1. Driftwood Southern Kitchen
Driftwood opened not too long ago, inhabiting the space that once housed Antonio’s Gourmet Market in North Raleigh’s Lafayette Village. The place has been updated with a rustic chic decor, where chalkboard menus meets reclaimed wood meets burlap coffee bean sacks. It all looks nice, but a quick trip over to Driftwood for Sunday brunch was underwhelming. Coffee, served via an elaborate presentation, was good but the wood plank that it was served on proved to be too large and clumsy for the two-top table. And the Country Breakfast, at $12, was lackluster given its hefty price tag for the eggs, sausage patty and cheddar biscuit.
Since my last visit, Driftwood has retooled its brunch menu, changing to a Sunday Brunch buffet instead. Bottomless mimosas, $10, is still offered. Driftwood will also host a special Father’s Day BBQ brunch as well.
Driftwood Southern Kitchen | 8460 Honeycutt Road, Suite 112 Raleigh 27615 | 919.977.8360
If I could up Garland in two words, it would be spicy and piquant. I’ve soldiered through many Sichuan peppercorn-laced dishes, but even some the dishes at Garland, the downtown Raleigh Indian and Korean-inspired restaurant, got the best of me. Dousing strands of the “birds nest” veggie fritters, Pakora, in the rolodex of chutneys was particularly gratifying. The Pork Rice Bowl, a sumptuous bowl that encapsulated unctuous, tangy, spicy, and creamy flavors in one bowl left me well-satisfied and slightly punch-drunk from all the water I drank to quell the heat.
Garland | 14 West Martin Street Raleigh 27601 | 919.833.6886
3. Red Pepper Asian Restaurant
The Fortune Palace phoenix rises again. I was raised on the food from Raleigh’s Fortune Palace (the waitresses have known me since I was a teenager), so when it closed down I almost cried when I realized that the calamari and mapo tofu would be no longer. So when I heard that that Fortune Palace’s owners opened Red Pepper Asian, I returned like any good filial daughter would. Fans of the calamari will be happy to hear that it’s back. The menu has been abbreviated to a mix of Chinese, Thai and Malaysian dishes and the dining room is much smaller compared to that of Fortune Palace’s old location, but the same cheerful service has rolled over to Red Pepper.
Red Pepper Asian | 4121-109 New Bern Avenue Raleigh 27610 | 919.594.1006
4. Flame Kebob
The paucity of Persian restaurant in the Raleigh area is egregious (even before Morrisville’s Moustache Cafe closed down), but Flame Kebob fills the void nicely. A lunch portion of the Ground Sirloin Koobideh was particularly juicy and flavorful, and it came with an more than ample side of rice, grilled tomatoes and side salad. And at just $7.99 for the amount and quality of food, the prices seemed quite fair. The service, friendly and attentive, makes up for the sterile strip mall location in Brier Creek.
Flame Kebab | 7961 Skyland Ridge Parkway, Suite 110 Raleigh 27617 | 919.596.2525
5. Kai Sushi and Sake Bar
I’ll admit, I’ve visited Gonza Tacos y Tequlia one too many times and always managed to overlook Kai, the Japanese sushi restaurant on the other side of the Greystone Village Shopping Center off Lead Mine Road. Well, I’ve repented a few times over for the oversight. Complimentary edamame and weekend roll specials make it a must-visit destination for good-quality sushi and pleasant ambiance. The sashimi and sushi are always fresh and there’s also a sizable offering of Korean appetizers and entrees.
Kai | 7713 Lead Mine Road Raleigh 27615 | 919.870.4923
6. City Barbecue
City Barbecue is what I like to call “folksy corporate”, almost like a Cracker Barrel’s version of a barbecue joint. The newly opened Cary barbecue restaurant serves a conglomerate of regional barbecues and grasps to achieve a level of legitimacy, but never does. Everything from the fare to the decor comes off as a facsimile of something more authentic. Regardless, the barbecue, from the smoky, pulled pork to the St. Louis-style ribs, does the job for a ‘cue craving if you’re in the Cary vicinity. The lunch plate combinations, served with two sides, aren’t a bad value and the location offers plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.
City Barbecue | 1305 Kildaire Farm Road Cary 27511 | 919.439.5191
7. Bolt Bistro
Dining at Bolt Bistro will set you back a pretty penny. It’s located in a prime location on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh with ample space for dining al fresco. On the Saturday night that I visited, the dining room was sparsely filled. Appetizers, including the Beef Carpaccio and Fried Calamari, were well-prepared. The much-vaunted Lobster Macaroni and Cheese was lackluster and the portion size was laughably small given the price. Short ribs, braised to a juicy tenderness, were good but at the same time not particularly remarkable. I left feeling that, for the money, I rather have gone to Stanbury or Poole’s Diner.
Bolt Bistro | 219 Fayetteville Street Raleigh 27601 | 919.821.0011
8. Mami Nora’s
Mami Nora’s is hard to miss. The loud, yellow exterior located off Wake Forest Road demands attention and the rotisserie aroma lures you inside like a Greek Siren. A quarter portion of rotisserie chicken and two sides, both white and dark pieces, registers under $8 and it’s one of the best deals for a quick, filling meal in Raleigh. The chicken, juicy and flavorful, is bolstered by the generous portions of sides (premium sides like the yucca fries and the tostones are must-tries). And when in doubt, dip everything into the yellow sauce.
Mami Nora’s | 2401 Wake Forest Road Raleigh 27608 | 919.834.8572