Taste of Raleigh: Hot Point Cafe

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If you want a nice change from Panera – go here. (Picture taken with my phone – sorry for the quality.)
I really wasn’t planning on eating out today for lunch, but I wanted a quiet(er) place for lunch and didn’t want to sit in my apt by myself. So, I had looked at this place online and went hunting in North Hills. Found it.
This is a trendier Panera. Same price (about) for what you get. I actually think you get more on the salads. The soups were smaller and not a wide variety. Sandwiches looked good, but Panera’s are bigger. They also had meals for dinner – but they were definitely higher (to fit the North Hills market) and they also served a wknd brunch.
I enjoyed the quiet – slightly busy and I was there from 1130-145. Not bad at all. I just enjoyed the warmth and breeze as I sat outside.
I had the small Greek salad and a refillable unsweet tea for $7.22. As you can see from the picture, they don’t skimp on the small. There was TONS of feta, black olives, artichokes, greens, roasted red peppers, cuks, and raw mashrooms. It also came with a triangle of their sun dried tomato focaccia bread (good flavor, but a little dry). I asked for the balsamic vinegar on the side – so good. It was sweeter than most.
So – if you are looking for a place that isn’t as busy (maybe a place to meet with a girlfriend and sit for hours) – there you go…

Taste of Durham: Watts Grocery

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I love LOCAL. I wish Raleigh had more eat local restaurants – but alas, will have to keep making the drive to Durham and Chapel Hill.
Watts Grocery is on Broad Street – near the 9th Street district and one of Duke’s campuses. This wasn’t here when I lived in Durham and worked near the spot of the restaurant. My friend Kristin recommended this place and it was a winner.
They are only open for brunch for a few hours on Saturday. We got there about 25 minutes after they opened and we had a 20 minute wait. But, the line kept building, so this place has earned quite a reputation.
All local farms provide the food for this restaurant.
I had Little Red Wagon Farms granola (from Chapel Hill) – but Louisville people – you can buy it too! Yogurt was delicious – a vanilla kind maybe from Chapel Hill Creamery, or another local farm. Topped with blueberries, raisins, and strawberries and pecans. Very good. House made english muffin with fresh butter and blueberry preserves. Good local eats.
Kristin had the huevos rancheros – made with red beans for a slight change. She said hers was great too!
Will be making another trip: the blood orange mimosa sounds good and the toasted pimiento cheese sandwich or the strawberry caramel filled french toast. How can you go wrong?

Taste of Raleigh: Bella Monica Flatbread Company

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Italian food. Comfort food.

There is a small, local Italian place within a 1/2 mile of home and I finally had a chance to go tonight. Definitely had to make reservations and had great company.

I tried to be a little on the healthy side – so I didn’t have any ooey gooey cheese – will have to go back and try something that has cheese!

1. The hospitality. Like an Italian family dinner table. They were excited we were there, people in white chef’s coats brought out our food, and they were very welcoming even when we were leaving. They weren’t shoving us out of there and couldn’t care less about how long we stayed and talked.
2. The meatballs. Perfectly seasoned and not dry at all – that’s what I like. Maybe I need to go back and get a huge meatball sub!
3. Option for whole wheat pasta. I went for the whole wheat penne – I could be a little healthy.
4. The tomato sauce. Not too spicy, not too chunky. Perfect for a pasta sauce. Right on!
5. My friends enjoyed their meal: chicken parm and stuffed shells. They both said they were great.

The Wish Was Better:
1, The bread. Definitely dig any other Italian place’s bread better than here. Dry and not too flavorful.
2. The bruschetta. They were cheap (which was good for an appetizer) but neither were really that good: blue crab on one and chicken liver pate on the other. I could have passed on both.
3. The non-descript salad. Yes it was good. But there was nothing special about it.

Would I go again – yes, definitely trying something cheesy this next time.
Would I make it my go to Italian place? Not yet – and definitely the chains are better so far.
Have heard amazing things about their pizza – so may hit that up soon!

Taste of Mooresville: Lancaster's BBQ

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What kind of BBQ fan are you? Is it a noun or a verb? Do you like Memphis, TX, Sonny’s, Eastern, Western, TN, KY – so many people out there and everyone with an opinion on BBQ. Well…
Here is mine…
I had one of the best BBQ sandwiches ever to be put in my mouth today. Definitely worth the 2 hour and 20 minute drive and the 3.85 per sandwich. The chopped cole slaw and the mild sauce (not vinegar) made this sandwich dynamite!
It is definitely a fave of my sister-in-laws and a gas station in Mooresville has it for sale on Sundays.
The homemade chips are great and not too salty – fun to eat when dipped in ranch dressing. They also come seasoned if you want them – cajun style – that is how Alan chose to eat his – dipped in their vinegar sauce.
So good – go now.

Taste of Raleigh: El Rodeo

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Went to lunch with some co-workers today to really talk about children’s ministry – and you can definitely talk for a while over chips and salsa.
We went to a place across the street from the church called El Rodeo (no www). Typical mexican place – nicer ambience than some other local places.
Liked our waiter – he was very nice. The food came out in about 6 minutes – really – we were surprised at how fast it was. We went a little after 11am and were the first ones there, but by the time we left about 1240 it was more full.
I got the sincronizada – a vegetarian tortilla sandwich: mushroom, onion, pepper, jalepenos, and cheese – with sliced avocado on top. My mouth was on fire but it was absolutely wonderful! I loved it. 6.75 got me that, a huge portion of rice (which wasn’t anything to rave about and I only took a few bites), chips (again, blah chips) and salsa (I really liked their salsa).
So…good to know there is a good place close by – but I’ll still be looking for good Mexican places in the area!

Taste of Raleigh: Wildflour Boston Pizza

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For 6 months I lived within walking distance of this place and never went. Today was the first day I ventured out with a co-worker to check out a little corner restaurant in Stonehenge (N. Raleigh) for lunch: Wildflour Boston Pizza.
Ok – I don’t thnk I had even heard of Boston Pizza. Yeah, of course – Chicago, New York, CPK, homemade, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Little Caesar…we have our favorites…but Boston?
I wasn’t even planning on getting pizza…
But, I saw the price (7 for a small – 6 slices – and 1.45 for each topping) and the fact that I could get it with whole wheat crust – that sold me on it!
Tall-sided crust, medium bottom crust, crunchy, not your typical mozzerella cheese, and fresh roma tomatoes! I even had a little avocado put on top from my friend’s fiesta salad.
It was…good. The pizza and conversation was much better than the service. It wasn’t that crowded, but it seemed to take a while for us to get our order and we had to wait for straws, etc. Our server wasn’t overly friendly – just soft-spoken and matter of fact.
So…do I have to go again tomorrow because everything was fantabulous – no. But, would I go again – yes.

Taste of Morrisville: Smokey's BBQ Shack

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Just off of the beaten path… (I’m singing an Alabama song as I write that) – in Morrisville is a little trailer type restaurant on the side of the ride, picnic table outside, gravel parking lots, red front door.
Smokey’s BBQ Shack just started opening on the weekends and by the time we left it was definitely pretty full by the locals. It was NC bbq – smoked meat (I tried the pork and chicken, taking most of the chicken as leftovers) with a vinegar based sauce. The pork was good – wasn’t dry and tasted good with the sauce. The sides I ordered: green beans and french fries – neither were as good as Sonny’s. But…the pork and the little hushpuppies made up for it.
What was the two best things about this restaurant: the atmosphere (roll of paper towels on each table, laid back, unpretentious in every way) and the company. This is a place my friend would always go to when she lived there. Janel moved to the Windy City but got her sweet tea fix just minutes after the airport yesterday.

Taste of Raleigh: Assaggio's

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The ladies at Providence took me out to lunch – had fun getting to know them better. Right across the street was this little Italian place, cafe, good place for lunch. By the time we left it was pretty full.
I got the special which was under $6 and included a refillable drink, a HUGE slice of pizza with one topping, and a salad. Since we also had a large group, they brought us baskets of garlic knots.
The unsweet tea and garlic knots rocked. Little pieces of garlic were in the bottom of the basket – yummy. I had half of one – very good.
The salad was generic but good – refreshing before I put pizza in my mouth.
The pizza was good: not very cheesy, liked the thickness, liked the mushrooms, was almost cold by the time I got it (I blame it on the large group).
The company was wonderful. Refills and price were great. And the service was good and friendly.
The pizza and salad – not much to write home about. Maybe I’ll go back for another meal and try something else.

Taste of Chattanooga: Niko's Southside Grill

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Perfect timing. On the way to Chattanooga on Thursday, my Mom called with news of her new Southern Living magazine. She said there was a right up of Chattanooga. Well, this might prove very helpful.
We chose to go to Niko’s – which was featured in Southern Living.
We called and made reservations for Friday night at 5pm, but none was needed – it was really early on a Friday night so it was pretty quiet. I’m sure it was hopping by the end of the night.
Drew was our exceptional waiter – who even knew the greens that we had on our main course and recommended a great dessert. He was also friendly and very prompt.
The atmosphere was slightly trendy yet classic. Liked it. It was also quiet, but not pretentious.
To start: calamari: oh goodness yum and tender – we downed it all!
The bread came out then – light loaf with I think asiago on top which made it a bit salty – so I just took the top off. Even asiago bagels I don’t like because of the saltiness of this particular cheese.
We order twin filets with brandy jus, greens (arugula and spinach) and roasted red potatoes. My steak was cooked perfectly medium and Aarica’s was a little too done for her exceptional liking. But the greens made up for her medium well steak – they were outstanding. The brandy jus brought the sweetness out contrasted with the peppery bite of the arugula.
For dessert we shared the white chocolate torte with grilled pineapple – I loved the white chocolate torte, let Aarica have the pineapple after it also had a charcoal-y grill taste much like the steak.
Over all – price was decent – 44$ then tip. Atmosphere was good, food was good, and the service was exceptional.

Taste of Chattanooga: Chattanooga Cupcake

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I love the downtown area of Chattanooga: stores, restaurants, theatres, the Tennessee River, the aquarium. I first learned of it a few years ago by sightseeing with a friend, but now I just love to explore.
Today I went there for lunch and dessert. Dessert was a no-brainer when we saw the sign “Chattanooga Cupcakes”. (The wonderful pictures will come Sunday because I can’t get them to load.)
The folks in there were so kind to let us take pictures of the cute decor, the beautiful cased cupcakes, and to gladly sell us to wonderfully delicious cupcakes.
I chose the Italian Creme cupcake – the frosting was out of this world – I think I literally said “this is better than Publix frosting” – never before said that.
Aarica had the lemon raspberry cupcake – which had raspberry cream cheees filling with lemon frosting and raspberry drizzle on top. The cupcake was so moist and scrumptious with the filling.
If you are ever in downtown Chatt – by the Aquarium – you MUST stop in – save some room for a cupcake – which is usually a necessity of life!