North Hills

Midtown? Nah. Old North Hills Mall. I miss you. Being a native of the City of Oaks, Andy’s Pizza and Scotty’s were an institution in Raleigh. The best pizza ever. What I wouldn’t do to have a simple pepperoni pie right now. Trophy? Doesn’t hold a candle. And how can you forget the famous Scotty dog and the best greasy burgers and fries?  Now all North Hills is high dollar chains, ITB soccer moms in SUV’s that take up two spaces, and a plethora of Starbucks. No thanks. The dining page of the Visit North Hills website says “From high end to fast casual, classic to cutting-edge, North Hills has it all.” Nothing says cutting edge more than Bonefish Grill and The Cowfish. The only reason I go to North Hills is for Target and Sur La Table. And maybe Total Wine. Again, chain city. Lord knows, I’ve spent enough time working and playing in North Hills, I did work at Vivace and Starbucks. Don’t hold it against me. Yeah, hard to picture me as a barista isn’t it? Lots of eye rolling at complicated orders. You want soy and no foam? Nope. That’s why I chose back of the house. Spent many o’ late night at Midtown, and countless Saturdays day drinking at Fox & Hound. Hey, my options were limited back then. We had the ‘ol Hibernian before it ‘burned’ down and the Creekside Ale House. You know, pre-hipster downtown Raleigh. Old North Hills mall was a dump, don’t get me wrong. We used to rush there on our lunch break from Broughton to grab a slice or two and buy cheap sunglasses from The Dollar Tree. Then maybe look at cd’s from Blockbuster Music. Free Jersey Mike’s because we had a friend who worked there also. (Thanks Jessie) Yeah, I had no life as a teenager. Now? North Hills is all shiny, new, and pretentious. Expensive condos and mixed use development. Gone is the Winn-Dixie. Enter a two story Teeter. Give the ITB’ers what they want, Beach Music on Thursday, expensive steaks, and pricey boutiques. Working on a Thursday was a nightmare. Drunktown as it’s finest. I get it though, it’s good for Raleigh. Cameron Village part deux. But it kind of feels a little Charlotte-ish to me though. Forgive me for being sentimental though, old North Hills Mall was part of my childhood. Lots of great memories. It shaped me to be the pessimist I am today. Cheers foodies!

scotty's

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KO at OT

Bucket list. Finally made it to The Office Tavern with AB and McGuzzles. (You know who you are). And what a sight it was. I definitely felt like I was in Carolina Beach at Loretta’s, or the Surfside Bar as it’s also called. You know it’s going to be a good day when you walk into a dive bar on a Sunday and the entire staff, as well as every bar fly, know the people you are accompanying. Not sure what it says about me. Or the company I keep. Anyway, the OT is priceless. Neon signs. Elvis lamps. Pool tables. Fish tank. Cash only. No liquor. Cheap beer. Friendly bartenders. $2 Bud Light aluminum cans on a Sunday. Half way through the day, and quite a few aluminum cans later, a fight happened to break out in the parking lot. A fist fight fight between two older gentlemen, who were also brothers. And one of them happened to be carrying a crutch. And well, he used that crutch to his advantage. It was like the Jerry Springer show broke out on Glenwood South. We had a front row seat to two rednecks beating each other up with fists and crutches flailing. Highly entertaining. Bloody faces ensued. Good thing I was 5 or 6 deep in the metal cans. Cue the jukebox. Anything to calm the situation. Red Solo Cup? Yes. Alabama? Yes. Drive By Truckers? Totally. Even after all the tomfoolery, it still felt like your neighborhood dive bar, just add the assault. I’ll be back to the OT, with their cheap beer (they have the Champagne for 2 dollaz) and for their scenery. The bartenders were salt of the earth, as well as all the regulars. Definitely welcomed with open arms. Great hardworking people who need a place to relax, blow off some steam, and talk about golf and politics. All within dark confines and comfortable bar stools. Don’t we all need that?

I gave Mash and Lauter (and Busy Bee) a second? third? chance. What a mistake that was. How can you be out of half of your entire menu? No mussels? Check. No charcuterie? Check. No bread plate? Check. The tiniest cheese plate ever? Check. Terrible. It’s not like it was late either. It’s half your menu bro.  Last time we went to Busy Bee we walked out after 10 minutes. Why you ask? Service. Always service. We’re here to spend money. Please pay attention to me. Your loss. Gave you plenty of chances. Enough ranting for one night. On a side note, congrats to Gallo Pelón. Best bar in downtown. Check it out. Britt and Marshall are amazing. Cheers foodies!

 

 

 

 

 

Chain-ease

So it was Monday night and all I wanted was decent Chinese food. And by decent I mean no Shanghai Express. That’s reserved for 2 AM when nothing else is open. Plus who doesn’t like egg rolls, fried dumplings and General Tso’s after a few beverages? Not anyone I associate with. As much as Raleigh’s food scene has improved over the years, still no great Chinese food. Peace China? Red Dragon? Ehhh. Not terrible by any means, but not good enough to keep me coming back. David’s Noodle Bar is tasty, but I miss his old place, Mandarin House in Cameron Village. I remember going there as a kid with my dad, eating wonton soup, thinking it was cool to drink hot tea out of those little teapots they would leave on the table so you could pour your own. Plus my dad would always get the special fried rice with the Chinese sausage. He still talks about that fried rice today. So whats’s a guy to do? Visit P.F. Chang’s obviously. Nothing says authentic Chinese food more than a chain at the mall. Plus as many of you have read before I have an affinity for visiting chain restaurants.  See Chain Reaction or I Did Not Eat Olive It. So being inside PF Chang’s you do feel like you are at the mall because it’s big and shiny, full of giant statues of horses and samurai, and a whole lot of gringos. A Chang’s Mai Tai and lettuce wraps seemed like a great way to start the meal. Tiki drinks are all the rage now, so i figured why not. I was actually expecting it to be super sweet because most of the cocktails  I have ordered at chains have been overly sugary and fake tasting. This Mai Tai, not too bad my friends. I think it contained real juice. After eating the lettuce wraps at Bida Manda a hundred times, I have been spoiled in the world of lettuce wraps. There is something about their crispy rice and crunchy peanuts that makes me order is every single time.  The PF Chang’s version although flavorful,  pales in comparison. They used watery iceberg lettuce which I love for my wedge salad, but not for wraps. Shit. Now I want to go to Bida Manda. So for an entree, I got the Dali Chicken, a favorite of mine from the last time was at Chang’s, maybe 10 years ago? Yeah, it’s been a while. Sauteed chicken with potatoes, scallions, and red chiles. As my better half put it, tasted kinda like Chinese buffalo sauce. Spicy and filling, what else could I ask for.  The verdict? A fruity cocktail and some spicy chicken later, I satisfied my craving for Chinese food. Would I have liked to spend my money at a local establishment? Of course, but sometimes a visit to a chain is all you need. It’s like the Saturday morning trip to Bojangle’s or the late night Taco Bell visit. There is something soothing about the sweet tea and seasoned fries, or the crunchy taco with fire sauce. You hate yourself later, but at the time it’s all you need. Until the next chain, cheers foodies!

Dumb Diners

Adios winter, spring is finally here because everything has turned yellow. It really is a great time of year in North Carolina because it’s in the 70’s during the day and the humidity of summer hasn’t arrived yet. Plus it’s great patio weather. Paddy O’Beers anyone? So the other day before work I was just scrolling through Facebook and stumbled upon some Thrillist articles. Those and BuzzFeed are a great way to waste an hour of your life. One that particularly caught my attention was https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/the-44-worst-people-in-every-restaurant. Obviously I have a few more additions to the list.

People who won’t make room for you at the bar

So you’re the couple sitting in the middle of a bar with one open seat next to you on either side. A little common courtesy please and move down one seat mmmkay?

Those who don’t think reservations are necessary

You and 10 people walk into a restaurant during peak hours without a reso and expect no wait? Umm, what planet are you from, Johnston Co.? There is this thing called OpenTable FYI.

Same side sitters

It’s obvious you are together; we just don’t need to see you hold hands as you feed each other and put it on Snapchat.

Yelpers

Thank you for letting me you know you’re a Yelper, we’ll take extra care of your food and drinks. We also look forward to seeing your shitty amateur pictures and review on Yelp. You’re opinion really matters to us.

Guests oblivious to closing hours

The lights are turned up, the kitchen is drinking at the bar, and the chairs are slowly being placed on the tables. Are you guys closing? No ma’am, take your time and finish your tenth glass of water.

Samplers

It’s like they have never been in a restaurant and bar before. Can I try a sample of all your beers on tap? The soup of the day?  Can I try a little bit first to see if I like it? How spicy is the spicy wing sauce? Can you bring me a little ramekin to taste it?

Seat yourselfer

Oh, we’ll just sit anywhere we want. This table wasn’t reserved for anything right? Never mind the fact the table hasn’t even been bussed yet. Amateur hour I tell you.

To-go box abuser

Do you really want to take the basket of bread home with you? Do you really need a box for that one morsel of steak left?

Next week I’m off to New Orleans for French Quarter Fest, so stay tuned to my next post about all my ensuing shenanigans in the Crescent City. Cheers foodies!

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Like Father, Like Son

Hope all you foodies had a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, New Year’s etc. etc. Working in the service industry around the holidays is definitely one of the more stressful times of the year. It’s crazy busy with large parties, and not to mention amateur hour on New Year’s. Note to self, if I am ever off on December 31, I’m never coming downtown. Can you say nightmare? Anyway, this year I was fortunate to be off Christmas Eve and Day, so obviously I spend the entire time with my family. The best part about being off these days besides being able to spend it with family is clearly the amazing food and beverage. My parents are both great cooks, albeit different styles. I know I have mentioned it before, but at an early age I was introduced to food. And not the Hamburger Helper or Shake n’ Bake food. Although Shake n’ Bake on a pork chop or chicken cutlet is still pretty delicious; I digress. Growing up, my mom pretty much did all the cooking. Meatloaf, fried chicken, spaghetti, pot roast, lots of veggies; comfort food you know? Nowadays, my dad has taken over the kitchen and all that it entails. I think he loves grocery shopping more than anyone I know. When he plans a meal, he might go to Fresh Market, Whole Foods, and even Harris Teeter just to get all the correct ingredients. Mise en place I tell you. So Christmas Eve we had to start a spicy sausage bruschetta, Bolognese over tagliatelle, an Italian chopped salad, copious wine, and to top it off, a homemade Baked Alaska for dessert. Layers of cake with strawberry and pistachio ice cream, topped with a meringue, and finished in the oven until golden brown. It was freakin’ amazing; massive enough for a small country. You should have seen the knife work he did for the salad. He had little ramekins for all the individual components: julienne onions, two kinds of olives, pepperoncini, shaved parm, etc. He always mentions by the time he has finished cooking everything he’s too tired to eat it all. It’s a labor of love when my dad cooks. And it shows in the quality of the finished product. You can tell he has been prepping for three days. I’d be exhausted too. And the best part of it all? I get to be my dad’s sous chef when I am home; an awesome way for us to relate and have some father/son bonding time. And I get to sleep in my old bed from when I was a kid. Christmas Day I was in charge of grilling the three beef tenderloins. No pressure right? Just don’t overcook the meat. Easier said than done once trips were made to the wine cellar; the bar is always open as we like to say. It was a great Christmas and I was lucky enough to spend it with my crazy family. I forget how much fun we have together in the kitchen; it’s the place where we have grown to gather, share stories, and listen to my dad’s terrible jokes. And the steaks were cooked correctly btw. Cheers foodies!

 

Home Sweet Home

Raleigh-drink it in, it always goes down smooth. It’s a fact, it’s the greatest city in the history of mankind. I’m Ron Burgundy? Anyway, I know I talk about my love for Raleigh a lot on The Well Red Chef, I can’t help it. Born and raised here, I have seen it transform over the years to what it is today, a great city to call home. So I thought I would compose a biased list of my favorite things to eat and drink around town. Just scrolling through my Instagram helps me remember them all. You know you do the same thing.

Crispy rice lettuce wraps, green papaya salad, pork belly soup and Piña Coladas at Bida Manda. It’s like my fleece vest in the winter, always warm and comforting. Craving them all now.

The Bernie Burger at The Player’s Retreat. Best burger in Raleigh hands down. Added bonus they have a High Life waiting for me on the bar when I walk in. You can find me and AB holding up the bar frequently.

Stuffed clams and chicken saltimbocca at Café Tiramisu in North Raleigh. Yes, it’s OTB, but worth the trip to see Paul, RD, and Richard for amazing Italian food. Plus Tammi makes a great Manhattan.

Cocktails at Gallo Pelón for their always interesting take on mezcal as well as Fox Liquor Bar for anything bitter made by John Parra. #staybitter

I may be a little biased now since I work there, but the pork rice bowl as well as the lamb sausage at Garland is fantastic. Check it out. Do it.

Thursday’s at Kimbap. Three courses and a bottle of wine for $49! Pork belly nori tacos and Korean pancakes are a must have.

Dessert and bubbles at Bittersweet. S’mores and 4 am pancake are always perfect. It’s what downtown Raleigh has always needed, a place to go for something sweet after dinner, or even before.

Kale Caesar at Gravy. The food can be hit or miss, but the Caesar is not. Full of spicy garlic, vampires will definitely stay away from you.

The trinity as I call it at Calavera…Tecate, Espolón, and spicy sangrita. The Three Amigos of alcohol.

Although I didn’t really appreciate it while I worked there, but the crispy top of the mac n cheese at Poole’s is outstanding. One or two bites and that’s all I need. Not sure how people can eat an entire mac and still function. I’d be a zombie.

Day drinking at Paddy O’ Beers…staff is always super friendly and knowledgeable. It’s just a great place to chill and read the Independent on a lazy day, or after a long shift in the kitchen. And great hipster watching.

All of this writing has gotten me hungry and thirsty. I’m sure I forgot some places, please forgive me. Boxcar, Stanbury, Raleigh Brewing, etc. But get out and explore Raleigh and all it has. If you haven’t been to any of these places, check ’em out. Cheers foodies!

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Chain Reaction

Since the terrible chain experience went so well the first time, I must be a glutton for punishment. Next up was O’Charley’s in Brier Creek. I hadn’t been to one in years, and I obviously wasn’t missing much. I was surprised at first glance of the menu at how expansive the beverage options were; Margaritas, Signature Punches, Southern Favorites, Classic Cocktails, Sangrias, and even Sunday Brunch Drinks. I said expansive, not good though. I decided to opt for a Front Porch Punch and a Sour Cherry Julip. The Front Porch Punch wasn’t terrible, was like drinking Firefly and lemonade; in other words, my mid 20’s. The Sour Cherry Julip on the other hand, not so much. The menu listed it as Red Stag muddled with cherries, fresh lime juice, and mint. My ass. More like cherry ‘Tussin on the rocks. Still taste it a week later. Yikes. Enough about cocktails, on to the cuisine. To start, we ordered the Tater Tot Fondue; the one saving grace of our trip to O’Charley’s. Pretty much tater tots with a side of nacho cheese topped with bacon and scallions. Sounds pretty freakin’ good right? Name one person who doesn’t like tater tots. Yup, you can’t. They were really good though. My better half got a wedge salad with actual big chunks of blue cheese. Not bad so far, things are looking up here. Then the entrees arrived and it was all downhill from there. I decided to avoid ordering a steak again since the one I got at Applebee’s was cooked to death. By death I mean gray city, Sahara dry. Chicken pot pie with mashed potatoes and bacon seemed like a safe choice. Marie Callender would have been proud of the pot pie. The mashed potatoes on the other hand were gluey, bland, and absent of salt. I sound like Gordon Ramsay all of a sudden. One bite and I had to take a swill of ‘Tussin. Not sure what was worse. I tried a bite of the chicken fried steak. One bite was enough. Hey, at least we got a free slice of pie since it was on the 9.99er menu. I did overhear a guy at the table behind up ask if he could get his steak Pittsburgh. I almost died. It’s like me going to Golden Corral and asking for rare tuna. Not gonna happen. So a promising start fizzled away. Chain restaurants 2, The Well Red Chef  0. Oh well, I’m persistent and will keep eating and drinking away at America’s chains to settle the score. Cheers foodies!

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