Restaurant Review Roulette: ONE Restaurant

December 23, 2010

Shane Ingram has firmly established himself as one of the top chefs in the Triangle, as his Four Square in Durham has been on Greg Cox’s top 25 lists for years.  It’s been over ten years since Ingram opened Four Square, and this past summer, he opened a new place — ONE Restaurant (or, as they like to do on the website, [ONE] Restaurant — not sure if they get a penalty for excessive use of brackets).

Here’s what I know about [ONE]: It’s in Chapel Hill’s Meadowmont Village.  It appears to have an open kitchen.  Its price points are somewhat high for what seems to be a relatively casual place, but they’re not outrageous by any means.  The menu does not appear to be overly ambitious on first glance, but then looking at the accompaniments to the main dishes, you start to think that the menu is intentionally understated.  And then you remember that this is Shane Ingram’s place.  You know it will be pretty damn good.

And so, Greg Cox will be reviewing ONE tomorrow.  Interestingly, Cox gave Four Square only 4 stars last year, hitting it hard for some service issues, but praising the food.  The Yelpster crowd is very mixed on its assessment of ONE.  I don’t really rely on the opinions of Yelp’s reviewers, but there was enough dissent here to throw me for a loop.   I really think Greg will like ONE, giving it at 4 stars.  I doubt, however, that he will be willing to give it that extra half star, and I wonder if he’ll dock it half a star.  That’s the difficulty of this prognostication business.   So I’m going to go with 4 stars, but I’ll be hedging a half star on either side.

Here are the odds.

5 stars — 7 to 1

4.5 stars – 3 to 2

4 stars —  1 to 1

3.5 stars — 3 to 2

3 stars — 4 to 1

2.5 stars — 7 to 1

2 stars — 14 to 1

1.5 stars — 20 to 1

1 star — 50 to 1

Place your bets, and let me know what you thought of [{(ONE)}].

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Edit, December 24, 2010 — It’s a 4 star review for ONE. [REALLY].

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The Best Community Cookbook Ever — And Two Events to Celebrate It

October 12, 2010

Yes, I love the Southern Foodways Alliance.  Yes, I’m a member.  And yes, I’ve even been nominated to be on its Board of Directors.  So it should be no surprise to you that I’ll do just about anything this organization asks of me — not just because I’m a good soldier, but because there’s nothing this organization does that I don’t support.  Whether it’s a fundraiser for their film or oral history initiatives or for scholarships for burgeoning food writers, I’m going to spread the word.

This time, however, it’s different.  This time, the event is to celebrate a cookbook.  A fantastic, spiral-bound, community cookbook, suitably named, “The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.”  The cookbook  is divided into chapters that represent the region’s iconic foods: Gravy, Garden Goods, Roots, Greens, Rice, Grist, Yardbird, Pig, The Hook, The Hunt, Put Up, and Cane.  It’s been edited, written and compiled by some of my favorite people in the world, including April McGreger, baker and pickler extraordinaire of Farmer’s Daughter in Carrboro, Chapel Hill’s great cooking instructor, Sheri Castle,  and Sara Roahen, author of the fantastic book on New Orleans, “Gumbo Tales.”  Heck, I even submitted a recipe for the book — and yes, it is a recipe for cooking one type of varmint.

To celebrate the release of the book, there are not one, but two events planned for this weekend in Chapel Hill.

The first event is this Friday, October 15th, at Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill (750 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd).  This event is a book signing and is free to the public — and, yes, there will be a little bit of food there.

The second event has a lot of food, and this is a ticketed event.  It will be on Sunday at 4:00 PM at Chapel Hill’s 3CUPS (227 South Elliott Rd.).  If you just want to come and eat, it’ll cost you $25.  If you want one of these awesome cookbooks (all the cool kids have them), then that will cost you an additional 15 bucks.  That’s less than the Amazon price!  So, you get a soon-to-be iconic cookbook, lots of great food (with both cake and pie, as there will be a debate about which is better), lots of social interaction with writers, and all on a Sunday evening!  And because it is 3CUPS, there will be wine.  Tasty, wonderful wine.

So, get off your butt and head to Chapel Hill this weekend to buy a book — the best community cookbook ever!  And if you need more information, just check out the SFA’s Blog.


Fearrington House — Best Restaurant in the Triangle???

August 5, 2010

Yeah, you read that headline right, and before you get too excited about this possible claim, realize that I’m not saying The Fearrington House is definitely the best restaurant in the Triangle, but it is certainly a contender.  It’s that good.  But first, a little story of my relationship with this great Chatham County place. Read the rest of this entry »


Restaurant Review Roulette: Shula’s 347 Grill

June 24, 2010

I’ve heard many people tell me that it would be a great job to be a restaurant reviewer, where you actually get paid to eat out and write about it.  I thought along the same lines several years ago until I actually got to know a few people who reviewed restaurants for a living, including our own Greg Cox. And one of the reasons I wouldn’t want that job is because in a market like this, you eventually have to write a review on a restaurant like Shula’s 347 Grill.  Now I have nothing against Don Shula, the former coach of the Miami Dolphins (I grew up a Dolphins’ fan until I saw the light with my beloved Green Bay Packers), and I know he has steakhouses all across the country. I also like steak.  But the problem with a place like Shula’s 347 Grill is that it’s pretty much the same as any other steakhouse in any city in the country.  Look at the menu and find me one dish that you haven’t seen in a bunch of other places.  So the problem with a place like Shula’s 347 Grill (and by the way, the 347 comes from the number of wins Shula had in the NFL) is not with the food, but with the review.  I mean, how do you write something interesting about a place that you’ve seen time and time again?  That’s the challenge for Greg Cox, and although I’m sure he’ll write a nice review, I’m also confident that it wasn’t his favorite assignment of the year.

But onto the review.  I think that when it comes to steakhouses, it’s all about the beef and the value for Cox.  First, the steaks have to be really damn good, or the place will not get a great review.  Second, the place has to provide food at prices that don’t shock the consciousness.  I’m pretty sure that Shula’s has decent steaks, but I have no clue about the value of the place.  How expensive are the sides?  If they’re pricey, is there a reasonable justification for the expense?  I don’t know the answer to these questions as the Shula’s online menu provides no prices.

But if I had to bet, I’m thinking that Shula’s is going to be a solid 3.5 star review.  The Angus Barn and Sullivan’s were both awarded 4 stars, whereas Fleming’s only got 3 stars.  What’s the difference between these?  I haven’t a clue — and that’s part of my point above, where steakhouses are so similar that trying to state one is better than the next is quite difficult.

Anyhow, here are this week’s odds:

5 stars — 60 to 1

4.5 stars – 20 to 1

4 stars — 4 to 1

3.5 stars — 2 to 1

3 stars — 3 to 1

2.5 stars —  7 to 1

2 stars — 15 to 1

1.5 stars — 45 to 1

1 star — 210 to 1

Have you been to Shula’s?  Is it a touchdown or a fumble (ugh, sorry about that)?

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Edit, June 25, 2010 — Greg Cox gave Shula’s 347 Grill 3.5 stars.  And that’s all I have to say about that.


Triangle Restaurants That Sound Like Sex Shops

April 7, 2010

This is a blatant rip-off of a recent piece in the Seattle Weekly, but I don’t give a damn.  Here are a few local restaurants that could be a sex shop if you didn’t know any better.  Sure, I may be making fun of some foreign language issues, but I’ll get over it if you do.

7.   Humble Pie — Frankly, any place with the word “pie” in it will qualify here, but this Raleigh institution fit the bill.

6.   Wang’s Kitchen — This is a silly, slightly politically incorrect take.

5.   Fu Kee Express — See above, but this one is a lot funnier.  If you need a quickie . . .

4.   Buns — So simple.  Sir Mix-A-Lot would like it here.

3.   Woody’s — Anyone with this name deserves a spot here.

2.   Twisted Noodle — I really don’t want to think too much what might go on in this place.

1.   Jerk Masters — They’re the absolute best when it comes to a nice jerk.

Honorable Mentions: Pho Cali (come on, say it out loud), Roast Grill (actually, just for their “Hot Weiners” sign), Casalinga (sounds dirty to me), Hot Pot, Globe.


Dine Out for Haiti

January 21, 2010

This Sunday and Monday, a number of Triangle-based restaurants will be donating 10% of their proceeds to two charities for the relief efforts in Haiti.  This effort was initiated on Facebook by local chefs and foodies, and as of the time of this post, there are 20 restaurants participating.  Here’s the list of confirmed restaurants:

SUNDAY, JANUARY 24
Watt’s Grocery (Durham)
Bogart’s American Grill (Raleigh)
Crook’s Corner (Evening Service Only – Chapel Hill)
Cup A Joe (Chapel Hill)
HI5 (Raleigh)
Joe Van Gogh (Durham)
Michael Dean’s Seafood Grill (Raleigh)
Milltown (Carrboro)
Panzanella (Carrboro)
Red Room Tapas Lounge (Raleigh)
Saladelia Cafe (Durham)
Saxapahaw General Store (Saxapahaw)
Southern Rail (Carrboro)
The Mash House (Fayetteville)
Twisted Fork (Raleigh)
West End Wine Bar (Durham)

MONDAY, JANUARY 25
ACME Food and Beverage Co. (Carrboro)
Cup A Joe (Chapel Hill)
Cypress On The Hill (Chapel Hill)
Foster’s Market (Durham/Chapel Hill)
GlassHalFull (Carrboro)
Globe Restaurant (Raleigh)
Joe Van Gogh (Durham)
Lantern (Chapel Hill)
Mad Hatter’s Bakeshop and Cafe (Durham)
Neal’s Deli (Carrboro)
Parker and Otis (Durham)
Pop’s (Durham)
Rockwood Filling Station (Durham)
Ruckus Pizza Pasta and Spirits (Cary)
Rue Cler (Durham)
Sandwhich (Chapel Hill)
Six Plates Wine Bar (Durham)
Toast (Durham)
Tyler’s Restaurant and Tap Room (Carborro, Durham and Apex)
West End Wine Bar (Chapel Hill)
Zely and Ritz (Raleigh)

More information on this fantastic effort can be found on this Facebook page or this new blog that’s been started.  The blog says that 10% of profits will be donated to the charities, but that is a misprint.  It is 10% of sales.  So go to brunch on Sunday and then to dinner on Monday.  And spread the word!

(Edited to reflect changes to participating restaurants at 8:15 AM, 1/23/10)


Donating Truly Fresh Food for the Hungry in Carrboro

September 25, 2009

We’ve all participated in food drives where you donate canned goods or other shelf-stable items to go to a food bank.  It’s a great gesture, and I’m sure that lots of people get fed that way, but these are, by there very nature, processed foods.

I’ve never really seen a food drive involving fresh food, until now.

The Carrboro Farmers’ Market is holding the “FoodShare Challenge” tomorrow, September 26, from 8 AM until noon, where patrons of the market are encouraged to donate an extra bag of fresh food to feed the hungry.  The Farmers’ Market has always been active in helping with hunger causes, donating over 7,500 pounds this summer, but on Saturday, the goal is for customers to donate over 1,000 pounds in a single day.

Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill’s Lantern Restaurant, has provided generous support to this cause, as have a number of local organizations and businesses.

For more information on the FoodShare Program call or email Margaret Gifford at 919.967.6464 or mgw@well.com, or Sarah Blacklin at 919.280.3326 or info@carrborofarmersmarket.com.