Tag Archives: Restaurant Review

New Lunch Spot: Kiwi Cafe & Smoothies in Wakefield

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Seating at Kiwi Café & Smoothies

Every once in a while there is a place I have on my list to check out and for one reason or another I just takes me forever to make it there. This was the case with Kiwi Cafe & Smoothies located in Wakefield by the Rex Wellness Center and Harris Teeter off Falls of Neuse Road. A friend on twitter alerted me to their opening several months ago and I’ve had them on my radar for a while. A few weeks ago I finally had the chance to check them out for lunch. I’m really glad I finally checked them out because I’ve been looking for a new lunch spot and I was very impressed with their offerings.

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Kale and Apple Salad

Kiwi Café offers a wide range of salads, soups, sandwiches and smoothies. What really sets them apart is that the ingredients they use are in many cases non-gmo or organic. They also offer gluten free breads, pastries, and cookies which can be hard to find in this area. My wife ordered the Kale and Apple salad which included fresh kale, spinach, sliced apples, carrots, berries, goat cheese, pecans, with a honey lemon-lime dressing. The salad was very fresh and made for a great lunch.

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Smoked Turkey and Gruyere

I ordered the Smoked Turkey and Gruyere sandwich which is comprised of freshly sliced smoked turkey breast, gruyere, cranberries, arugula-spinach mix, pecans, basil aioli. My sandwich was delicious and I would definitely order it again. I think it is important to point out that I ordered my sandwich as a panini, but what I got I’d describe as a lightly toasted sandwich, not really a panini. Still it was quite good. I kind of wish it came with chips or a pickle but to be honest I could do with a few less chips in my life.

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Coffee Counter at Kiwi Cafe

Kiwi also has a full coffee bar offering a full range of coffee and espresso drinks. They use an organic coffee from a roaster out in Greensboro called Fortuna. While I find this coffee to be nice, I have to admit it would be even better to see them use one of Raleigh’s local roasters to keep with their stay “local” theme. They also offer a selection of fruit smoothies. I haven’t had a chance to try one yet, but plan to on my next visit.

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Kiwi Café & Smoothies in Wakefield

My wife and I both really enjoyed our meals and I definitely plan to go back for lunch again soon. It is nice to have a locally owned place to grab a healthy lunch and I definitely recommend giving them a try. Kiwi Café is open Monday through Friday 8am-6pm and Saturday 8am-4pm. They are closed on Sunday.

Kiwi Cafe’ & Smoothies

11211 Galleria Ave
Raleigh, NC 27614 (map)
website: http://www.kiwicafeandsmoothies.com
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kiwicafeandsmoothies
twitter: @kiwicaferaleigh


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My Visit to Smashburger in Durham

Smash Burger Durham (4)

Smashburger in Durham

I am a HUGE burger fan and last week I finally had a chance to visit the Triangle’s first Smashburger location. It opened just two weeks ago and is located in Durham’s Lakeview Pavilion East shopping centeracross the street from Duke University Hospital.

I was invited to visit the Durham location by the franchise owners and local residents Ketan and Jayshri Patel. As with any media preview my meal was comped, but trust me when I say this does not influence my review  in any way. My wife will be the first to tell you that I am very particular about my burgers and I have a few key criteria that I expect from a great burger place. With that in mind here are my thoughts on the Triangle’s first Smashburger!

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Smashburger and Rosemary & Garlic Fries

When I try a new burger place I like to judge them by the basics that make the foundation of a great burger.  So I got the “Classic Smash”. I had the 1/3 pound version with American cheese, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion and the signature secret house-made “smash sauce”. The four  critical elements I look at are what I call BTBF. That’s Burger, Toppings, Buns, andFries!

The Burger
I’ll get right to the the punchline – Smashburger impressed me the most of all the casual burger places I have reviewed since starting this blog four years ago. The meat of the burger is fresh (not frozen) and is seared on the grill that lock in the flavorful making for delicious juicy burger. I also really enjoyed unique taste from the added Smashburger sauce which provides just the right amount of “kick” without overwhelming the burger’s natural flavor. The burgers are not greasy and are made fresh to order and come out nice and hot.

The lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickle toppings were crisp, fresh, and plentiful. These toppings aren’t an afterthought, they complete the burger. I also love that the sandwich is served open faced making it easy to add condiments and it also prevents the sandwich from being smooshed together (which often happens at other burger places that wrap them in foil).

The Bun
Most of all it was on a nice toasted potato bun. This to me makes such a big difference! I can not tell you how often I have been disappointing by burgers served up on boring white bread buns that are too soft and smoosh easily. To me having a good toasted bun that is slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside like the ones used at Smashburger is what puts the finishing touch on a quality sandwich.

The Fries
French fries are another place where many places drop the ball. I am glad to report that this is not the case at Smashburger. I enjoyed a nice order crispy french fries with garlic and rosemary. It garlic and rosemary were not overwhelming and it made for some very tasty fries. I also liked that the order of fries was ample (some places really wimp out on fries). In addition to the garlic rosemary fries Smashburger offers regular fries, sweet potato fries, haystack onion rings, and veggie frites. So the side options offer a lot of variety.

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BBQ, Bacon, & Cheddar Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Chicken Sandwich
Smashburger is more than just burgers. Customers can also enjoy a selection of tender grilled chicken sandwiches and fresh-tossed signature salads. While I didn’t get a chance to have a salad, I did try their BBQ, Bacon, & Cheddar grilled chicken sandwich with haystack-style onion rings piled high. The burgers may be the central focus for some, but I found the chicken sandwich to be equally delicious. I like how the chicken was tenderized before being grilled making for a larger but thinner piece of chicken. This allows it to be cooked quickly and thoroughly without drying out the chicken. The chicken sandwiches were also served on a hearty potato bun which I love.

Smash Burger Durham (3)

Strawberry Shake

The restaurant will also serves a nice selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages including handspun Häagen-Dazs shakes, root beer floats in frosted mugs and beer, including a few local beer options. I opted for a strawberry shake. No only was it delicious (using quality ice cream really makes a difference) they served the shake in a classic shake glass topped with a little whipped cream. It really hit the spot. I didn’t hurt that the shake is served with the metal shaker along with that little extra they couldn’t quite fit into the tall glass.

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Seating at Smashburger

Seating and Service
In terms of environment, Smashburger is your classic casual restaurant offering counter ordering where guest are given a number to take to their table.  Seating is modern and ample ranging from booths, high tops, and individual tables that can be combined for larger parties. Staff deliver your order directly to the table and frequently come by during your to see if you need anything and to bus the tables. It was an unexpected and welcome touch. Good service goes a long way in my book.

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From one burger lover to another I highly recommend you check out Smashburger. And while I stuck to the classic offerings there are plenty of more adventurous menu items for you to check out like the Carolina Chili Smashburger. A burger topped with layers of melted American cheese, beefy chili, chopped yellow onion, Duke’s mayo and coleslaw on a pretzel bun. I might try that one the next time  I go back (which I hope is soon).

There are plans to possible open additional locations in the Triangle so keep an eye out. I know I am secretly hoping they pick a North Raleigh location next. In the meantime you can visit the Durham Smashburger location and be sure to let me know what you think!

2608 Erwin Road – Durham, NC (map)
Website: http://smashburger.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/smashburger
Instagram http://instagram.com/Smashburger
Twitter: @SmashBurger


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Brunch is Back at Piedmont Restaurant in Durham!

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Last Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a delicious brunch at Piedmont, a Southern American restaurant located right next to the Durham Farmers’ Market on Foster Street in downtown Durham. Piedmont has been part of the local foodie scene for a number of years now but has undergone some exciting updates this past year. Back in May 2013, Chef-Partner Ben Adams joined forces with General Manager Crawford Leavoy and together they have reinvented the restaurant with changes to menu offerings and updates to the restaurant’s interior. More recently they added a brunch service that can now be enjoyed every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am to 2:30pm.

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As their name suggests, the restaurant features ingredients sourced from the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Now more than ever the menu focuses on local farm-grown ingredients to be used in classic comfort food dishes that have been reimagined by the inventive spirit of Chef Ben Adams to create a modern farm-to-table dining experience. The revamped modern / industrial interior of the restaurant has a friendly warm vibe with walls adorned with recycled wood wall hangings set against an acid stained concrete floor.

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To start off our brunch my wife and I shared a slice of the farmers’ market quiche and a glass of fresh squeezed orange-tangerine juice. A generous slice of light and fluffy egg mixed with cheese, local lettuces (in this case dino kale), mushrooms, and preserved lemon vinaigrette. The exact ingredients may evolve throughout the season based on current seasonal ingredients sourced at the local Durham Farmers’ Market. The flaky crust had a wonderful sweetness to it that really complimented the dish.

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Next we had the sweet potato bread which makes for a fun and unexpected appetizer. The freshly baked bread is soft and warm with a delicate crust. I enjoyed nibbling on this semi-sweet bread while enjoying my fresh cup of Larry’s Beans Coffee and taking in the surroundings of the restaurant.

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We also enjoyed the Coddled egg served with wild mushrooms, bacon, celery root purée and truffle oil. I’ve never had anything quite like this before. I’m not the biggest fan of mushrooms but even I could not deny this dish was incredible. The combination of flavors did not overwhelm and instead were the perfect compliment to each other. I made sure I had a little bit of each ingredient with each bite and the result was delightful.

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I am usually less adventurous than my wife when it comes to brunch so I also ordered my old standby – French Toast. Yet even the French at Piedmont introduces you to a wonderful new way of enjoying this classic dish. It is made with fresh brioche from Durham’s own Loaf Bakery and comes topped with cinnamon-pear compote, candied pecans, and a side of real bourbon-maple syrup. I would have never thought of enjoying cinnamon-pear with my French toast but I loved it and the bourbon-maple syrup was a nice twist on the usual pairing.

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For our final dish we shared the smoked beef brisket. It comes topped with caramelized onions and is plated on top of an ample serving of cheese grits made with Chapel Hill Creamery‘s aged calvander, along with two poached eggs and natural jus. I don’t eat grits often, but they really worked with this dish making for an incredible combination with the brisket and poached eggs. We were both full and happy after finishing this dish. Definitely one of the highlights among an already incredible menu.

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Of course no brunch is complete without at least one drink. The offerings from the bar at Piedmont are inspired by General Manager Crawford Leavoy who hails from New Orleans. Among the many brunch cocktails offered the two that caught my fancy were the brandy-spiked milk punch, and a spicy house-made bloody mary served with multiple garnishes of lime, celery, olive, pepper, and a boiled shrimp! For those seeking non-alcoholic refreshment they also offer locally roasted Larry’s Beans coffee, housemade lemonade and fresh-pressed orange-tangerine or tomato-rosemary juices.

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As we lingered at our table after finishing our meal I couldn’t resist enjoying one last cup of coffee. I was already a big fan of Larry’s Beans but somehow the coffee tasted even better following the great food we just had. I surveyed the room and noticed the dining area was starting to grow quite full as the morning wore on. A sure sign that word about this great brunch has already started to spread. Brunch is probably one of my favorite meals and I’m excited to have found a new place with such exciting menu items made from locally sourced products. I will be back!

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Brunch is now served at Piedmont every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am to 2:30pm. You can easily walk over to the restaurant after a trip to the nearby farmers’ market on Saturdays or visit on Sundays to enjoy live jazz music. Appetizers range from $6 to $11; entrees from $8 to $16. Cocktails range from $8 to $12; fresh juices, $5. To view the full menu or book a reservation, visit Piedmont Restaurant online.

Piedmont Durham
401 Foster Street
Durham, NC 27701 (map)
website: http://www.piedmontrestaurant.com
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Piedmont-Restaurant
twitter: @PiedmontDurham


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Zinburger Now Open at The Streets at Southpoint Mall in Durham!

ZinBurger Logo_4C

Earlier this month I was invited to attend a early preview of the new ZinBurger Wine & Bruger Bar at the Streets at Southpoint Mall in Durham in advance of its Grand Opening on December 10th.

The sneak peek featured samples of most of their menu items including slider sized versions of their signature burgers as well as samples of their salads, fries, deserts, and cocktails. There were several other local bloggers in attendance that evening and I was lucky enough to run into and dine with my friend and fellow travel and foodie blogger The Wandering Sheppard.


Zinburger ~ Streets at Southpoint Mall in Durham

The Zinburger restaurant fills the space formerly occupied by the Rockfish Grill. They have updated the interior to have a casual yet modern and upbeat flare featuring rich wood and earth tones. There is also an interesting mural of cows grazing in a green pasture under a cloudy but blue sky along one wall of the dining area that provides a splash of bright color. The restaurant has 11 HD televisions located throughout the space features a nice open air patio with an outdoor fire pit with lounge seating and dining tables to enjoy during the warmer months.


El Diablo Burger

As you can imagine  Zinburger is known for its gourmet burgers which range from $9-$15. Each is made with either Certified Angus Beef or American-style Kobe beef ground fresh twice a day right there at the restaurant. Their Signature burgers include the Zinburger with manchego cheese & zinfandel braised onions and the Kobe Burger with vermont cheddar & wild mushrooms. I enjoyed the El Diablo burger (pictured above) with its fire roasted jalapeños, pepperjack cheese, caramelized onions & chipotle mayo.


Napa Salad

If beef isn’t your thing they have other menu offerings like a veggie or turkey burger, ahi sandwich, and five different salads ranging in price from $5-$12. My favorite was the Napa Salad which has organic greens, dried fruit, marcona almonds & goat cheese vinaigrette. Chicken and ahi can be added to any salad for an additional charge.


Weekly Specials

One thing I always look for at restaurants is the weekly food and drink specials they offer. Zinburger has done a nice job of offering some great deals throughout the week.  Wednesdays they offer half-price bottles of wine and “Happy Thursdays” provide an all day happy hour with  $5 “Plain and Simple Burgers”, half-price sides and discounts on cocktails.


Kentuck Smash Cocktail

Zinburger has  a full bar with cocktails, 17 beer selections including 8 on tap and a wine menu that includes 23 varieties priced from $5 to $15 a glass.   I tried some of their sangria and a drink called the “Kentuck Smash” (pictured above) made with Jim Beam Bourbon, Mint, Angostura, Lemon. The drink was quite nice and went down smooth with just the right amount of sweetness. I did notice a few local beers on tap, and hope they consider adding a few more to feature additional local brewers.


Bar Area

In addition to the main entrees,  side selections include hand-cut fries, sweet potato fries, zucchini fries, onion rings, coleslaw, cottage cheese and double truffle fries. I had the opportunity to try the regular and truffle fries. While tasty they were fairly typical of fries I have had at similar venues. The truffle fries were my favorite. The dessert menu features old fashioned, hand-dipped shakes, floats and malts as well as banana cream and chocolate cream pies. I had samples of each with my favorite being the salted caramel shake.


Outdoor Patio Seating

As mentioned above, there is a cool outdoor seating area complete with comfy chairs and fire pits to warm you on cool nights. I think Zinburger serves up a solid burger and is an excellent addition to the mall. They are open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 am to 10 pm and Friday and Saturday from 11:00 am to 11 pm. You can view their full menu here.

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A visit to Watts Grocery in Durham ~ “Strange Seafood” Event Recap!

Watts Grocery - Durham, NC

Watts Grocery – Durham, NC

Watts Grocery in Durham has long been at the top of my list of the great Triangle restaurants to visit. For one reason or another I’ve never managed to make the trip over from Raleigh to dine there until very recently when I was invited to attend a special “Strange Seafood” event hosted there last month. I can’t believe what I’ve been missing! My first experience at Watts Grocery was exceptional and the culinary creations by Chef Amy Tornquist were fantastic.

Dining Room - Watts Grocery

Dining Room – Watts Grocery

The “Strange Seafood” event I attended was a partnership with the Walking Fish Cooperative, an award winning community supported fishery that links fishermen on the coast of North Carolina to seafood-loving consumers in the Triangle. Attendees enjoyed a 5-course dinner that showcased an array of sustainably harvested strange seafood from North Carolina paired with wines from Hope Valley Bottle Shop. Proceeds from that night went to benefit Saltwater Connections, a regional initiative aimed at sustaining livelihoods, cultural heritage, and natural resources along North Carolina’s central coast.

Strange Seafood Menu

Strange Seafood Menu

Full disclaimer, although I love to blog about food I am have an unfortunate shellfish allergy that makes it challenging for me to fully enjoy seafood since many dishes typically have shellfish in the ingredients in one form or another. So on this night I sampled what I could, and quizzed my dinner companions for their thoughts on the dishes I could not try myself. Fortunately I was sitting with some of the areas best foodie bloggers like Matt Lardie of EatWriteGo, Kristen Baughman of Gadabout Food, and Jill Warren Lucas of EatingMyWords. It was great fun spending the evening with the three of them and bending their ear a bit about local foodie happenings as we chatted over each course.

Appetizer - Hush-puppies and Fried Okra

Appetizer – Hush-puppies and Fried Okra

As luck would have it I was good to go with the  appetizer served for our table share. It consisted of hushpuppies and fried okra. These fried delights were light and tasty and the basil mayo & tabasco aioli served accompanying them added a burst of flavor that really tickled my taste buds. The wine served with this course was actually nice light champagne.

2nd Course ~ Smoked Jumping Mulle

2nd Course ~ Smoked Jumping Mullet

First course was Sea Asparagus & tomato salad with chapel hill creamery feta cheese & lemon vinaigrette (image). The sea asparagus was something many at our table had not tried before but all agreed it went very well in the salad. The wine pairing for the first course was a lovely Muscadet.  The second course (pictured above) was a smoked Jumping Mullet with pickled red onions, arugula salad, and a grilled baguette



As I mentioned earlier, I was somewhat limited in the number of dishes I could try due to my allergies (I knew this going in to the event) but was thrilled to be a part of the evening and enjoyed listening to my foodie friends describe the flavor profiles of each dish. I was not however limited in my ability to try each dishes wine pairing and I made sure I thoroughly enjoyed those. Picture above is the fine burgundy that accompanied the evenings third course.

3rd Course - Pan Seared Hand-Gigged Skate

3rd course – Pan Seared Hand-Gigged Skate

The third course was none other than a Pan Seared Hand-Gigged Skate with capers, sauteed potatoes, and green beans drizzled with a brown butter sauce. I have caught my fair share of skates in my day but never realized they could be turned into such an elegant dish. It was at this point that Chef Amy Tornquist stopped by our table as she made her rounds to checking on the guests in the dining room. It was great listening to her stories about how she tackled the challenge of creating such inventive dishes with the unique seafood she was presented with for the evenings menu.

Dessert - Fig and Apple Cake

Dessert – Fig and Apple Cake

The fourth course was Sheephead Stew (yes that is a fish – and a scary looking one at that) with collards, smoked tomatoes, and house bacon (image). This was served with nice medium bodied Pinot Noir.  The fifth and final course was dessert. This was an incredible fig and apple cake served with vanilla ice cream and a fig caramel. It truly was amazing. I don’t think I left a crumb on my plate. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic evening of wine and fine seafood.

Chef Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery in Durham, NC

Chef Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery in Durham, NC

Although I could only sample a few of the night’s dishes I truly enjoyed my first visit to Watt’s Grocery and can see why Chef Amy Tornquist and the restaurant are so highly regarded. Not only was the food wonderful but I loved the setting inside the restaurant with the spacious bar and the artwork adorning the walls in the warmly light dining area. The tables are spread throughout the restaurant in such a way to make private conversation easy and perfect for a date night, while at the same time close enough to make the restaurant feel like a place inviting to larger groups looking to enjoy an evening of great food with their friends. I look forward to my next visit and am particularly looking forward to trying their weekend brunch menu which I hear is fantastic!

About Watts Grocery
With roots firmly planted in North Carolina, Watts Grocery takes its name from the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood where chef Amy Tornquist has fond childhood memories of the Watts St. Grocery candy and snack stop in Trinity Park. Featuring local foods by the forkful, Amy weaves them into her cooking to create a distinctive take on North Carolina cuisine. Watts Grocery combines easygoing Southern hospitality with dishes such as fried oysters with remoulade, chicken and dumplings topped with cheese biscuits, and Meyer lemon mousse. Durham’s night owls feast on the unconventional bar menu featuring fried chicken gizzards with garlic aioli, hush puppies with basil mayo and red velvet cupcakes.

Upcoming Dining Event!
Watts Grocery to Host Farm to Fork Dinner October 23, 2014
If you missed the Strange Seafood event but would like to experience Watts Grocery at a future event you are in luck! On Wednesday, October 23, Watts Grocery is teaming up with Four Leaf Farm & Bluebird Meadow to host the Farm to Fork Wine Dinner. Guests will enjoy a five-course meal paired with wines by Drew of the Hope Valley Bottle Shop. Cocktails begin at 7 p.m. and will be followed by dinner. Tickets are $55 (tax and gratuity not included) and can be purchased by calling Watts Grocery at 919-416-5040.

For more information, visit wattsgrocery.com or call 919-416-5040. Watts Grocery is located at 1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC, 27705. Connect with them on Facebook or on Twitter.





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