For Restaurant Week, we decided to only try places outside of Durham. In case you are curious, here is a quick summary of our thoughts:
Dinner @ Jibarra (327 W. Davie St): Cool upscale Mexican place (restaurant and “tequila lounge”) with some good eats. I loved its funky modern decor that’s worked really well into the historic building (a train depot). Off the Restaurant Week menu, we had the Cochinita Pibil (shredded pork), Pollo Al Pastor with lentil puree, and the coconut and papaya flan.
The chicken, while a little boring (not very spicy) on its own, was delicious when I got an especially charred bite combined with a bit of everything else on the plate–the lentils, roasted pineapples, and salsa verde. The coconut and papaya flan was amazing–great texture and deliciously coconutty. We also tried the Chilorio de Chamorro (pork Osso Bucco) which was rich, tender and tasty. The highlight of the trip was probably the tequila flight:
Dinner @ Rey’s (1130 Buck Jone’s Rd): The Restaurant Week menu was quite a deal here because the food is normally pretty pricey, and I’m glad I learned the relatively cheap way that for me, the food isn’t actually worth its regular price. The turtle soup (yup, turtle is in there, tastes like a rich tomato bisque) and the chicken gumbo were by far the best dishes. The proteins (we tried pork chops and salmon) were just ok. Two of our three desserts were pretty good (especially the cheesecake).
Lunch @ The Pit (328 W. Davie St): We decided not to do the Restaurant Week menu because the food was fairly cheap already. We started with the Brunswick Stew–great veggies in there, and it turned out to be our favorite part of the meal.
The hushpuppies were disappointing–they seemed like they had been sitting out for a while and they were kind of dry, so we weren’t sorry that we only got two each. The other sides were either bad (Brussels sprouts, which I usually love) or completely unexciting (greens, biscuit, sweet potato fries, slaw).
The meat was better than the sides, but still, we thought, not worth all the hype we’d heard about the place. The brisket was our favorite, but the ribs were dry and managed to be too smoky, and the pork bbq was unremarkable. The sauces (one sweet and one eastern Carolina) were pretty good though.
Dinner @ The Mint (1 Exchange Plaza): We’ve always loved the Mint, and still do. Prices have gone down since it opened, and the Restaurant Week menu ($25) was the same as their normal 3-course prix fixe offering that’s usually $30. This was the best meal of the week. The scallops were amazing as always, the trout was crispy, bacony and delicious, and the key lime cheesecake was great. I was also happy to see that the bar upstairs (a fun, semi-secluded place to hang out if you have a good sense of humor about the slightly over-the-top decor) offered sazeracs (an absinthe drink I haven’t seen in Durham).
Drinks @ Foundation (213 Fayetteville St): This bar had nothing to do with Restaurant Week except that we happened to catch sight of it on our way out of the Mint. It’s a simple but nice bar, charmingly hidden down some stairs from the street. We tried some moonshine that, because it’s legal, was not very strong but quite delicious. The crowd there was very friendly, even though the place seemed relatively “hip.” I’d hang out there often if I lived nearby, I think.Conclusions from Restaurant Week: 1) Raleigh is not bad! Maybe we should go more often. 2) Durham is still the best.