Well, the time has come for use to make another move. This time we are moving to the Chicago area. With the addition of the peanut, it was time to be closer to my family. We have absolutely loved our time here in the Triangle and especially the food scene. In the four years we have lived here were have developed many favorite places and we have been trying to visit as many as we can before we head out. The spots we are making a priority to get back to are (in no particular order):
To celebrate our anniversary G and I decided to finally check out The Umstead Hotel in Cary. We made an entire afternoon of it with massages and an afternoon at the spa and then dinner at the nationally recognized Herons. The entire hotel has a modern, elegant style with muted neutral tones and warm lighting. This elegance is carried on into the restaurant, Herons. The walls are covered in a warm wood paneling. The space is divided into smaller rooms with alcoves holding beautiful large artful pieces which set off the well-designed space. The large table are well spaced to allow guests to have intimate conversations. The kitchen is viewable from the dining area for those who would like to see the action.
Well, let’s just say that Ashley Christensen has a knack for getting things just perfect! After wonderful experiences at both Poole’s and Beasley’s we were looking forward to trying the burgers at Chuck’s. One a spur of moment decision we headed to Chuck’s for a Saturday lunch. Like Beasley’s, Chuck’s is a concept restaurant focusing on burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Located right next to Beasley’s it has a similar feel; a renovated store front with one large room and huge display windows allowing a lot of light into the space. Again, the décor is minimalist, emphasizing the original construction with exposed brick walls and an unfinished, loft style ceiling with exposed pipes and fixtures. The colors are simple black, white, and red with black bull heads mounted along the walls of the space.
After a great experience at Poole’s Diner, I really couldn’t wait to try Ashley Christensen’s new ventures. We headed to Beasley’s Chicken and Honey for lunch on a Saturday afternoon. Apparently, fried chicken was on the agenda for many, as the place was bustling. Located in a renovated store front in downtown Raleigh, it is a bright open space with large windows looking out on the street. The décor is minimalist, emphasizing the original construction with exposed brick walls and an unfinished, loft style ceiling with exposed pipes and fixtures. The seating is dominated by a long communal table in the center of the room with a few smaller tables along one wall. The other side of the room is filled by a long bar with a metallic finished top and metal bar stools. The shiny metal surfaces are offset by the warm wooden floors and tabletops. The menu is handwritten on a chalk board wall above the bar.
A few weeks ago I met some friends at La Shish in Cary. It is located in a strip mall, as is common here. The space itself is simple with off white walls and wooden tables. It is a family run Mediterranean restaurant. When we sat down the waitress/owner came to take our order but we still hadn’t had a chance to look at the menu. She seemed a bit annoyed as it was a busy lunch hour with many regulars and she seemed to want turn the tables quickly. When she returned to take our orders she was a bit more relaxed and realized that we weren’t in a rush.
I ordered Gyro platter which came with rice pilaf, hummus, and tzatziki. The gyro had very good flavor with a fair amount of herbs and spices running through out. However, I felt it was just a little dry. The tzatziki was very good and a nice cooling complement to the gyro but it my preference would have been for it to be a little thicker. The hummus was tasty with a fair amount of tahini to add a nice creaminess though I would have liked a little more lemon to offset the richness of the tahini. The rice pilaf was my favorite part of the platter, the rice was buttery and light and flavored with plenty of herbs throughout. The platters offer plenty of food; I would have loved to try some baklava but we were just too full. The flavors were all quite good but didn’t meet my personal preferences for these particular dishes. It is always difficult for me to judge Mediterranean food as I can’t help but compare to Med Deli which prepares these dishes perfectly (at least in my opinion!). Having said that, I would certainly try La Shish again when I am in the area.
908 NE Maynard Rd
Cary, NC 27513
With all the national press and the Iron Chef appearance you would think that we have tried Ashley Christensen’s Poole’s Diner by now. But, we often only make it to Raleigh on the weekends and since they don’t take reservations the couple of times we have gone by the wait has been too long for our hungry stomachs. So, this time we planned ahead and went early on a Saturday after a visit to the NC Museum of Art. We arrived around 5:30pm and were seated at the diner counter while they prepared for the dinner crowds; table seating begins at 6pm.
Downtown Raleigh is full of beautiful old spaces which have been re-purposed as restaurants. Sitti is a great example of this as the space the corner of S. Wilmington and E. Hargett looks as though it used to be a furniture store. The floor to ceiling glass windows and entrance set back from the street create a lovely open space at the front of the restaurant. It is a large open space with warm wooden floors, wooden support posts, and wood table tops and simple black leather chairs. The center of the room is filled with a large communal table, to the right is a long bar and to the left are several booths and tables. The walls are a light olive green with framed portraits of Lebanese men and women from a bygone time. There are also ornate glass hookahs scattered throughout the restaurant to add a little color and sparkle.
Sitti, which means ‘grandmother’, is a Lebanese restaurant with a menu of cold and hot mezze (small plates) and entrées. G and I met another couple there on a Saturday night. When we arrived for our 7pm reservation the place was bustling. We were seated a few minutes after we all arrived. We decided on drinks as we chatted and looked over the menu. I opted to try a Lebanese Syrah which was lighter than I typically like but was fruity. We started with the Hommos, which was thick and earthy, as we looked over the menu. After asking a few questions, which seemed to irritate the waitress though she joked it off, the guys decided on entrées while the ladies decided to share several mezze.
The Village Salad was made which had diced feta, cucumber, tomato, kalamata olives, red onion, and green peppers and dressed with sumac vinaigrette. It was a fresh dish which balanced all the other rich flavors we had. The Halloumi which is a Mediterranean seared cheese topped with dates, roasted almonds, olive oil and fresh thyme. This was a wonderful combination of salty cheese and sweet dates. The Kibbee Mikli are fried dumplings stuffed with sautéed minced lamb, onion, pine nuts and spices. They were delicious! The ground lamb was perfectly seasoned with the spices and the pine nuts provided a subtle sweetness and richness to the mixture. The Falafel, which are fried crushed chick pea patties served with tahini sauce, were wonderfully seasoned. However, I felt the texture was a bit dense as I prefer a lighter version. The Beef Shawarma, thinly sliced marinated tender beef, was the weakest of the mezze we tried as I felt the beef was bland and bit underdone, therefore causing it to be chewy. While these were mezze, and we were hungry, the five items were too much food for us. The fellows helped us finish up. G had the Fatteh with Lamb as his entrée which is stewed lamb served over white rice, crispy phyllo triangles, pine nuts, and a whipped yogurt and garlic. The lamb was wonderfully tender but was missing something in the taste.
Finally, we all managed to find room to try a couple of desserts. We tried the molten chocolate cake special of the evening, the rice pudding, and the baklava. All were very well received at the table. But, the baklava was the best thing I had that evening! It was a perfect ratio of nuts to phyllo and it just the right hint of sweetness to not be cloying.
Sitti is a lovely space to get together with friends and enjoy Lebanese food in downtown Raleigh. All of the dishes were very good though none, except the baklava, really stood out. Personally, I prefer the depth of flavor of the food at the Med Deli.
137 South Wilmington Street