Good news, Durhamites! Southern Living concluded its voting for the Tastiest Towns contest, and you won! Author Paula Disbrowe describes the city as “A scrappy scene of artisans devoted to coffee beans, brews, and the craft of humble foods.” Congratulations!
Tomorrow (3/9) Clyde Cooper’s will be celebrating the institution’s 75th Anniversary with an outdoor BBQ competition. In the empty lot next to the restaurant, the following pitmasters will be battling for BBQ supremacy:
A new bar and restaurant is finally coming to the vacant restaurant space in the Oberlin Court project. The OC Bar & Grill will open within a month, and its menu (pdf) shows a wide selection of burgers, sandwiches, grill items, and pastas all generally in the $8-$15 range. If the food is good…this will be a huge hit in a part of Raleigh craving more family-friendly menus.
Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 was an fascinating year, with the Olympics, the Election, and a little bit of economic traction, the year turned out to be more interesting than expected. With the close of the year, it’s time to pull out the old crystal acorn and make a few quick predictions (30 to be exact) for the upcoming year. (Don’t take these to the bank, though! If this thing were any good, I’d be in Vegas with it.)
Publix will begin construction on their first Triangle store…in Cary in the Davis/54 area.
Publix will pick Creedmoor/Millbrook for their first Raleigh store location. The new owners of Falls Village will make a strong play for Publix, offering to raze half of their center to accommodate a large grocery store.
Raleigh will begin discussions to tear down Memorial Auditorium – with the dominant bookings of the DPAC, Raleigh people are increasingly irked by having to go to Durham for so many good events. Leaders in Raleigh will talk about removing the center section of the performing arts complex and replacing it with a stacked, 3-tier facility to compete with the DPAC.
Violence will be an increasing problem in Glenwood South, and patrons will start seeking another focus for nightlife, most likely in…the Hillsborough Street area, which will be the next wave of downtown revitalization.
Orvis will close in Triangle Town Center and seek space in a part of the Triangle where their patrons actually live. Perhaps Kidd’s Hill behind Crabtree?
Development of both Kidd’s Kill properties will finally begin, but the Soleil Center/Westin land will remain an empty lot.
A new mall will be announced for the I-40/42/70/540 area between Clayton and Fuquay. It will focus on serving the Johnston County market.
Best Buy will close at least one Triangle location. My bet is the newest store, Brier Creek.
Between Liles, The Varsity, and Nowells, Raleigh will only support two, and one will close.
As brick & mortar retail continues to struggle, Crabtree will add another restaurant in its mall proper
While Washington policy will grow much more liberal than we’ve seen in the previous 4 years (increasingly hostile fiscal policies toward the wealthy, increased spending on social programs, and a stark increase in liberal social policies and transit expenditures), North Carolina policy will become more conservative, but not by much. In the next four years issues like Gay Marriage, Legalization of Pot, and Gun Control will stay put in this state, unless there is federal mandate…
…The Supreme Court will rule that Gay Marriage must be recognized by all states, and Federal Legislation implementing more stringent gun control will override North Carolina’s stance.
North Carolina will get an increased amount of funding for transit (regional “high” speed and local light rail), but the State of North Carolina will decrease expenditures in these areas, and no real progress will occur in the next four years, especially with light rail.
Raleigh will continue its oppressive assault on drivers in neighborhoods by reducing the speed limit on Glen Eden to 25 mph. They will also erect more of those contrived islands meant to annoy and slow drivers.
UNC and NCSU will field bubble teams in football, once again, that will get absolutely no national attention.
If the NHL season is cancelled, Backyard Bistro will close.
T-Mobile will be bought by one of the other carriers, most likely AT&T, reducing the number of carrier networks to three in the Triangle.
Free Wifi will be everywhere by the end of the year. In the malls, the restaurants, and in grocery stores. Most importantly, I predict that free wifi for every fan in the building will be implemented in the PNC Arena. (yay!)
The number of restaurants with tablet menus will grow quickly. In fact, only cheap or snobby restaurants will be without a tablet presence by the end of 2013.
Buca di Beppo will announce their first Raleigh/Cary location
PDQ will announce two more locations. One in the Southpoint area and one in Cary.
One of downtown Raleigh’s Indian restaurants will close. Will it be Blue Mango or Mantra that survives?
BJ’s Brewhouse will announce their first North Carolina locations – on in Charlotte, one in Cary.
The next big culinary ethnicity, after Mexican starts to fade, will be South American. Restaurants like Machupicchu and Guasaca will have excellent years, but will see more competition, too, especially in the casual dining space.
Guacamole variations will be the next trend within the Mexican food space
The IHOP on Hillsborough Street will close, but will be replaced in 2014 by a mixed use apartment building that will have street level retail, including a new IHOP. (This is a planned project. The prediction is that execution will begin this year)
The Triangle will be selected as the site for filming a nationally prominent movie.
No significant changes to Raleigh’s skyline will be introduced in 2013.
A MakerBot-like 3D printing business will open in Raleigh, allowing people to create functional and artistic plastic items just-in-time.
Here’s the big one: 2013 will be the Year of Durham, and the crowning moment will be an announcement by Google that their second Google Fiber city will be…Durham.
It appears that some may have missed TBJ’s announcement last week concerning Publix. It appears the excellent supermarket chain is eying sites in the Triangle.
The Lakeland, FL-based chain has nearly 1,100 stores spread throughout Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The expansion would mean direct competition for Charlotte-based Harris Teeter, which has stores Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Delaware.
If Publix wants a slam-dunk site in Raleigh, they should go into the former Hannaford and Lowes grocery store spot between Costco and Trader Joe’s. (map it) The complexion of that retail neighborhood has considerably improved since the failure of those stores, and the addition of Costco and Trader Joe’s draws people from across the entire eastern half of the Triangle already. The site has convenient I-440 access, and is a location where both Inside The Beltline and Outside The Beltline shoppers feel comfortable. The site is currently leased by a workout gym, but who are we kidding? Right?
An alternative might be the newly razed lot between the old grocery store site and Trader Joe’s. My limited understanding of this former ITT industrial property is that it has had brownfield contamination issues. Depending on the progress of the cleanup, this site could be, and should be developed into a multi-use retail/residential development that ties in to Holly Park to the north, the future light rail corridor to the east, and the Costco area to the south. It is an excellent opportunity looking 10 years forward.
As far as other areas of older north and west Raleigh go, unless an existing grocery store’s current lease is not renewed, it is hard to imagine another site for Publix that could be gracefully executed, to be honest. Perhaps Kids Hill behind Crabtree? Perhaps a corner on Blue Ridge Road? These don’t have nearly the visibility and ease of access. Old Raleigh has very few non-industrial commercial corridors. Therefore the Wake Forest/Six Forks area is absolutely the best option for capturing old Raleigh. There are other lots in that area, such as the Southern States Nissan property, but considerable terraforming will need to be accomplished to deal with the flooding that property periodically experiences.
To be honest, though, Publix could go into any safe area and do well in Raleigh. The sooner the better!
The number of great fast casual restaurants in Raleigh grew in quantity and quality today. Guasaca is an “arepa and salsa grill” that is framed in the same format as Chipotle. As shown clearly on their menu (.pdf), diners choose a starch/form, a meat, vegetables, and a sauce. Food is presented in a cafeteria format, and soft drinks are self-serve.
Arepas have slowly made their way into Raleigh in recent years. At the Argentinian and Venezuelan-inspired Guasaca, the delicate, 5” corn meal patties are presented much like pita pockets. Their flavor is stunningly delicious, which balances their inherent messiness. Guasaca gives diners the option to do a bowl or salad format as well.
Guasaca offers an excellent assortment of meats: grilled chicken, shredded beef, grilled steak, braised pork, braised tilapia, and avocado chicken. I tried grilled chicken and braised pork. Both used quality meats, and their flavor was good, and a bit understated, which works well with this restaurant’s assortment of vegetables and sauces. Thankfully neither of these meats was burdened with the all-too-familiar grease and salt problems that plague so many ethic eateries in Raleigh.
I ordered two arepas: one pork (pictured right) with black-eyed peas, slaw, and pico de gayo; one with chicken (pictured left), black beans, and cheese. The toppings are the real story here. The black-eyed peas were good, but could use something like fire-roasted chile pepper to add some depth. The slaw was of the shredded, slightly dry variety with carrot, and was fantastic. It did not overpower the arepa, while the pico de gayo, with a great zing of cilantro did overpower the arepa, somewhat. The shredded cheese has more flavor than Chipotle’s lifeless cheese.
However the star of the show is the black beans. These beans are prepared in a bit more of a Cuban style then a Mexican style, so they feature more of an olive oil taste than a cumin dominant taste. Both bean preparations, however, contained enough sauce to disintegrate the second half of both arepas. While the flavor is completely worth it, the physical result is a mess. Be sure to get a fork and spoon before sitting down to eat these “finger food” items, because they will eventually become “fork food” at the point where your hands are the messiest. The arepas are presented in wax paper, so there isn’t a good landing place for the crumbling masterpiece.
The arepas come with a side sauce. I chose the cilantro and guasaca sauces. The cilantro sauce is a fantastic blend of cilantro and lime flavor, but is a bit acidic and should be used sparingly to keep from overpowering the arepa. The guasaca sauce, on the other hand, was the only item on the tray that was a flop. At a $1.50 premium, the guasaca sauce is way too heavy with raw garlic and raw onion. Two bites of this sauce is likely to ruin an afternoon if you aren’t a huge garlic fan..
Generally the chefs have found the key to blending flavors. None of the flavors fight each other, and dominant flavors are handled well. Both of my arepas had a slight hint of kick, but and in no way were “too hot”.
Guasaca is a first-store, local concept by a group of Venezuelan-born restaurateurs. If the restaurant can market themselves well, the group will have a big, big hit on their hands. This is exactly the variation on Southwestern/Mexican that the fast-casual American dining public needs. The price point is excellent, the ingredients are of outstanding quality, and most of the recipes are top-notch. The restaurant’s interior is beautiful, and well planned, and the menu, with its many options, is presented simply and clearly.
The restaurant is located between Buffalo Brothers and WhichWich on Lake Boone Trail. As the restaurant’s popularity grows, the ability to obtain a parking space at lunch in this center will become more difficult than ever. With their popular neighbors Buffalo Brothers and WhichWich, Chubby’s and Sushi-Thai across the street, the Lake Boone area has become one of the most interesting medium-priced dining areas in Raleigh. With crowds overflowing these restaurants, it only seems perfect that overflowing arepas join the mix.
A new eatery has just opened in Crabtree Valley Mall. Torii, a branch of the Kanki, now offers a modest selection of Japanese noodle and rice dishes. Entrées on the menu (pdf) range from $10-$13. The restaurant is located upstairs from the Kanki, next to the Glenwood Avenue entrance to the mall.
TBJ reported yesterday that Brixx Wood Fired Pizza will open in the new Gallery at Cameron Village, the building replacing Balentines. This has been a long time coming. Back in 2008 it was rumored that Brixx was coming to the still-empty restaurant spot at Oberlin Court. Finally a proper Raleigh address will be a reality for the excellent, Charlotte-based pizza restaurant.
The nation’s next Sur La Table store may land at Streets at Southpoint Mall tomorrow morning. The store, which carries a full line of cooking equipment, is aiming for “go” when the mall opens.
I visited the Sur La Table store in SoHo a couple of weeks ago and while the store is similar to Williams Sonoma, the inventory is a bit more of a full complement cooking supply store and not quite as high-end than Williams Sonoma. It’s a store this market badly needs, especially the Raleigh market.
A few things to note in the store: the selection of thermometers, knives, and the demo of the induction cooking surface. Also of note is the store’s Grand Opening Sale which gives customers a $10 gift certificate for each $50 spent thru the store’s closing on Sunday evening. The store also runs cooking classes, such as Sunday’s $47 Essential Knife Skills class, which has gotten rave reviews online. (ask them if they demo the CIA method of peeling a pepper!)
The store is located in The Streets at Southpoint’s outdoor section.
I got a tip yesterday that GHG, George Bakatsias’ restaurant group, will be opening a Greek restaurant in the former Pyewacket space on W. Franklin Street. If this is true, it is some darned good news, and a nice departure from the Chinese/Mexican/Bland offerings that have plagued the reasonably priced Chapel Hill restaurant scene for so long. It’s also good news because I’ve always found Bakatsias’ restaurants impressive (even the Café Georgio that was in the depressing basement of Fine Feathers in University Square!). We’ll keep an eye on the timetable for this one!
Congratulations to Kinston’s Chef & Farmer restaurant for being featured in the October issue of Garden & Gun. The (great) magazine’s “Good Eats 2012” article opens with a backdrop of an Ashley Christensen-cooked meal, and moves through John T. Edge’s favorite 10 dishes of the year. Among the feature dishes is the Chef & Farmer’s Tomato Sandwich. Looks like a road trip is in the works…
On Saturday, July 28, Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours is hosting a Raleigh brunch tour featuring Mandolin Restaurant. Participants will begin the day with an insiders’ tour of a farmers’ market, The Saturday Market at Rebus Works, in downtown Raleigh. They will enjoy tastings from Triangle Raw Foods and others, while chatting with local farmers and food artisans. The next stop on the tour is a wine tasting at The Raleigh Wine Shop. From there, tour goers will drive a couple of miles to Mandolin where they will be treated to a farm-to-table brunch. The tour is $45 per person.