plants to brighten the overall vibe.

The restaurant serves brunch on the weekends. Consider an omelet creation, a farmer’s breakfast platter or jumbo pancakes with fresh fruit or chocolate chips.

Dinner is available Thursday through Saturday and features tempting entrees like Asian pan-seared tuna, slow-roasted prime rib and herb sautéed shrimp. 

Cafe 121 on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Meeting Corner Churns Out Legit Puerto Rican Cuisine

Downtown Fuquay-Varina’s best place for a meal isn’t a pizza joint, a soul-food outpost or a Mexican restaurant. Instead, it’s a modest Puerto Rican eatery situated in the back of a store that sells handcrafts and antiques. The Meeting Corner, a joint venture between friends Edna Morales and Jaquelina Marks, represents the fulfillment of a dream for the proprietors. 

Morales, a charming native of Puerto Rico, serves up bona fide cuisine from her native country at lunchtime and offers family-size takeout options for dinner. The food is simple yet well-crafted, and it’s all infused with abundant flavor.

Satisfying offerings include rice and beans, empanadas, pastelon (sweet plantain lasagna), tostones and—of course—flan. If chocolate flan is available, don’t pass it up. Additional menu items worth consideration are fricasse de pollo (chicken stew) over rice and ropa vieja (shredded beef) with onions and peppers. 

The quaint, no-frills dining room provides room for about a dozen patrons. Morales single-handedly prepares and serves the food. Be prepared to wait a while for food to arrive at your table, but when it shows up you’ll find it’s definitely worth the wait. 

The Meeting Corner on Urbanspoon