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Food Porn visits: Taqueria del Sol

Today we take you to Cary’s Crossroads Plaza where one of the most interesting southwestern restaurants in the area quietly sits. Taqueria del Sol is an 8-store chain out of Atlanta, with a fast-casual setting. The restaurant serves some tacos and enchiladas, along with an always-interesting full entrée weekly special. The salsas, cheese, and chowders are excellent, but I’ve selected the Chicken Enchilada with Red Pepper Sauce for this entry. Also recommended: the Green Pepper Sauce (HOT).



Food Porn visits: Bahama Breeze

One of the Darden food group’s best properties is Bahama Breeze, a Caribbean-themed, 38-store national chain restaurant. Be prepared to wait for a table, though, as Bahama Breeze seems to be always crowded. Pictured here is one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had in North Carolina, Bahama Breeze’s Blackened Chicken Pasta. The cream sauce is somewhat heavy, but isn’t so rich or overwhelmed with garlic that the dish gets monotonous. Add some parboiled asparagus, and you have a delicious entrée.

With the pasta I’ve also selected a photo of the Yaka Hula Hickey Dula, a delicious Hawaii-inspired concoction of pineapple juice, Meyer’s Dark, and Bacardi 151.

Also recommended: Bahama Breeze’s ribs are in my Top 5 of the Triangle.

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Food Porn visits: Bida Manda

One of my favorite restaurants in the Triangle is downtown’s Bida Manda . The restaurant’s theme is Laotian, which finds itself somewhat between Chinese, Thai, and Indian. Pictured is the outstanding Amphone’s Chicken Curry. Also suggested: the Laotian Sausage-stuffed Peppers.



Food Porn visits: Rise

The line at Rise Biscuits & Donuts is out the door for a reason. Once you get over to the strip shopping center next to SouthPoint’s SuperTarge, you’ll find a fascinating menu and food that never disappoints. Beware: Rise closes daily at 2pm (5pm on Fridays). Pictured is the Chorizo and Egg Biscuit. I also highly recommend the ham biscuit.



Food Porn Visits: Guasaca

OMG, have you been to Guasaca ? The Venezuelan-inspired arepas are the most interesting quick bite around. Pictured (L->R) are a chicken arepa, a shredded beef arepa, and a cup of Guasaca sauce, a Venezuelan cousin to guacamole.



Food Porn Visits: Weinberg’s Deli (RIP)

Until mid-2013 North Raleigh’s Weinberg’s Deli served the area’s best Reuben sandwich as well as a fantastic Rachel. Pictured here is the Heidelberg, if I’m not mistaken. It was a heart-attack on a plate, but delicious for some occasional European decadence. We’ll miss you, Weinberg’s.



Food Porn Visits: An

Awwwww yeah babe. Today the tour takes you to An , the outstanding locally-owned Asian restaurant in Cary. The lunch portion of the Red Snapper is flat-out incredible (and gorgeously prepared)



Are You Ready for Some Food Porn?

Now that football season is over, we can get on to America’s second-favorite pastime, Eating. For the rest of February you’ll feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs, all thanks to gogoraleigh.com. The Triangle is bursting with delicious food, and while there are great sources of food writing, gogoraleigh wants to bring the area’s culinary choices to you in a different way, in pictures.

Let’s get this thing rolling with a delicious dish at Torii Noodle Bar in Crabtree Mall. This is Torii’s Pork Curry Bowl. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, and it’s perfect for winter.



West II Bringing More Apartments to Downtown

WestII As Raleigh’s booming apartment demand continues, developers continue to try to keep pace. The next compact, large apartment complex comes to the Glenwood South area. “West Apartments II”, a project by West at North developer Greg Sandreuter, will bring 177 apartment units to the intersection of Harrington and Johnson Streets, adjacent to West at North’s Northeast corner. The 5-story project is designed by J Davis, and, according to the Preliminary Site Plan Preliminary Site Plan, features a couple of stories of interior parking garage (that connect into West at North), bike storage, a pool (non-rooftop), and garden areas. Elevations indicate small street-level retail spaces, much like those at West at North, however floorplans don’t specify any detail about this.

It appears that Sandreuter learned many lessons from West at North, the large, tall, overbuilt condo building. This project seems to be much more to scale with the future streetscape of the area, so its residents will remain in touch with the vibe at street level unlike those stuck up high in West at North. West II will be a success because of its location; adjacent to one of the most walkable and popular areas in NC for singles yet car-friendly.

There are several areas, however, where this project could be improved. The façade features beige and red brick, along with EIFS siding in its higher floors. Much like condo projects on Glenwood, Tucker, and Oberlin, this project completely lacks architectural flair, and will do nothing to visually stand out among comparable projects.

WestII_layout The floorplan features around 34 units per floor, all situated around wells overlooking five different courtyards. In order to accomplish these C-shaped clusters of apartments, the architect chose to implement odd, triangle-shaped units to round the corners. In fact about 15 of the 34 units (44%) on each floor are essentially triangles. This will make for many decorating headaches and/or wasted spaces.

* * *

The low-lying area bounded by Peace, Capital Blvd, Edenton Street, and the railroad track (which overpasses Peace) is the area of downtown with the most potential to be a livable, serviceable neighborhood with excellent transit access. The blocks are currently littered with light industrial one-story buildings of no historic or architectural value, so it is an area that will most certainly be 100% replaced in the next couple of decades.

Raleigh needs to proceed carefully here, though, because the potential for the area is so great. How much retail vs. residential spaces is needed in this rectangle? Does Raleigh want Peace Street’s south edge to be lined with retail and car-centric, or should Peace Street just be a thoroughfare for cars to efficiently move without interaction with pedestrians and erratic retail traffic?

This is the prime area for an impressive downtown grocery store. Publix has expressed interest in opening a store in downtown Raleigh, but national fresh-focused chains like Sprouts and Earth Fare are expanding to/in this area as well. Add to those three the fact that Whole Foods on Wade Avenue is bursting at the seams and cannot meet demand. With these safe blocks of blank canvas in the heart of a booming apartment market, it is almost a slam dunk to expect an excellent grocer to strongly consider this zone of downtown.

Instead of one of these grocers entering this area of downtown with a low, large-footprint store and a  sea of parking, wouldn’t it be neat if the store, its parking, and some residential were all combined into one complex? Whole Foods’ home office in Austin sits above two levels of parking garage accessible by travelator, but includes a moderately sized office highrise in the complex as well. A project like West II would be much better for the area if its street level access did more for the neighborhood than just offering a couple of garage accesses. This is be no means the criteria for success for all apartment projects in downtown, however it is a way of thinking that developers need to adopt. There is much money to be made in the downtown grocery business, and the developer who gets it right, first, will profit greatly while offering downtown residents a great service.

West Apartments II will be reviewed by the Planning Commission on Thursday (2/6) at 4:30pm.

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New Time Warner Lineups Coming, Locals Shafted

TWC_logo This week Time Warner Cable announced a major shakeup to their channel lineup. By automatically selecting the picture mode and reestablishing channel groups, channels should be easier to navigate. The rearrangement also gives more space for TWC’s higher margin channels, movies and On Demand. The changes take place on March 11, 2014.

Channels 1-99 will stay the same, however nearly every channel above 100 will have a new assignment according to the following groups:

  • Entertainment, Life, and Style (100s)
  • News & Information (Lower 200s)
  • Kids & Teens (Upper 200s)
  • Music (Upper Upper 200s)
  • Sports (300s)
  • Movies & Premiums (500s, 600s)
  • Sport Packages (700s)
  • Latino (800s)
  • On Demand (1000s)
  • Local Programming (1200s)
  • International (1400s)
  • Adult (1800s)
  • Radio (1900s)
  • TWC Info (1998)

Because high-definition is the new norm, it appears that the SD version of channels with an HD signal are being dropped. This means that there will no longer be a “+1000” HD counterpart for each lower channel. ESPN HD will be 300, and there just won’t be an ESPN SD. This should make navigating easier…until UHD (“4K”)  content is offered.

It is an excellent improvement that one can access HD channels with only a 3-digit number. However the most popular channels, CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox, are in disarray in the far reaches of the 1200s , requiring 4-digits. WRAL, “channel 5”, moves from 1105 to…1209. WTVD, “channel 11”, moves to…1200. How is that an improvement? These new assignments neither follow the patterns of long-held Over the Air channel assignments nor TWC’s arbitrary single digit assignments. These are the customers’  favorite channels, and they should be offered in more intuitive positions. THEY should occupy the 100 tier, while everything else should be pushed up 100 channels. Sport packages, a very light seller, should be in the 1400s (1000 higher than the 400s, where other sports should be), and Internationals should share the 900s with Latino.

There is still no word, thankfully, about any changes to the Clear QAM channels. Last March the FCC removed the requirement that cable companies offer content that can be obtained freely over the air (with an antenna) with no equipment restrictions. In other words until the FCC’s ruling last year, TWC was required to offer WRAL on 5.1 so that your HDTV could scan and tune this channel without a cable box. Now there is no law forbidding TWC from requiring a box for any channel. (eventually the system will have to drop their analog channels, thus requiring a set top box for every TV – no 1-99 in other words).

There is no need to obtain new equipment for the new channel lineups. Cable boxes will cough, sputter, and reboot magically on 3/11 and load the new channel assignments. For those of us with CableCard equipment (Windows Media Center, TiVo), however, we will have to run a rescan manually to download the new assignments.

Download a PDF of the new lineups, by channel .


Beer Garden Coming to Glenwood South

The Hibernian group has submitted plans to the city for a beer garden-type bar. The plan calls for the non-descript 2-story building at 614 Glenwood, next to Harry’s Guitar shop, to be converted into a small bar with a large outdoor patio in the side and back yards. The site will likely offer a neat getaway with good views of downtown.


A Plan for UNC’s Dean Smith Center

From the Vault:

deandome_sink On Monday the News & Observer’s Andrew Carter published an article about UNC doing a feasibility study about Smith Center renovations. While the university claims the facility is still "first rate", fans and recruits know better. Access to the building is among the worst in the country, seating is cramped, bathrooms are dirty and in disrepair, there are no luxury boxes for revenue generation, and student seating is too far from the court to offer a home court advantage like other teams enjoy. The photo shows the men’s room situation, where those who choose to wash their hands are rewarded with only a frigid trickle of water and empty soap dispensers.

None of this is new, however. In 2000 Tar Heel fans had these same complaints about the then 15-year old Smith Center. I submitted four options (featuring 4 to-scale cutaway diagrams) to then Athletic Director Dick Baddour with only a polite form letter in reply. Unfortunately the only renovations since that time have focused on player and coach areas and lower level chair replacement. Problems with the building remain, and it is good that the university is reviewing options.

Attached is the 2008 gogoraleigh post that reposted the original 2000 plans for renovating the Smith Center. The success of the student section behind the home goal shows that Project 1a is quite feasible, and likely the rest still are.

There once was a snowy night back in the year 2000. As two feet of snow fell on the Triangle, the UNC Tar Heels were to face the Maryland Terrapins in the Dean Smith Center. Weather prevented most ticket holders from attending, so all seating was opened to general admission. The the court was surrounded by screaming students and those at the game said it was "magic" as the Heels upset the Terps. On my twelve-year-old UNC blog, Tar Heel HOOPla , I posted some ideas for renovating the Smith Center shortly after the game. The plans would allow the court to be permanently surrounded by students while appeasing the building’s donors. (I also sent these to Athletic Director Richard Baddour, but only received a polite form letter in return.) As the Dean Dome completes its 23rd season, not much has changed. The building doesn’t allow the team to get the most support possible. It isn’t a lost cause, though. These same ideas could still be applied to give UNC a better home court advantage. Here is that 2000 article:

Dana’s Smith Center Renovation Plans

As UNC plays its 15th season in the Smith Center , the debate over student seating rages on. Both of the times in the 15 years that seating has been changed to “general admission”, the court has been surrounded by students, and the players have responded with a resounding performance. This could become the norm for the Smith Center with some easy improvements. Clearly N.C. State has shown with their new arena that placing students, the most active and audible fans, around the court creates an intimate, loud setting in a large venue. Simply reassigning student tickets to the first several rows will not suffice as students usually stand for the entire game. Because the lower level descends to the court surface smoothly, the only way to accommodate standing students without obstructing other lower level patrons is to sink the front rows.

Project #1

Dean_dome_proj1a Project #1 focuses on placing students around the basketball court. To date there are two popular solutions floating around. One plan, Project 1a, involves replacing the current collapsible seating in the first 11 rows with lower-rise collapsible seating. Given that the 12th row (the first row of permanent seating) patrons should not have their view obstructed by standing students, there should be a drop-off of 43″ from the 12th to 11th rows. This will allow patrons to see over rowdy students that are up to 6′2″ tall. The first row of permanent seats, unobstructed, would become a premium seat location. This new seating would seat students exclusively, so the quality of the chair is not important. Seat width can be as narrow as the seats upstairs, too, since students won’t be using these seats as much as paying patrons.

While Project 1a is a fairly inexpensive solution, it substantially compromises the students’ view. If the current collapsible seating were removed, there would be a wall about 96″ high just in front of the 12th row. After accounting for a 43″ drop, the new collapsible seating could only be 53″ tall. Given those dimensions,11 rows of collapsible seating would only provide an 8.8 degree rise from the floor. While this is almost 50% steeper grade than the current configuration at N.C. State, 8.8 degrees is still too shallow to enjoy the game to the fullest. Also, these seats would be decidedly inferior to those currently in place for non-basketball events. Dean_dome_proj1b

Project 1b replaces the collapsible seating with the best overall aesthetic and functional solution. In this plan the collapsible seating and Smith Center playing surface would be removed and the floor would be excavated 82″ down. A new floor and collapsible seating would be installed.

This new, lowered section of collapsible seating would ascend not at the current 15 degree angle, but at the 20 degree angle seen in the permanent rows of the lower level. Keeping this 20 degree angle is essential to preserving the views of the students and the ticket-holders in those seats for non-basketball events.

In either plan the permanent aisles would not be confluent with the new fold-back seating, so the aisles would have to be reconfigured in at least 4 places so that students in lower rows could access the concourse. While the removal of the existing fold-back risers and the reconfiguration of a few aisles would remove several seats, the new seating arrangement would put nearly 2800 students in the first 11 rows lining the court providing the rowdiest, most intimidating home-court atmosphere in the nation.

Projects 2, 3, and 4 outline several ideas concerning the addition of luxury suites to the Smith Center. While luxury suites can ease UNC’s budget, they also can offer some incentives for lower level patrons to give up the seats affected by Project #1.

Project #2

Dean_dome_proj2 Project #2 involves replacing the current suites and seats under the second level overhang with luxury suites. These suites would be replete with 8 leather seats overlooking the playing surface, a countertop for bar and food service, a television, and a private bathroom.

Fifty-two such luxury suites could be placed with ease in the Smith Center. ( seating map ) There would be two non-adjoining suites at the top of sections 127, 126, 125, 124, 121, 118, 117, 116, 113, 110, 109, 108, 107, 104, 101, 100, 133, and 130. Single suites would top sections 123, 122, 120, 119, 115, 114, 112, 111, 106, 105, 103, 102, 132, 131, 129, and 128. Each suite would need to be about 15 feet deep (from the back of the second row of leather seats to the concourse door). In order to accommodate the addition of the suite, approximately five rows (Z, AA, BB, CC, DD) of current seating would need to be removed (shown in grey).

Project #3

Dean_dome_proj3 Project #3 involves the construction of a “halo” ring of luxury suites. Due to the design of the Smith Center, the only way to achieve this is to essentially build a structure resembling a ring of Kenan Stadium press boxes. These suites could actually be as large as desired, but are portrayed in the illustration as being 15′ deep. These suites would contain all the amenities mentioned in the lower level suites, but also would have a private concourse and elevator service to the Bowles Room. As shown in the diagram, about 3 rows of current seating (rows W, X, and Y) would be sacrificed to the 2 rows of leather luxury seats.

Clearly the view from a halo box is inferior to all others in the arena, so some incentives would need to be offered. First class wait service and food of the quality level of the Carolina Club would be offered. Halftime and final game statistics would also be delivered to each suite. Pampering the patrons in the halo boxes is an absolute must, though, in order to fill such suites.

Project #4

Dean_dome_proj4 Project #4, the most aggressive plan, focuses on placing luxury suites in the bottom of the upper level. Certainly the edge of the upper level is a cherished view, and these such suites would be even more cherished. In order to accommodate a suite in this prime location, a massive overhaul of the Smith Center would have to occur. Because rows E, F, and G and the vomitories would be removed, a separate, third level concourse for rows H through Y would have to be built over the current concourse. Stairways, restrooms, and concession stands would be placed in exterior additions to the existing Smith Center structure.

The second level suites would get their own concourse which would overlook the first floor (existing) concourse. These suites would have four rows of luxury seating, accommodating 32 patrons. Because the upper level ascends at an unbroken 34 degree rise, there would be an uncovered portion approximately 14′ 7″ deep. Some privacy could be offered by mounting an awning (shown as a heavy read line) at the end of the suite’s ceiling. Two private restrooms may be needed in these suites.

Certainly the Smith Center is one of the finest college venues in America, however some improvements could make the Heels more formidable at home. Clearly what is best for the team is placing the students around the court. As we saw in UNC’s game against Maryland and in all of N.C. State’s home games, students give a major boost to the team. While surrounding the court with students will make games more lively, those holding seats on the first 11 rows will have to be displaced. Surely there will be resistance to reassignment from some Smith Center donors. However plenty would minimally sacrifice their seat location in the name of improving the arena’s atmosphere. It is time for everyone involved to do what is best for the University.


Atlanta Braves Shun Downtown, Transit with Stadium Announcement

newbravesstadium Today the Atlanta Braves announced that they will leave the 16-year old Turner Field and build a new stadium out at the Perimeter (I-285) and I-75. The Braves have played in downtown Atlanta since 1966, but this move will take the team 15 miles away, to Suburbia. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Braves executive Derek Schiller said,

“It’s also important that the access around the stadium … is greatly enhanced (by) having those major road ways — I-75, I-285, Cobb Parkway — and having a whole range of improved access points and ways to get to and from the stadium,” Schiller said. “… We fully believe that the access to the site will be greatly enhanced for our fans. That starts with roadways. Today, most of our fans arrive via car, and getting to this (new) site via car from all sorts of different directions is easier.”

Roads roads roads. Meanwhile in Raleigh city leaders are quietly doing long-range planning for a replacement for the 14-year old PNC Arena. A replacement isn’t coming in the next decade or two, however downtownist leaders, bemoaning the suburban location of the suburban arena, are considering just which downtown site would work best for the city. These same leaders are also pushing forward with plans to install a rail system which, supporters say, will spur rail-oriented development foci around the system’s stations.

What will probably be ignored as “stupid Atlanta”, a phrase mentioned frequently by Raleigh planners, is that the Braves, a private organization, are planning to spend $675 million on a facility that could not be farther away from transit and still match the population footprint . Atlanta has 48 miles of heavy rail that directly accesses its airport, and one of the city’s most important businesses for Tourism is running away as fast as it can.

So, here is the question: will Raleigh continue to seek an Atlanta-level rail system? Will Raleigh continue to believe that it has some different quality that would make its rail attractive to development and the entertainment industry, unlike Atlanta? Does Raleigh really have what it takes to not exactly mimic Atlanta’s failures?

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