Snikroc Farm: Soft Serve Ice Cream

IMG_4126

A helpful reader alerted us to this ice cream stand, which was very useful because it’s not the kind of place we otherwise would have happened upon.  It is out on Hwy 98, close to Wake County (5220 Wake Forest Hwy), but definitely worth the trip.

IMG_4143

First and foremost, this place is cute.  I recommend taking a date here; anyone who doesn’t have a heart of stone would have to fall for the country setting, friendly man in a cheerful little booth, and picnic table area for eating.

IMG_4131

To top it off, the ice cream is also delicious.  They have chocolate, vanilla, or swirl, and a variety of toppings.  We got a small with strawberries, whipped cream and cherries (he gave us two because he guessed we’d be sharing–aw!)  for $2.25.  As soon as blueberries from the adjacent farm are ripe, they’ll be available as a topping as well.

The stand is only open during the summer, and only in the evening (4 – 9:30pm Sat, weekdays 6:30 – 9:30pm).  You can pick your own blueberries as well, starting in late June.

Published in: on June 4, 2009 at 10:16 pm  Comments (7)  

Palmas de Caribbean: Mofongo comes to Durham!

IMG_4110

Palmas de Caribbean (821 N. Miami Blvd) is where Doctor’s Cove Caribbean used to be, but despite having the Caribbean in common the two restaurants are very different.  For one thing, there’s been a major makeover inside:

IMG_4115

If you ever went to Doctor’s Cove you’ll appreciate the difference.

The menu at Palmas de Caribbean is Dominican and offers some options that I haven’t seen on a menu in Durham before.  I was especially excited to try mofongo (a mashed plantain dish).  I will eat and love any form of plantains imaginable.

IMG_4121

You can choose from a few different kinds of meat and/or cheese to be mixed in with your mofongo; I chose pernil (roast pork) and cheese.  The dish was awesome.  I loved the pork’s flavor, though I might not get it next time because it was a bit dry.  I would love to hear how this compares to other mofongo from someone who’s had mofongo before (TSQ, I’m looking at you!) but all I know is that I couldn’t stop eating this or thinking about it later.

IMG_4123

Our second entree was the bistec salteado (sauteed steak), which was good, but not much more exciting than an above average fajita.  The more exciting part of the meal was the two sides that came with it. We of course chose maduros (fried sweet plantain), which was amazing–you can’t really go wrong with this, the best dish on earth, but these had an especially good balance of mushy and crispy and were nice and rich.  

IMG_4125

We also got yucca; this one was a surprise because it wasn’t fried, as it so often is, but was the best yucca we could remember having in the area.  It was just boiled, but the saltiness and texture were ideal.

IMG_4120

Our waitress (one of the owners) suggested a couple of times that we come back for their breakfast (they open daily at 6am).  We’ll definitely be back at various times of day, I’m sure, because there are so many delicious-sounding options on the menu.  The actual menu is much more extensive than the one on their website, but they don’t necessarily have everything every day–at least the sides and possibly the entrees vary by day.  I know I’d eat anything they made for me.

The restaurant is new and it was quite empty–please check them out, I’d have to have my mofongo source dry up!

Published in: on June 4, 2009 at 12:23 pm  Comments (12)  

Local Yogurt: The kids call it LoYo

IMG_4046

Local Yogurt (2501 University Dr) is the new dessert place on the Durham scene.  It’s cute, light-hearted and kid friendly (they get free sprinkles), but the best part for me was that the yogurt tasted like actual yogurt!  The plain flavor was slightly, but surprisingly, tart, and not too sweet.  The mango flavor (they rotate three flavors other than plain) was a bit sweeter without losing that yogurty tang.  

The extensive topping choices are also a plus.  They have a bunch of the traditional options (M&Ms, several candy bars, and of course sprinkles) a few types of cereal (fruity pebbles, Cap’n Crunch), some that change with the season (fresh strawberries right now) and, my favorite, at least one salty option (I got the potato chips).  Yum!  

IMG_4049

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 1:46 am  Comments (13)  

Speedway Cafe: Durham County’s northernmost grill

Speedway Cafe (12915 Roxboro Rd) is right next door to Moe’s Tavern in Rougemont, up in the more “country” part of Durham County.

IMG_3940

There were signs (one outside, one inside) touting “Entertainment All Day,” which must have referred to the TV and/or overhearing other patrons’ conversations.  Either way, it was a fun time.  Below, note the substitution of “Freedom” for “French.”

speedwaymenu

We got the Steak & Gravy meal with two sides ($5.50) (sorry for the photo quality–we were trying to be subtle by using an iPhone instead of a camera).

speedwaysteak

The meal (including the sides) was ok–not a bad deal, but probably not something we’ll order again.  The greens satisfied my (constant) greens craving, but weren’t among the best I’ve had.

Our other order was much better: a chuckwagon sandwich with a side of fried okra ($1.90 + $.085).  The chuckwagon was delicious.

speedwaychuckwagon

The reason to go back, though, is the hush puppies.  They might well have been the best I’ve had in Durham (though I’m sure I’ve said that before).  Perfect crispiness, fried to order, exact right density/fluffiness.  This is surprising because the batter isn’t homemade (apparently they get it (and their other bbq foodstuffs) from Hursey’s Bar-B-Q) but maybe there’s just something magical about the Speedway fryer oil.

The Speedway Cafe might not be the best in the county, but it makes for a friendly and charming stop during a drive in the country–especially in combination with a stop at Moe’s next door.

Published in: on May 24, 2009 at 4:10 pm  Comments Off on Speedway Cafe: Durham County’s northernmost grill  

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.

P1040035

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.

P1040037

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.

P1040041

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.

P1040042

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)  

Restaurant Week roundup

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.

IMG_3936

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:

IMG_3917

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.

IMG_3951

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).

IMG_3955

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.
Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 6:59 pm  Comments (6)  

Shaba Shabu

Shaba Shabu (4020 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd) is the second location of this upscale Thai-Japanese restaurant and lounge, the first being in Raleigh.

IMG_3873

The first mistake we made was to look at the wrong menu online (the Raleigh version) and then get excited about several dishes that they didn’t offer at the Durham location.  Conspicuously absent, considering the restaurant’s name, was Shabu Shabu.  Once we adjusted our expectations, though, we got a pretty good meal (but perhaps not worth the price).

IMG_3875

We started with the sashimi appetizer (six pieces, $8.49), which was very fresh.

IMG_3878

The chicken red curry ($13.99) was also good–it was a bit light on vegetables, but the sauce itself was rich and tasty (though we didn’t like it any more than nearby Twisted Noodles’ version, which costs five bucks less).  We’re still searching for “the bomb” Thai curry in the Triangle–any suggestions?

IMG_3881

We also got the Pla Sam Rod (fried red snapper with a spicy sauce and vegetables, $14.99), which was my favorite dish of the evening.  The dish wasn’t exceptionally spicy, and in fact most of the sauce was very sweet and needed to be cut with the spicier sauce on the side, but the two mixed together was a nice combo.  This dish also had plenty of vegetables, which were fresh and well cooked.

IMG_3882

This place is definitely going for atmosphere–it was very dark, the music was loud, and there was even a dj perched high above the dining area–all a bit over the top for our tastes but well executed for what it is.  Our service was less than ideal (for some reason our entrees came out about 10 minutes apart), but we won’t hold that against them just yet since they were newly opened when we went.  Maybe if they get enough requests they’ll even start offering Shabu Shabu!  All in all it was a nice evening–we’d go back if someone else was paying or if they added their namesake dish to the menu.

Published in: on May 14, 2009 at 4:38 pm  Comments (18)  

George’s Diner

img_3887

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.
img_3884

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.
img_3886
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.

img_3885

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

Restaurant openings report

Asia World (3550 N Roxboro Rd)
J & J Fish & Chicken (2728 Guess Rd)
Jump N Java  (2945 S. Miami Blvd)
King’s Daughter’s Inn Kitchen (204 N Buchanan Blvd)
Nannie Brown’s (826 Fayetteville St Suite 110)
Palmas De Caribbean (821 N Miami Blvd)
Quintiles (4820 Emperor Blvd)
Red Sea (2000 Chapel Hill Rd Unit #4)
Saigon Grill (2929 N Roxboro St)
Sansui (4325 Hwy 55)

Restaurants
King’s Daughter’s Inn Kitchen (204 N Buchanan Blvd)
Palmas De Caribbean (821 N Miami Blvd)
Red Sea (2000 Chapel Hill Rd Unit #4)
Sansui (4325 Hwy 55)

*DISCLAIMER: Presence on this list indicates that a restaurant has been inspected, not that it is necessarily open for business today (although it usually is).

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 10:22 am  Comments (5)  

Nannie Brown’s American Cuisine

img_3860

If living in the South has taught us anything, it’s that coleslaw goes great on everything.  Nannie Brown’s (826 Fayetteville St, Ste 110) was a delightful reminder of that fact.  Their Fuji Burger comes topped with chili and coleslaw (both housemade) and after the waitress double checked that we really wanted our burger with everything, it came out piled high and delicious.

img_3868

We also got the pork chop, smothered ($6.99).  The sauce was very earthy and had a surprising amount of depth.  It came with two sides, chosen from a list of some familiar southern sides (including cabbage, mac & cheese, potato salad, yams, and cornbread dressing).  I got the cabbage, which was even better than I expected, in part because it actually turned out to be half cabbage and half collards (my favorite!).  The string beans were also very tasty, and I usually hate string beans (they might have been helped out by some lard).

img_3866

Also on the menu was “beef avant,” strips of sirloin beef sauteed with cashews, carrots, onions and a spicy sweet sauce ($13.99).  We really wanted that, but they were out–we will certainly be going back for it sometime soon.  The menu was wide ranging with a lot of interesting-sounding options, including some classics, a lot of sandwiches and wraps, and some fancier twists.  Prices ranged as well; you can get a sandwich for $3.99 or salmon for $12.99.  They also feature daily fish specials and pound cakes from Miss Parker’s Pound Cakes. 

[UPDATE: They no longer offer the pound cakes!]

The service was great and the chef came out to make sure we liked everything (we did) and to apologize for being out of the Beef Avant.  The menu also mentions entertainment; I’m not sure what that involves, but there was a large empty space in the middle of the floor that could be used for a band or dancing, and a karaoke machine.  It’s definitely a friendly place with great food.  They’ve only been open a couple months, hope they stick around!

Hours: Monday – Saturday 9am – 9pm; Sunday by reservation only.

Published in: on April 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm  Comments (1)