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Mar
20

20 Best Dining Options Near PNC Arena

Tomorrow is the day NCAA tournament action returns to Raleigh. The city will open up to fans from Charlottesville, Myrtle Beach, Memphis, Washington (DC), Boston, Knoxville, and Macon (GA). Friday’s action features four games in two sessions.

The afternoon doubleheader session begins at Noon and the evening doubleheader session begins at 6:55pm. With the afternoon session ending at approximately 5pm, this gives visitors almost two hours to find dinner, and while there aren’t many items within a walkable distance from PNC Arena, some of the best food in North Carolina can be found a short drive from the arena. Let’s explore these by distance.

Walkable

  • PNC Arena Club – This facility will not be open during the NCAA Tournament events.
  • 86873184cd2d35ab4be9ed497d63dc4eBackyard Bistro – There are only two walkable options from the arena. Backyard Bistro is the good option. A former Damon’s location, the locally-owned Backyard Bistro features a terraced dining room with four giant TVs. I highly recommend the burger, as the meat is brought in from the nationally renowned Angus Barn daily. The other option is Wendy’s. The problem with Backyard Bistro is that if the restaurant is full, there really isn’t time for fans to return to their cars and drive anywhere decent.

Short Drive

Head North on Edwards Mill Road for one long block and you’ll discover Edwards Mill Village.

  • Bella Monica – One of the state’s best Italian restaurants. I highly recommend the lasagna. Some patio seating. Casual atmosphere. $$$
  • Char Grill – Raleigh’s own a walk-up-only burger joint classic. Outdoor picnic table dining. $
  • Stromboli’s – good, fairly quick casual Italian restaurant, across Edwards Mill from the strip center. $$
  • Also in this center are the Edwards Mill Bar and Grill, Rudino’s, and a quick Chinese place. These three aren’t bad, but are forgettable.

Heading West down I-40 to Harrison Avenue we find some outstanding dining options. Allow extra return time, as I-40 will offer extreme delays on the return.

  • dffb28f68f52e4bf897852306203bf10Bella Mia – One of the best pizza restaurants in the state. Coal-burning oven style. $$$
  • BurgerFi – Small national chain with excellent burgers. Fast casual, but has a superb patio with two large TVs showing basketball. $$
  • Bonefish Grill – National chain that is extremely popular. $$$$
  • Herons – If you have a couple of hours and want a Meal of the Year kind of night, Heron’s in The Umstead hotel is one of the best restaurants in America. $$$$$
  • 2bb9104bf253198599959e509bf4135eAn – one of the state’s best Asian restaurants. It is located in the shopping center next to Bass Pro Shops. However An is going to take about an hour and a half, so plan accordingly. $$$$
  • Ruth’s Chris – National steakhouse chain in the shopping center next to Bass Pro Shops. $$$$$
  • Firewurst – Local hot dog chain. Located to the right of Bass Pro Shops. $

Heading into Raleigh on Wade Avenue

  • Neomonde – Tucked behind the Waffle House on Hillsborough Street (across from Meredith) is one of the state’s best Mediterranean offerings. Fast-casual, market atmosphere. $$
  • Tripps – 80s fern bar is in the Whole Foods Shopping center. Food is fine, but completely forgettable. $$$
  • Whole Foods Market – You can always do the hot food bar at Whole Foods. Some seating is available (half outdoors). Beware, though. This is one of the chain’s most cramped stores. $$$

Moderate Drive

Lake Boone Trail/440 Area

  • Guasaca – The state’s best arepa restaurant. Fast-casual. $
  • Sushi-Thai – Good sushi, Japanese, and Thai offerings. Allow an hour. $$$
  • Village Deli – Not like a NY deli, but still quite good. Fast-casual. $
  • Buffalo Brothers – Sports bar with many TVs and a small patio. Food distributor-level food. $$

Crabtree Valley Mall

  • 5aa9d904f4b2060b3ad78672eef500c5Torii Noodle Bar – Don’t let the traditional trappings of a mall dissuade you from Torii. As I’ve written many times here, it is one of the best bargains in Raleigh. Full-service, but casual. No TVs or outdoor dining. $$

Crossroads

  • Taqueria Del Sol – Crossroads is a big-box collection of stores from Anywheresville, USA. However it does feature an outpost of one of America’s top-rated restaurateurs. Taqueria del Sol is a line-out-the-door hit in Atlanta, but its location in Cary remains one of the best-kept secrets in the state. $$

* * *

For fans not returning to the evening session, I recommend heading to downtown Raleigh, one of America’s most vibrant, walkable, and safe downtowns on a Friday or Saturday night. Most of the good restaurant action in the last decade has been in downtown. There are numerous noteworthy offerings, however here are five for starters (alphabetical order):

  • Bida Manda – Laotian restaurant is probably my favorite downtown offering. $$$$
  • Buku – Excellent collection of street food from around the world. Korean BBQ is fantastic. $$$$
  • Humble Pie – Fantastic tapas menu, with one of the best restaurant/bar patios in the state. $$$$
  • Poole’s Diner – On Tuesday Chef Ashley Christensen was named a 2014 James Beard Award Finalist for Best Chef in the Southeast. $$$$
  • Raleigh Times Bar – The place that really started it all. Gritty urban beerhouse feel, but the food is excellent. $$$

Warning: We’ve had much cold, rainy weather, and people have cabin fever. Adjust your schedule accordingly because the restaurants in Raleigh, especially downtown, are going to be packed this weekend. Wait times well over an hour will be common on Friday and Saturday nights.

We hope that your stay in Raleigh is fantastic, regardless of how your team fares!

Mar
10

gogo’s Alphabetical Channel Guide Shows Where the Damned Channel Is

twclogoTomorrow Time Warner Cable is putting their channel lineups into a blender. The result will be better groupings of channels, with automatic selection of HD channels. All channels below 100 will stay as-is.

The problem is, what do you do when you are used to going to channel 1500 to see SportsCenter? How do you find where Palladia and TLC went? Instead of searching through Time Warner’s Numeric channel guide, you can use the gogoraleigh Alphabetical Channel Guide. Simply fold it in half and keep it in a convenient place. It’s a free download, and it’s gogoraleigh’s way of thanking the readers for keeping gogo going (for 6 years now)!.

gogoraleigh’s Alphabetical TWC Channel Guide (.pdf)

Mar
04

Meet the Zones of North Hills

NHZonesA little over a decade ago the former North Hills Mall & Plaza began a transformation unlike any the area has seen. One of the first enclosed malls in the Southeast was razed and converted into a mixed use lifestyle center. The resulting project now includes the land that formerly held an apartment complex as well as some office buildings.

In recent years North Hills has improved their wayfinding, labling the three main properties as Districts: Main, Lassiter, and Park. They also color-coded each, and hung street pole banners to identify each for visitors (are you reading, N.C. State Fair?).

Look for the signs in North Hills, and get a better flavor for each of the districts.

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Note: Moving forward, businesses in North Hills will now be identified at gogoraleigh by district, rather than by the former names: “North Hills”, “The Lassiter”, and “North Hills East”.

Mar
03

Cowfish Named a NRN “Breakout Brand”

Nation’s Restaurant News last week published a list of restaurants across the nation to watch. The 10-restaurant survey picked Cowfish as one of its next “Breakout Brands”. The Charlotte-based, 2-store chain was founded by Elizabeth City-native, NCSU-grad Marcus Hall. The burger/sushi concept’s Raleigh store is located in North Hills’ Park District.

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Feb
28

Food Porn visits: Torii Noodle Bar

Today’s Food Porn excursion takes us to the home of Raleigh’s best dinner deal, Torii Noodle Bar. Torii sits next door to P.F. Chang’s at Crabtree, and at first blush was built to catch runoff from the neighboring restaurants’ long wait queues. In fact, Torii is more of a casual extension of the Kanki.

Torii offers multiple noodle dishes and sushi items. I am quite fond of the Wantan – Men Ramen bowl as well as the TonkoTsu pork noodle bowl. This is great cold weather food, especially the Katsu Curry (pork curry rice).

Recently, though, I discovered that the rice bowl dishes are almost exactly the same dishes that people are being served downstairs at the Kanki. The dish is a heaping portion rice, your choice of meat, and some broccoli. The rice bowl comes with a side of either Japanese soup or ginger salad, which are exactly the same dishes as those downstairs. The meat choices are Chicken, Steak, or Shrimp, but the prices are what blew me away: Chicken is $8 and the other two are $10. Yes, that dish pictured, with an appetizer salad with Kanki’s delicious ginger dressing was eight dollars. There isn’t a better deal in Raleigh, and given the recent changes for the horrible at Sarku (in the food court), there isn’t a more convenient way to get a quality serving of Japanese food for a modest price.

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Feb
27

TTA Video Features Orange/Durham Light Rail Flyover

A video tucked away neatly at ourtransitfuture.com shows a flyover of the planned light rail system for Chapel Hill and Durham. The 14-minute video begins behind the parking decks of UNC’s hospital, and follows the route all the way to its eastern terminus near NCCU, east of downtown Durham.

What’s remarkable in the plan is the amount of elevated guideway that is planned, especially in thinly populated areas of Chapel Hill. Elevated guideways significantly increase costs because each span between stanchions must hold the weight of a train and its passengers for each direction of track supported. The elevated guideways allow the train to travel through the wetlands of east Chapel Hill and to traverse large roads, such as 15-501, where grade separation is required. The section near the Smith Center is, perhaps, the most perplexing.

There seems to also be a difference in opinion between Orange and Durham Counties regarding the mixing of modes on existing streets. Grade level crossings are avoided, at great costs, in Chapel Hill where the MLK area of Durham integrates the rail down the road’s median and with its large intersections.

As I stated in the previous post, the plan really does a nice job at connecting most of the high-traffic destinations on the line. The line includes the UNC hospitals, the Smith Center, and Friday Center. While the line does not access the older parts of UNC’s campus, passengers can freely transfer to Chapel Hill’s excellent bus service for access to the older parts of campus (same goes for Duke). In Durham, Duke is accessed via its hospital. The plan presents several redevelopment nodes in Durham County, especially the Duke Street area where the system connects to Amtrak. While some of the planned stations are not at current population centers or destinations, they are at gaps in the city which will be easily filled, unlike the layout of Charlotte’s Blue Line.

Feb
27

Food Porn visits: Bella Mia

Tucked in a shopping center across Harrison Avenue from SAS in Cary is the Triangle’s best pizza. Bella Mia has a refreshing pizza menu, complete with items like broccoli, fresh basil, and excellent prosciutto. The high-quality ingredients hit a delicious dough, and go into Bella Mia’s coal-fired oven to make a delicious final product.

Pictured is the Sausage, Broccoli, and Smoked Mozzarella Pizza.

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Feb
26

Food Porn visits: Mami Nora’s

In 2007 Durham-based Mami Nora’s hit the scene and was an immediate success. The fast-food Peruvian Chicken outlet expanded over here to Raleigh in 2010, and was met with the same reception, and for good reason!

Mami Nora’s marinated rotisserie chicken is cooked with lump charcoal, and is one of the best quick bites in town. I recommend ordering a side of soft corn tortillas, rice, and beans and making little tacos. If this were one of those Southwestern places, they would have some tomato-based sauces. Alas this is not, but there is an extremely hot green chili sauce that is delicious.

I wrote about how Mami Nora’s could add some cheese and some salsas and take over the world. Diner have two options: bring your own bag of cheese and salsa, or better yet, just show up for Taco Tuesdays!

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Feb
25

FTA Approves Light Rail Development for Chapel Hill/Durham

LightRailTriangle Transit Authority tonight announced that the FTA has approved the request to begin development of a 17-mile light rail line that would connect Durham and Chapel Hill. The line would serve UNC, east Chapel Hill, the 15-501 corridor to South Square, Duke, Downtown, and NCCU. The project would use no rail corridors west of Duke University, instead using existing highway right of way.

The development phase will likely take 2 years, followed by a 3 year engineering phase. If all goes as planned, service would begin as early as 2024, and will cost $1.34 billion.

* * *

Whah! 1.34 billion for a 17-mile project? That comes to $79million per mile, but expect costs to probably double if all goes as planned. For comparison’s sake, the Triangle Parkway toll road cost 137.5million for a 3.4 mile stretch ($40m/mi) and the Western Wake Freeway cost $446.5 million  for a 12.6 mile stretch ($35m/mi). Those projects were completed in 2012.

Let the shouting match begin. People who oppose this are “backward”, “stupid”, and “living in the 50s” while those who are for it are “blowing all of our money” and “jacking up taxes”. Both sides have good points. A friction-free connector of the three universities and downtown Durham will really help all entities from a productivity standpoint. Perhaps if node-oriented development occurs, then fewer cars will be on the already congested, pathetic pair of roads that connect Chapel Hill and Durham.

On the other hand it isn’t prudent to ignore the costs and the state of technology. Light rail is a really expensive way to move people. One only has to look at Disneyworld to see a large transit system that has opted for bus transit for all expansion in the last 32 years. Also consider the prodigious number of transit systems that carry unsustainable costs. Are ridership projections accurate or would it turn out to be like Austin’s MetroRail which averages fewer than 2,500 riders a day? Granted, Austin’s routing execution was poor and it runs few trains per day, so it’s considered a $130 million flop in that city.

My prediction is that this line will get built, but the costs will more than double by the time it is built. Given the large number of college-oriented riders this system would have, it would probably be well-traveled, so we, the public, just have to figure out if we want to support its cost structure.

map of planned route at N&O

Feb
25

Food Porn visits: Firebirds

One of the best chains in America is the Charlotte-based Firebirds, a mid-level steakhouse. The 35-store outfit is priced to compete with the ubiquitous Outback Steakhouse, however the level of quality in every way is superior.

Today’s entry is the Chili-rubbed Delmonico Steak with a Loaded Baked Potato. This steak cut is a bit of a fatty one, however the chili rub on this piece of meat is outstanding, as is the quality of the bacon on that potato! While the hamburgers are disappointing, other sure-fired winners at Firebirds are the BLT Salad, the Grilled Tenderloin Salad, Colorado Chicken Salad, and the ribs (which are some of the Triangle’s best).

One of the best deals in Raleigh is the half rack of ribs from the kids menu. the $8 meal comes with two sides (nutritionally relevant choices include a salad, fruit, green beans, veggies, and mashed potatoes), milk/soft drink, and a small pack of Oreos. For about  a dollar more you can get a baked potato as one of the sides. It’s one of my daughter’s favorite meals in any restaurant.

Firebirds has locations at North Hills, Morrisville, and Southpoint Mall.

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Feb
24

Union Station Presentation Set for Thursday

UnionStationThe fourth public meeting regarding plans for Raleigh’s new train station, Union Station, will take place on Thursday from 6pm to 8pm. The public is invited to attend a brief presentation of updated plans at 6, followed by a review and comment session.

Union Station’s is a joint initiative project by the NCDOT Rail Division and the City of Raleigh. The project (site plan .pdf) aims to provide an adequate facility for current and future demands as well as offering an adequate platform size for longer trains. The current proposal calls for converting an abandoned warehouse at the end of W. Martin St. (behind Flanders Gallery) into a two story terminal. The building is the only structure in the triangular space, the “wye”, of a 3-way train intersection. The plan calls for putting a 39-car surface parking lot as well as passenger pickup/drop-off zones.

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Feb
24

Food Porn visits: Taverna Agora

Today’s Food Porn tour takes us to Taverna Agora, the crown jewel of Lou Moshakos’ LM Restaurant Group. The Greek taverna sits in a former Miami Subs location out Glenwood Avenue, but you would never know it as their food stands up pretty well to Greek restaurants like the excellent Kyma in Atlanta and the incredible Stella’s in Richmond.

Featured in today’s photo is the Chicken Fettucini (lemon chicken fettuccini with sautéed spinach, garlic,tomatoes, and fresh herbs in a white wine lemon sauce with Manouri cheese, $14). This dish is a full-on winner. The grilled pork chops dish, however, is phenomenal, and one of my favorite items served in Raleigh’s great selection of restaurants.

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A couple of other tips: The Greek Village Salad is excellent, but does not come with lettuce by default. Ask for lettuce if you want a Greek Salad like the ones served in most Greek restaurants. Avoid the Athenian Chicken.

Feb
21

Food Porn visits: Kimbap

Today’s Food Porn tour takes us to downtown Kimbap, a fast casual Korean restaurant in downtown Raleigh. Pictured is the Bibimbap, a mixed bowl of rice with bulgogi (beef), seasonal vegetables, kimchi, and a sunny side up egg. The sauces at Kimbap are excellent, but the pork dumplings are the best I’ve had anywhere.

kimbap

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