Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Gonza Tacos y Tequila Opening New Location in Durham Tuesday Feb. 3rd

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Gonza Tacos y Tequila is set to open their third Triangle location in downtown Durham at 604 Fernway Avenue, in the West Village Complex, this Tuesday February 3rd. I had chance to get a preview of the new location on Saturday night. I loved the cool atmosphere of the space and the great food. With it’s Colombian influence and eclectic Dia de los Muertos décor, Gonza Tacos y Tequila is far from your stereotypical Mexican restaurant. There are no #18 ground beef specials on this menu; instead you’ll find items like Ceviche del Dia, Ensalada del Huerto, Chiles Endiablados and Callo de Hacha Tacos. As well as unique desserts, like their Flan de Coco and Talega de Platano – so popular it’s even been featured in the News & Observer as a “Specialty of the House.”

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Along with a robust offering of tequilas, Gonza Tacos y Tequila features local beers on tap, as well as creative drink specials that change weekly. Additional features at the new location include a great bar, private dining area & spacious patio seating that is pet friendly. For more pictures of the Durham Gonza location visit their facebook photo album here.

Gonza is open for  lunch Tues-Fri 11:30am-2:00pm and dinner Tue-Thur 5-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 4-10pm, and Sunday 4-8:30pm. Closed Mondays.

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About Gonza Tacos y Tequila
In 2011 Cousins Gonza Salamanca and Carlos Rodriguez opened their first Gonza Tacos y Tequila in North Raleigh on Lead Mine Road. In 2013 they opened a second location in Wake Forest at The Factory on S Main St, Wake Forest. They have won multiple awards including “Best Latin American Restaurant in Wake County” by Wake County Living Magazine 2014, “Best Mexican/Latin American in the Triangle” Indy Award 2014, National Top 50 – America’s Most Popular New Restaurants in 2012 by UrbanSpoonMultiple and “Diner’s Choice” winner by OpenTable.

Gonza Tacos y Tequila
Phone: (919) 907-2656
Website: www.Gonzatacosytequila.com
Twitter: @Gonza _Tacos 
Instagram: @GonzaTacosyTequila 
Facebook Page (Durham location): https://www.facebook.com/GonzaTacosyTequila.Durham

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lucettegrace ~ Contemporary Patisserie in Downtown Raleigh

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Lucettegrace – 235 South Salisbury Street – Raleigh, NC

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of Lucettegrace for the past few months and I’m happy to report the wait is now over! Chef Daniel Benjamin, the celebrated former pastry chef at the five-star Herons restaurant and Umstead Hotel in Cary has opened a contemporary patisserie in downtown Raleigh at 235 S. Salisbury Street and it is FANTASTIC!

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Lucettegrace counter

The shop opened just over a month ago and I’ve already been by several times to check it out. I’ve been introduced to more wonderful pastry creations to behold and taste on each visit as the menu continues to grow. The word pastry really doesn’t really do justice to the baked goods sold at Lucettegrace. They are more like delicious edible works of art.

Seating

I also love the layout of the shop. The atmosphere is open and warm with a nice mix of old and new. The bright yellow stools lined up along the wood counter contrast well with the two toned hardwood floor and hanging lights against the exposed brick wall. Seating is plentiful with several tables in addition to the wrap around bar along the wall and the front of the shop has floor to ceiling windows making it the perfect place to sit with a coffee and croissant and watch the world go by.

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Display Case

The front counter space is sleek and modern with a large glass case used to beautifully display the days offerings making is challenge to decide what to try among the field of amazing treats. So far I have tried several of the different types of croissants and eclairs. I am committed to slowly working my way through the menu of offerings. There are certain items that you can expect to find daily, while they also plan to regularly introduce new and seasonal items to keep the menu fresh and full of exciting items throughout the entire year.

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Display Case

One of my favorite items is the Bourbon Pecan Pie croissant. It is so decadent and sweet. I think it is the perfect item to enjoy in the morning with coffee or later in the day after a meal as a dessert after a meal. Another popular item is the Dixie Cannonball which is filled with gravy! The shop serves organic locally roasted coffee from Larry’s Beans out of Raleigh. They offer a full menu of espresso drinks in addition to cold brew and traditional drip coffee. They also have a sipping caramel which I hear is incredible!

Bourbon Pecan Pie Croissant & Larry’s Beans Coffee

In addition to sweet treats, Lucettegrace has also just started offering a savory menu (available after 11am). I haven’t had a chance to try these new offerings but I am sure they are just as impressive as the pastries and I look forward to enjoying lunch there soon.

  • Basque Baguette: uncured ham, idiazabal cheese, pimenton butter, pepper olive jam
  • Focaccia Pizzette Chicago: butternut squash, pheta, maple bacon onion jam, pepitas, dried cherries
  • Roasted Mushroom Quiche: cremini, oyster, shiitake, brown butter, thyme, creme fraiche
  • Mixed Lettuces: griddled crouton, herbed yoghurt cheese, candied pecans, dried cranberries
  • Grilled Cheese: sour pain de mie, carolina moon, apple butter
  • Shepherd’s: Pieharissa scented lamb, local root vegetables, potato puree

You can stay up to date on all of their current offerings by visiting their menu online.

Chef Daniel Benjamin hard at work in the kitchen

I believe Lucettegrace has hit a home run right from the start in terms of the menu, atmosphere, and service. I expect this beautiful little shop to become a popular destination for triangle foodies and out of town visitors alike. So whether you are looking for a fun place for a morning coffee & pastry, a delicious new lunch spot, or a special place for dessert on date night – I encourage you to pay them a visit. By the way, they will be OPEN on New Year’s Day 11am-7pm.

Lucettegrace
235 S. Salisbury Street – Raleigh, NC
Open Monday -Thursday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
website: http://www.lucettegrace.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lucettegrace
twitter: @lucettegrace
instagram: @lucettegrace

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Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar – Seaboard Station Raleigh

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Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar ~ Raleigh, NC

I am forever on the hunt for a great burger. As luck would have it there is a Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar in Seaboard Station right across the street from my office in downtown Raleigh. Seaboard has seen a surge of activity over the past few years and is quickly becoming a hotbed of dining activity with the addition of Bad Daddy’s, Kimbap, Seaboard 18, Brew Coffee Bar, and a bakery on the way. I don’t take advantage of working so close to Seaboard so I recently made point to stop by and check out Bad Daddy’s along with my wife to feed my cravings for a tasty burger.

Backyard Chicken Nachos

I usually don’t get appetizers, but it just so happened on the day I visited I had just completed a 20 mile run training for the City of Oaks Marathon. I arrived a bit tired, but very hungry and ready to eat! After speaking with the owner and listening him describe their new backyard chicken bbq nachos I  knew I had to give them a try. This app is a twist on traditional nachos with tortilla chips tossed with pulled bbq chicken, diced tomatoes, black beans, pineapple, red onion, cheddar cheese, queso, corn slaw, and drizzled with ranch sour cream and bbq sauce. It was quite flavorful and I enjoyed the seasoning of the chicken and sweetness of the bbq sauce and pineapple. The nachos were a meal in itself and I had to make sure I didn’t completely fill up before my burger arrive.

Bad Ass Burger

I usually get a regular cheeseburger when I eat out, but Bad Daddy’s is known for their specialty burgers and I was pretty ravenous from my run and decided to be a little adventurous. I ordered the “Bad Ass Burger” which comes with a 10 oz beef patty topped with lettuce tomato, pickle, american cheese, horseradish mayo, and a helping of buttermilk fried bacon on brioche bun. I’m a stickler for good buns and even with all the toppings I found the brioche bun did this burger justice. I loved the burger and the slight kick from horseradish mayo. The buttermilk fried bacon was a bit of an indulgence. Ultimately I had to take a few pieces off and eat them on the side to make the sandwich a little more manageable, but I enjoyed the flavor it added to the burger and was glad I tried something new. Bad Daddy’s has almost 20 different specialty burgers along with a “make your own” option so there is something for everyone. Burger prices range from $8.95 – $13.95.

Surfs Up Tuna Burger

My wife opted for the “Surfs Up” Tuna Burger. It consists of a tuna patty marinated in ginger, lime & soy, with wasabi mayo and peanut soy asian slaw on a whole wheat bun. She also picked sweet potato fries as here side. She finished the whole thing and promptly declared it delicious. I think she was worried that the wasabi mayo would be hot, but she found it to be well balanced and just the right compliment to the tuna. While neither of us had salads that night we were glad to see there was a nice selection on the menu for people looking beyond burgers. Salad options ranged from giant chopped salads – greek, asian, and chicken for $11, to “make your own” salad options in small and large portions ranging from $6-$9.

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Drink Specials

In addition to the extensive burger and salad menu there are also several great weekly deals at Bad Daddy’,  including a special $10 beer & burger night on Mondays and $3 NC Drafts on Wednesdays. They have several local drafts on tap including several of my favorites from Raleigh Brewing Company. They also feature a “beer of the month” and had a special for $4 pints from Double Barley Brewing out of Johnston County the night we visited.

Seating Area

I had a nice time visiting the Seaboard location and think Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar is a great place to grab a burger, salad, local beer for lunch or dinner. Although my Virginia Tech Hokies are not doing so well this year I plan on heading back soon to for a burger & beer and to watch some football. There are several tv’s within easy viewing from the bar and seating area, but they aren’t overwhelming or distracting if you are there just to eat. I also found the atmosphere to be more laid back and quiet than other burger places. A big plus in my book is the multiple seating options with a bar and booths or tables inside, and a nice outdoor seating area with string lights illuminating the patio. The next time you are in Raleigh and have a craving for a good burger I recommend you give Bad Daddy’s a try.

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar – Raleigh
111 Seaboard Avenue
Raleigh, NC
website: http://baddaddysburgerbar.com/
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bdseaboard
twitter: @BadDaddysBurger

ShiftZen

This week’s review is sponsored by ShiftZen – An independent Durham based software company that offers web based restaurant scheduling software to get your staff online and employees on time. For more information visit Shiftzen.com

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Discover Great Cuban Cuisine at Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse in Durham!

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Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse ~ Durham, NC

One of the things I love most about writing this blog is discovering great new places to eat.  Sometimes it is a brand new place and other times it is me simply stumbling upon a hidden gem that is “new to me”. This time around it is a little bit of both. You see Gregoria’s Kitchen has been reborn after temporarily closing in 2013 due to a fire. This past January it reopened as Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse in a new location on Hillsborough Road in Durham.  The new incarnation of Gregoria’s features a bigger space, a revamped look and an enhanced menu featuring home-style Cuban dishes and new menu additions like steaks with Spanish, African and Caribbean influences.

Appetizers

Let me get right to the point, the food was FABULOUS! The kitchen is run by veteran executive chef Michael Pirnik. Born in New York of Cuban parents, Chef Pirnik was trained in Paris and has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe and New York. His menu does a wonderful job of spanning the spectrum of traditional Cuban fare while incorporating new additions to the previous menu. I started of with an assortment of appetizers to familiarize myself with the range flavors. My two favorites were the spinach and cheese empanada, and the platano maduro relleno, a sweet plantain stuffed crisp pork belly & picadillo, drizzled with buttermilk crème.

Grilled marinated flank steak, yuca frita, chimichurri

While considering what to get as my entree I was  initially drawn to the the traditional Cubano sandwich. However I was also craving some of the more modern fare like the beef-and-chorizo sliders or house-cured pork belly chicharrones. Ultimately I couldn’t resist one of the steak selections added to the revamped menu. After sharing this dilemma with my friendly waiter I ordered the grilled marinated flank steak, with yuca frita, and chimichurri. The green chimichurri, with it’s finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, and olive oil, provided the perfect accent to my medium-rare grilled skirt steak. It was so flavorful. I’ve never had yuca before and was pleasantly surprised by the crispy texture and it went really well with the steak.  Just an aside, but I was also a big fan of the ornate “Deruta Style” dishes used to plate each course dish.

Main Dining Area

Before I go on more about the food I need to mention a little about the layout and decor of the interior. I enjoy restaurants that offer various seating options since they can suite many different occasions for dining out. At Gregoria’s the main dining area is spacious and intimate at the same time.  It has warm lighting accented by chandeliers and black and white photos of Cuba adorning the earth tone walls. There are both large and small tables making it perfect for a quiet date or meal out with a group of friends and family. There is even a separate room in the rear of the dining room that can be closed off for private parties of up to 60 guests.

Bar Area & My Mojito

The bar area provides a casual option with large booths along the rear wall and high-top tables placed spaciously across the dark wood floor. Perfect for a more casual lunch or dinner and drink with friends while enjoying nightly drink specials from the bar. I was there on a Thursday night and had a great $5 mojitos to tame the tickle in the back of my throat. Other weekly specials include 1/2 off bottles of wine on Tuesdays, $5 martinis on Wednesday, and $5 wine by the glass to go along with mojitos on Thursdays. Sunday Brunch drink specials include $5 bloody maria’s and $10 bottomless mimosas.

Tres leches

Of course I couldn’t leave without trying one of their deserts. Ive never had Tres leches before but the way my waiter described it I knew I had to try it. I’m sure my foodie friends already new this but a Tres Leches is a sponge caked soaked in three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. The cake at Greogoria’s is a light fluffy cake with many air bubbles. The perfect texture to ensure it doesn’t suffer from soggy consistency, despite being soaked in a mixture of three types of milk. Topped with sliced strawberry’s the dessert was delightfully sweet and a perfect ending to a great meal.

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Outdoor Patio

As I prepared to leave I wandered outside though the restuarants secluded outdoor patio. It is a great outdoor area filled with bentwood chairs and tables with umbrellas and strings of suspended lights that reminded me of a dining club at the beach. The manager explained to me they have live salsa music most weekends (Friday / Saturday nights) and even have dancing demos from professional salsa dancers.  I’m am always on the hunt for a place to take my wife for salsa dancing (she is a much better dancer than I) so I know we will be back soon!

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Bartender Crafting my Mojito!

I was really impressed with every aspect of Gregoria’s. From the food to the specials, to the entertainment offerings. I highly recommend checking out this place out whether you are looking for fun date night spot on the weekend or just a great place for delicious Cuban fare on a weeknight. Of special note, if you happen to stop by Tuesday through Thursday they are currently offering a special $20 Three Course Dinner option that is a really a nice deal. As always, if you pay them a visit I’d love to hear what you think. Enjoy!

Gregoria’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. Brunch is also served on Sundays between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. To learn more, visit www.gregoriascubansteakhouse.com.

Gregoria’s Cuban Steak House
2701 Hillsborough Rd
Durham NC 27705 (919) 973-2717
website: http://www.gregoriassteakhouse.com
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GregoriasCubanDurham
twitter: @GregoriasDurham

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zpizza ~ Globally Inspired Pizzas

zpizza
Like many people out there I am a big fan of pizza. Over the years I have kind become a pizza snob. I’ve had my fair share of both good and bad pizza while growing up at the Jersey shore (although I have to admit that being from NJ does not make one a pizza expert). I have also found some really great pizza places here in Raleigh. While I typically stick to non-chain restaurants, one exception I regularly make to this rule is zpizza.  The reason why I frequent them is not only because their pizza tastes great, but they use really good quality ingredients in their pies and salads. The difference is in the fresh toppings, organic tomato sauce, GMO free wheat flour in their crust, and they even offer a gluten free crust options which makes my wife very happy.

Napoli Pizza

I recently had a chance to sample a few of their latest menu offerings now featuring new globally inspired ingredients and I continue to be impressed with the quality pizzas they offer. Now I am a bit of a bore when it comes to pizza. I typically stick to a basic cheese & pepperoni (zpizza’s pepperoni is MSG-free pepperoni with no added nitrites or preservatives). But on my most recent visit I tried something a little different. I ordered the Napoli pizza. This pie features tomatoes, parmesan cheese, mozzarella, basil, and roasted garlic sauce. I loved the combination of garlic and parmesan. It added a bit of a bite to the pizza and went well with fresh tomatoes and balanced well with the layer of mozzarella and crisp thin crust.

Below are a few of zpizza’s other popular pizza selections that I hope to try in the near future:

  • Greek – Features the rustic flavors of the Mediterranean with feta, Red onions, oregano and Greek olives
  • Thai Chicken – Pizza w/ an Asian twist that includes. Thai peanut sauce, Thai chicken, bean sprouts, carrots and cilantro
  • Mexican – Bueno con lime chicken, avocado and sour cream
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ZBQ Salad

zpizza also serves flat-bread sandwiches, pasta and salads. One of my favorite salads is their “ZBQ” salad with mixed greens, BBQ chicken, roasted red peppers, red onions, corn and chipotle dressing. I like a little protein with my greens and the zesty chicken goes really well with the mixed greens and chipotle. My wife enjoys the strawberry and fetta salad with balsamic vinaigrette. Both saldads are quite good and when paired with a large pizza could easily serve two people for a nice healthy dinner. I am sort of a creature of habit so the Napoli and ZBQ have become my go to choices at zpizza but there are many more pizza and salad options to choose from. You can view their full menu offerings on the Zpizza website.

Strawberry Feta Salad (1)

Pizza & Salad Giveaway
The great people at zpizza have provide coupons for a Free large pizza and salad for me to give away to one lucky TriangleExplorer reader. To enter the free giveaway simply leave a comment below. I will randomly select a winner on Tuesday September 16th. At this point there are only three zpizza locations that I know of in the Triangle Area. Two are in Raleigh and one is Cary. I’ve listed the locations below in case you would like to check them out.

Triangle Locations

zpizza Downtown Raleigh
421 Fayetteville St
Raleigh, NC

zpizza North Raleigh
9630 Falls of Neuse Rd
Raleigh, NC

zpizza Cary
96 Cornerstone Drive
Cary, NC

 

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