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Sedona Opens Southwestern Options


6/30/08 Note: This restaurant is now closed.

The evolution of Raleigh is fun to watch. When I was young, my parents, who once relocated to Houston for a year, were big fans of Mexican food. Back then Tippy’s Tacos were it; the only thing in town. They dragged me there kicking and screaming and I’d steadily order the corn dog. I didn’t like that weird stuff.

I have evolved and so has Raleigh. I crave Mexican or Southwestern food several times a week and almost never eat corn dogs. My favorite celebrity chef is Rick Bayless, and his PBS show is fantastic. For years the options around here were limited to El Rodeo variants. Jibarra opened the door to finer Mexican dining, and now Sedona gives us another great option.

Tucked away in a jinxed location behind the gas station at Pleasant Valley Promenade ( map it ), Sedona is the new concept by the owners of the site’s former oyster bar restaurant. The oyster bar and bar area occupy the majority of the restaurant’s space and the dining room has been minimally decorated to a southwestern theme.

Sedona_beef Chef Michael Juers’ food is the star of this restaurant, though. The dinner menu is varied, yet moderate in length. Eleven entrees offer four seafood dishes and no vegetarian dishes. Four-colored chips are all fried well and come with a delicious red salsa and an interesting tomatillo salsa. I am not a huge fan of tomatillo variant salsas as the primary option, so I was thoroughly satisfied by this delicious option.

During one visit I enjoyed the pork tamales on the lunch menu. The tamales are excellent and come with “Colorado sauce”, which was a dark mole-ish sauce that did not overpower the pork. I am excited to see places offer meats other than chicken and steak in these dishes and this one had me satisfied. We also enjoyed the fat chicken enchiladas which presented a quite “grande” portion for lunch. They, too, are covered in the Colorado sauce.

Dinner was excellent. I had the Skillet Seared Beef Medallions which are coriander-rubbed, goat cheese topped, and sit upon three different chili sauces; green, red, yellow. What I loved about this dish was the variety that the three sauces offer. Each sauce was somewhat light (especially the sweet yellow one), and did not overpower the beef. As I made my way through the meal, I never found myself bored. The dish also comes with a sweet potato version of pommes frites. These were not a success, however, as they were tough and akin to eating cardboard.

Sedona_chimichanga Other dishes at the table were the chicken quesadillas (mild and perfect for children) and the chicken chimichangas. The chimichangas were beautifully prepared, sliced and on-ends, but had a strange surprise to the palate. The sauce heavily leaned toward an Italian red sauce. The dish was delicious, it was just almost a fusion type of thing. I can imagine this is not by design.

Another dish at the table was tricolor tortilla battered fried shrimp. This was a flop, though, because the tortillas don’t add enough interesting flavor to the shrimp. It did come with a sweet sauce that I didn’t love (I’m having trouble finding this on the online menu).

Service at one visit was fair while another visit was poor (15 minute wait for drinks and scant refills on drinks and chips). The restaurant was only about 10% full at each visit. Hopefully that will improve because the food deserves it. The menu’s prices are somewhat between the level of El Rodeo and Jibarra, mostly in the $15 range. There is a brunch menu now, though Sedona’s website is unclear as to when this menu is available.

Aside from the excellent food, the restaurant gave me a creepy vibe. This will surely fade as the restaurant fills and the wait staff smoothes out some glitches.


WQDR Wins Radio Ratings

The 4th quarter Arbitron radio ratings book is out and WQDR (94.7 – country) finished first with a 7.4 rating. It was followed closely by WQOK (97.5 – Urban Contemporary) with a 7.1 and WRAL (101.5 – Adult Contemporary) with a 6.9. For the year of 2007, WQDR closely edged WQOK for first.

Surprising were the ratings for talk. WNNL (Contemporary Inspirational) finished 6th with a 5.4 while sports talk rivals WCMC (99.9) and WRBZ (850AM) finished with paltry 0.8 and 0.9 scores. 0.9 and 0.8 scores (17th and 16th overall).

Most interesting (and disturbing) is the year that 101.5 had. Their first quarter ratings were a poor 3.5 and slowly progressed to 5.1 for the third quarter. It wasn’t until they pulled their stunt of overwhelming Christmas music for over a month that they popped into the top 5. The message loud and clear here to WRAL is to play Christmas music as early as possible. Their strong 4th quarter rating of 6.9 is what it took to beat AM conservative talk radio staple WPTF for the year.


Ruth’s Chris Replacing JK’s in North Hills

RuthsChrislogo TBJ reported today that JK’s steakhouse in North Hills is being replaced with the area’s second Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse , opening April 1. Rumors have been floating about Ruth’s Chris coming to anchor the Renaissance Hotel (warning: music), but the formula didn’t seem right with JK’s just around the corner.

J.K.’s will close on February 23rd and will move to a new location in Raleigh later this year.


Umstead Hotel, Restaurant, and Spa Earn 4-Star Mobil Status

umstead Cary’s Umstead Hotel ( official site ) has been awarded 4-star status by the Mobil Travel Guide . The hotel joins other North Carolina hotels receiving 4-star status such as Asheville’s Inn on Biltmore Estate and Richmond Hill Inn , Charlotte’s Ballantyne Resort , and Pinehurst’s Carolina Hotel . The Fearrington House Country Inn was the state’s only 5-star designee.

Heron’s restaurant (in The Umstead) (official link) also received a 4-star designation. It joins other North Carolina restaurants such as the Carolina Crossroads in Chapel Hill, Charlotte’s Gallery Restaurant , and Pittsboro’s Fearrington House Restaurant . 162 restaruants received the award nationally. No restaurants in the state were among the 17 national 5-star award winners.

According to Mobil:

herons It seems like an oxymoron—gourmet dining in a suburban hotel, but Herons at the Umstead Hotel is an exception. Tucked inside a large hotel in Cary, a suburb of Raleigh/Durham, Herons puts a Southern spin on American cuisine in a fashionable setting complete with a 2500-bottle wine cellar. The food is seriously good, but far from serious, and there’s even a spa menu designed for those participating in the hotel’s spa program. Of course, decadence is also available, beginning with the restaurant’s homemade cinnamon bun French toast with brown sugar streusel at breakfast and ending with the luscious brownie sundae baked Alaska.

The prestigious 4-star award is the latest for the upscale hotel developed by SAS’ Jim Goodnight. The hotel won 5-Diamond honors by AAA recently.

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J B Smoove Coming to Charlie Goodnight’s

smoove You may know him as "Leon Black" from HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm , or you may know him as Trucky from from Pootie Tang . Comedian J B Smoove will be at Charlie Goodnight’s nightly from March 13 thru March 16. Tickets are still available.

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