The Bottle Shop


HV Bottle Shop doesn’t look like much and the name doesn’t really make sense (as in Hope Valley), but further investigation reveals a much needed spot for more casual wine drinking and two very helpful owners.  Thomas and Drew have been around the block for a while (having worked at Nana’s and Foursquare(?) or the like) before opening their welcoming bottleshop in Woodcroft Plaza.

All of the Carpe Durham squad has been there by now and the results are officially tallied: it’s a great place.  They have a handy-dandy wine dispenser for tastes and up to full glasses.  There are frequent tastings as well.  Every Saturday from 4:30 to 7pm they pour free tastings, usually three whites and three reds and a smattering of crackers and cheeses.  I’ve found some fantastic stuff during these tastings and they usually mark down the featured wines significantly.  And tastings aren’t just for Saturdays.  It has seemed like every week now there has been an odd-ball tasting on a weeknight (a Monday, Tuesday, and the more common Friday).  Tonight was a so-called 90+ tasting, meaning all the wines scored ninety or above in the wino magazines.  Delicious.


The wines are nearly all neatly lined up against the wall in a readily recognized fashion.  There is also the beer corner, full of great stuff, lots of it in big bottles.  And there are nice couches to hang out on and try some juice from the dispenser.  But even more than that, the place excites me because of their promotion of alternative packaging.  They are constantly looking for more tetra packs (the carton looking thing) and boxed up wine.  No not that box wine.  Please.  There is nothing bad that can come from storing wine in a box or carton.  Maybe aging is up in the air, but who’s really sitting on bottles and bottles instead of drinking and drinking.  Which is what you can do when you get three liters of wine for a whole lot less.


They also have a few of these liter bottles.  They have a bottle cap.  I bought one, it was tasty.  Crisp and apple like as I remember it.  If it is ready to drink, why risk the cork?  The organic treatment of the grapes keeps the cost up more than I’d like.  But at about $10.50 or so for the liter it was still worth the try. 

Keep an eye out for their Irregular Bin of random single beers and their Fire Sale wines.  I got a box of Pinot Evil for real cheap a little while back.  I might remember the cost if I didn’t enjoy my three liters so much.

Tomorrow’s tasting is all North West wines.  I’m excited about the pinot gris and noirs from Oregon.  There’ll also be a cab blend that should be serious business.

Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 8:03 pm  Comments (8)  

Back Yard BBQ

I was appalled to read we hadn’t yet been to Back Yard BBQ (5122 NC 55).  And now with Man v Food coming by, I needed no further persuasion.


I went at an odd time of day, just missing lunch, so the price jump hurt a little but the pain was soon quelled by one hefty plate.  All in all, it was about $13.  So, still not bad, especially since I saved nearly half the meat for later.


Here they play a fun game called Hide the Ribs.  Neatly packaged above are hush puppies, collards, fried cabbage, and pulled pork.  All of which were good.  I’d place the hush puppies among the better ones I’ve had in the area, even though they were a tad sweet.  The collards were quite nice and had chunks of meat mingling with the greens.  The woman who served me said she had never heard of fried cabbage before she started working there.  She also said it was real good.  I was intrigued by them as well, and I agree with her.  Whatever it means to fry cabbage (in a pan, I suppose), it is the preferred method.  Now, the pork was pulled like crazy.  So much so that it started to lose texture.  I also thought it a little dry, but I probably just didn’t grab enough sauce.  And I don’t take lightly the awkward hour that I showed up.  Most of this stuff was probably hanging around since the peak of lunch and lost some of its luster, though at the time I hardly noticed.


The ribs were very good.  The smoky meat was nicely complemented with a sweet sauce.  The only thing that could have made it knock my socks off would be some added spice.

I know what I’m about to say is BBQ sin and/or hubris, but I started putting a little of that sweet, tomato based sauce on the pulled pork with the spicy vinegar business on it…it took me there.  Which lead me to think that maybe this whole East-West thing is really overrated, like it was with rap in the 90s.

Lastly, there was one more thing the kind woman at the counter talked me into, a pineapple lemonade.  It really hit the spot on a hot day.  It was pretty big, so I saved half of it in the freezer.  I thawed it in a blender with a little somethin somethin the next hot day–because nothing is sacred, not if it’s tasty.


Also of note: they have brisket on Fridays and Saturdays.  Considering their work on the ribs, I would think it would be awesome.

Published in: on May 20, 2009 at 2:27 pm  Comments (18)  

George’s Diner


The George’s Diner (3536 Hillsborough Rd) parking lot was packed at lunchtime last Friday.  With a steady stream of diners & takeout customers, George’s Diner is definitely open for business.  The kitchen was serving from eight of the menu’s nine pages (pasta & sautées to come soon, maybe even by the time this review gets posted).  The wireless and the milkshake machine are expected to be operational this week.

The grilled cheese + BLT fixings (see the menu item entitled “The Happy Waitress”) contained loads of crispy bacon and was served up quick.  The baklava was flaky with just enough honey.  I will return to eat a meal from the Greek Food section of the menu.  The owners are Greek and the Hillsborough Road George’s is the first location.
The decorations include a lunch counter, jukebox and pictures of Hollywood legends on the walls & tables.  Not much on the website, but it does tell you what you need to know: George’s Diner is open 24 hours serving Home Style cooked meals.


Published in: on May 6, 2009 at 10:07 am  Comments (43)  

Six Feet Down Under

I am a good friend of most any bar food; I often get excited at the mention of a fryer.  But last night I met my match.

After a few beers at the Federal, some friends and I walked along Main St. looking for an open kitchen.  We only wanted a little something to pick at to finish off the evening, or so I thought.  After ordering a cheap pitcher at the Down Under Pub, I told my buddy to order whatever and stepped outside to make a call.  When I returned he’d ordered too many appetizers in addition to the motherload of bar food heretofore never dreamed of: the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger (three of them!). 

The burger oozed peanut butter and you’ll be glad I didn’t insert a photo.  In fact, I’m glad I didn’t take a photo–the memory alone slows my pulse.  But the taste was insane.  After the first bite I thought there could be no way I could finish, despite its incomparable flavor.  Next thing I knew I was sucking remnants of peanut butter and bacon grease off my fingers and looking for a way to wash down the last bite.

I think I died a little with that unexpected gutbomb.  You too can be a gastronimic daredevil at the Down Under, it may be worth it.  Just be sure to tell your family you love them.

Published in: on April 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm  Comments (3)  

Chosun Ok


Another Korean joint along the 55 corridor, Chosun Ok is a solid offering.  We ate three dishes.  Here’s a shot of the spread, made more impressive with all the kim chee.


The Bi Bim Bop was my first and I rather liked it, particularly the way the rice becomes crunchy after sitting against the stone.

Even better was the beef and green onion soup.  It came in the large bowl with a nice and spicy red broth.  The dish was simple and rich.  I particularly liked the (what I believe were) straw mushrooms.

Lastly, the spicy croaker soup.

I really get a kick out of these cauldrons of goodness.  The broth almost tasted more of fish than the fish itself.  Two whole croaker filled the bowl and made for a delicious soup.  The fish were some trouble to eat, but braver folks may forge on through the bones more readily than me.

It is also of note that the kim chee were all tastey–free from that funky smell of most commercial stuff.

While it was quite good, the overall value was not that of the nearby Vit Goal Tofu.  I can’t say how the lunch menus compare, but the dishes at Chosun Ok were a dollar or two more, as I recall.

Published in: on March 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm  Comments (5)  

Devorame otra vez, La Vaquita

I finally returned for the huilote en mole.  It did not disappoint.




Again, the mole was deep and delicious.  It photos terribly, but so does art, and both are beautiful.  The quail itself was much better than the smaller ones I had grilled previously.  The meat was much jucier and easier to remove.  I liked putting chunks of the chicken/pork tasting meat on a fresh tortilla and slathering it with a little more mole.

I saved the leftover tortillas and mole.  The next day I made a quesadilla with mole on top.  Awesome.  I might just custom order it next time.

Also, I’d like to highlight La Vaquita’s new website, which one reader informed us of.  It might come in handy when you want to call in some huilotes so you don’t have to wait twenty minutes for them.

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm  Comments (6)  

Piper’s Deli

Piper’s Deli (3219 Old Chapel Hill Rd.), a self-described “Durham Institution since 1984,” is a surprisingly good lunch/dinner spot that specializes in deli sandwiches and burgers.


As the decor (heavy on Duke/UNC paraphernalia and ESPN on flatscreen TVs) and menu suggest, Piper’s isn’t hip or exciting, but what they do have on offer is great. We got a couple of burgers, some soup and salad, and a buffalo chicken sandwich.


I had heard some good things about their burgers and I wasn’t disappointed. The provolone and bacon helped but the burger itself was super fresh and flavorful. Not as heavenly as Wimpy’s but big and just greasy enough, wrapped in a big poofy Kaiser roll. The buffalo chicken sandwich was pretty amazing too — just spicy enough and not drowning in sauce. Like the burger, it ran about $7. The frozen bag fries were the only disappointment.


Even the soup of the day (Italian wedding soup) was great. The cake of the day, chocolate cake with cream cheese icing, was passable, but honestly it’s hard to compete with the best lunchtime cake ever. They also bake their own cookies daily, which is another incentive to go back.


Most of all I was impressed by how fresh everything tasted, and the burgers are so good they soften the blow of OnlyBurger’s untimely end. And they have $1 Miller High Life every day!

Piper’s Deli
Monday-Friday: 11 am – 9 pm
Saturday: 11 am – 3 pm 

Published in: on December 19, 2008 at 3:46 pm  Comments (6)  

Taco Truck Triumvirate

You know those buses on Hillsborough Rd. that appear late at night? The ones decked out with string lights and neon, surrounded by picnic tables and an idling pickup truck or two? They’re our beloved taco trucks, and although we’ve already done a few sporadic posts about them, hopefully this one will cover many of your 2 am taco options.

Taco Riendo Lopez #1 (across from Kroger)

Taco Riendo Lopez #1 (across from Kroger)

First up is Taco Riendo Lopez,  which I assume is owned by the same people who run Taqueria Lopez. Of the three taco buses I’ve found on Hillsborough, Lopez is my favorite.

Pastor and campechanos tacos from Taco Riendo Lopez

Pastor and campechanos tacos from Taco Riendo Lopez

It may have been the novelty of the campechanos (beef steak and Mexican sausage), but the tacos at Taco Riendo Lopez #1 are the late-night food to beat. They’re lovingly made with double-layered tortillas and come with sauteed onions, lime wedges and radish slices. No surprise there, but overall they’re some of the freshest and most delicious tacos around, late-night or otherwise.

Taco Riendo "Las Delicias"

Tacorriendo "Las Delicias" (across from Rubio, below)

 A little further down the road is Tacorriendo “Las Delicias,” which, despite its name and the fact that it was way busier than Lopez, was a major letdown after Lopez.

Barbacoa taco from Tacorriendo "Las Delicias"

Asada taco from Tacorriendo "Las Delicias"

The asada taco was fatty and strangely flavorless, they only use a single tortilla, and the roasted green onion on the side was baffling. However, you can’t really judge a place based on the asada alone.

Taqueria Rubio

Taqueria Rubio (3148 Hillsborough Rd.)

Taqueria Rubio, on the other hand, is a gem. Besides having the coolest bus by far, the tacos, and especially their homemade salsas, are delicious and definitely on par with their waking-hour counterparts.

Asada, pastor, and pollo tacos from Taqueria Rubio

Asada, pastor, and pollo tacos from Taqueria Rubio

I’m dying for another pollo taco from Rubio after looking at these pictures again. If you’re out late this weekend, take the long way home and pick up some tacos.

Taqueria Rubio (map)
Thursday: 8 pm – 2 am
Friday: 12 am  – 3.30 am
Saturday: 7 pm – 3.30 am
Sunday: 7 pm – 2 am 

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 3:08 pm  Comments (13)  


Durham’s home grown biking/running/aquatic event/competitive eating relay, the Doughman, is celebrating its first birthday this weekend, and to celebrate the organizers have put up a new website (link).  In case you missed out this year, you can read all about it in the N&O.  I can attest that it’s definitely one of most fun events of the year (along with the Krispy Kreme Challenge) and next year’s Doughman should be even bigger and better. Even though registration doesn’t open until April, it’s never too early to get your team together! Who wants to take the bacon cheese fries/2 mile run leg?

Published in: on November 21, 2008 at 3:22 pm  Comments Off on DOUGHMAN `09  

Top Dog: Hot Dogs on Chapel Hill St.


Don’s Dogs (formerly located on the corner of Buchanan Blvd./Chapel Hill St.) was demolished to make way for the Emily Krzyzewski Center.  Durham hot dog enthusiasts, I think, took this loss kind of badly.  The dogs were awesome and scoring a meal there with only some change in your pocket felt pretty good.  Happy days are here again, however, and hotdogs are now being served fresh in that same Durham neighborhood.  This Sabrett’s stand called Top Dog parks on Chapel Hill St., corner of Gattis St., one block west of Buchanan Blvd.


At Top Dog, $2 buys a meal: hotdog or sausage, a bag of chips and a soda.  A single dog is $1.  I’ve tried the dog and the sausage and think the hotdog is going to be my usual.  Getting chili (for no extra charge) on top is recommended.  Top Dog is open for business M-F (sometimes Sat.) for lunch and dinner, but closes up earlier at 4:30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Published in: on November 9, 2008 at 2:10 pm  Comments (4)