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)?


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

The Triangle Top 50

July 8, 2009

The News & Observer’s Andrea Weigl has put together a list of the top 50 food items/icons in the Triangle, and boy, what a list it is!  And you know what?  There’s no way in hell I could have come close to doing such a great job.  Now mind you, there are a lot more than 50 things on this list as Weigl has a number of groupings, such as women chefs (Andrea Reusing, Amyu Trnquist and Ashley Christensen) as a single listing.

So go to the multi-media presentation and check out the listing.  What did she miss?  What should not be included?

Edit: Oh my goodness, this blog got a mention as #42 on the list!  Thanks, Andrea!!!

Cypress on the Hill — New Chapel Hill Restaurant

February 17, 2009

cypress2Damn it, Chapel Hill gets all the luck.  This small town is already full of great chef-driven restaurants.  Places like Lantern, Bonne Soiree, and Elaine’s.  Then there are the old, great stand-bys like Crooks, La Residence and whatever they’re putting out at the Siena.  And now there’s a new kid in town: Cypress on the Hill.  I just learned about this place today thanks to a tip from one of my readers, and based on the menu, I’m looking forward to a trip to my old college town to give it a try.  Chef Alex Gallis has been Chef de Cuisine at Magnolia Grill for the last five years, and his menu shows his training under Ben Barker: locally-sourced ingredients prepared with a Southern touch.  But I also see that Gallis isn’t afraid to explore new concepts, using Asian ingredients (soba noodles, mizuna, pickled ginger) and techniques, too.

Restaurants with a Southern cuisine have struggled a bit in the Triangle lately, but I’ve come to believe that college towns are where they will still work.  If the food is as good as it appears, I suspect that Cypress on the Hill (COTH? — er, maybe not) will be hanging around for awhile.

Cypress on the Hill is in the old Trail Shop on West Franklin Street, next to Ham’s.  They’re open for dinner Monday through Saturday.  Dinner and dessert menus, which change weekly, are available online.

308 West Franklin Street

Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Lantern’s Reusing Gets Cookbook Deal

November 20, 2008

Andrea Reusing, chef of Chapel Hill’s wonderful Lantern, recently signed on with publisher Clarkson Potter for worldwide rights to a new cookbook.  According to a trade publication news release, seven different publishers were competing for the rights to the book.  The cookbook will feature over 100 recipes organized by season, with an emphasis on cooking with local ingredients, one of Reusing’s focuses at Lantern.

This is no “Lantern Cookbook,” however. “I wanted to do a book about cooking at home, focusing on using local ingredients,” Reusing told me.  “I wanted to create a snapshot of our local food community and not focus on any single ethnicity.  I want this cookbook to be used, with food stains on the pages.  I don’t want it to sit on a coffee table.”

The book does not yet have a title, and unfortunately, won’t be out until the fall of 2010.  But the writing has begun.  Her first draft is due in a year, and trying to write while managing a restaurant and parenting two small children will be quite a challenge, but nothing should surprise us anymore about Reusing.  As we wait for the cookbook to come out, we’ll all just have to go to Chapel Hill and get the real goods right from the source.

Lantern’s Reusing Featured in October Gourmet

September 20, 2008

Andra Reusing, chef of Chapel Hill’s fantastic Lantern restaurant, is prominently featured in the October edition of Gourmet.  This is not a simple little fluff piece.  This is a HUGE article featuring nearly a dozen recipes from the restaurant.  Tons of photos.  We’re talking major publicity here.  Reusing has been on a roll lately, being written up in Food & Wine, the NY Times, and the fairly new glossy, Garden & Gun.  Sure, she’s got a great publicist, but without her cooking ability, Reusing wouldn’t attract the attention of anyone.

This is the second chef who started at Raleigh’s Enoteca Vin to get a spot in one of the major food mags, and we’re all very lucky to have such culinary stars in our midst.  I’ve never met Reusing, but I’ve eaten her cooking, and damn, it’s fine.  And the fact that she’s so commited to sourcing local ingredients, including heirloom pigs, makes it even better.

So run out and get a copy of Gourmet (the article isn’t online, apparently) and make a couple of recipes.  Then head over to Lantern and compare your cooking with Reusing’s.  And be humbled.