Category Archives: Restaurant

Dinner: Arriba Arriba

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today, I’m celebrating Mexican food with a trip to Arriba Arriba, the popular Mexican spot in Hell’s Kitchen.  This place is always packed and has outdoor seating if you like to dine al fresco.  It can get a little loud inside and with the low lighting and pounding music, it has more of a lounge vibe.

Arriba Arriba makes the best cheese enchiladas mole served with Spanish rice and a salad.

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The alambre–marinated shrimp, steak and veggies skewer with rice and sauces.

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And my favorite, the delicious huge burritos.

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Dinner: Sparks Steak House

I’m rounding out famous New York City steakhouses with Sparks Steak House.  From the moment you are greeted by the host, you feel the classic, upscale feel of Sparks.  The dark wood and large-framed Hudson River school landscape paintings on gold and burgundy walls evoke a time gone by.  The bar has quite a hopping after work suit crowd.  Clearly, it’s still a place where the good old boys do business meals and deals.

On my visit, I got a steakhouse classic, the sliced tomato and onion salad.

sparks tomato and onion salad

For sides, we shared the creamed spinach and hash brown potatoes.

creamed spinach and hash browns

I got a filet mignon.

Sparks filet mignon

My friend got prime sirloin steak.

Sparks sirloin

For dessert, I got the house special, strawberry Romanoff, a special cream made with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and Grand Marnier.

strawberry romanoff

My friend loved his steak and the sides.  My steak and salad were good.  The dessert wasn’t as great as I’d hoped it would be by the sound of it.  But I highly recommend Sparks as it is a great steakhouse with a classic New York atmosphere and good food.

Breadmen’s

Breadmen’s is a diner that’s a local favorite in Chapel Hill, NC, serving classic American food.  It’s also a family favorite in my family.  While I’m not an onion ring fan, my family says Breadmen’s makes the best.

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At a recent visit, I opted for an egg-white omelet.  It came with Southern breakfast classics–a biscuit and grits.

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We also got French toast

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a mushroom and cheddar omelet

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and a cheesesteak sandwich

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Two for Tuesday: Arepas & Empanadas

My love affair with empanadas doesn’t go back very far, but when I first had them, it was forever.  My preference is for corn flour empanadas, and I opt for the more traditional ones rather than concoctions like pizza empanada.  I was excited to see that Raleigh, NC, got an empanada bar, so I had to try it.  Calavela Empanada is in a trendy neighborhood near City Market in downtown Raleigh, and it also has a bar for the night crowd.  Downtown Raleigh tends to have a young professional crowd, and that’s who patronized this restaurant when I visited.

I wound up getting the Piggly Wiggly since I was in North Carolina–it’s a pulled pork empanada and the holy frijoles with black beans, sweet potato and Oaxacan cheese.

empanadas

Both of these lacked flavor, and the dough was more of a pie pastry than what I’m used to for empanada dough.

My friend got the champ, which is a mushroom empanada and poblano loco with poblano peppers.  She felt the same way about hers as I did.  On the flip side, these are only $3 a pop, so this is the cheapest option for a night out in downtown Raleigh.

Guasaca in West Raleigh is a fast food restaurant serving arepas.  Arepas are Venezuelan breads made from corn flour.  I’ve had them in the city, but I must admit I was not a huge fan.  What’s cool here is that you can order a signature arepa or build your own.  I got an avocado chicken arepa and a tilapia one with baked plantains and caramelized onions.  I also got red sauce and cilantro sauce on the side.  These were pretty yummy, although messy because the bread is not a pocket so it doesn’t hold the ingredients.

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North Carolina State Farmers’ Market Restaurant

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If you’re visiting Raleigh, North Carolina, and you want some authentic country cooking, then the North Carolina State Farmers’ Market Restaurant is the place to go.  The menu is very varied and the atmosphere is really cute.  The service is super friendly as well.  Plus, it’s right at the NC Farmers’ Market, so you can peruse the fresh produce and goods there before or after your meal and make a day outing.

No Southern breakfast is complete without biscuits.

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I got an omelet with home fries.

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My companions got

French toast

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omelet with grits

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and fried chicken with rice and gravy and crowder peas

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Everything was really good, especially the biscuits!

Swad Indian Cuisine

Swad Indian Cuisine is fairly new to the North Raleigh scene.  It’s located in a strip mall that houses one of my favorite restaurants, Neomonde.  Because Neomonde is a very casual spot and the strip mall is pretty much your average strip mall, I wasn’t expecting Swad to be so lovely inside.  It looks as if it should be in Manhattan.  The design is sleek and modern, and it has a fully stocked bar.  There is also a lunch buffet area.  The dining area is very comfortable.  I went midweek and it wasn’t crowded.  We were promptly seated at a booth.

To start, I got the Swad tikka–tender boneless chicken bites marinated with Indian spices served on small skewers.  These were very flavorful.  The chicken was very moist, which was nice, but I think it could’ve been cooked a bit longer.

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For entrees, we shared two vegetarian dishes:

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Maharaja malai kofta–hand-rolled spiced potato balls cooked in India’s rich creamy sauce

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and

paneer masala–oven-flamed homemade cheese cooked in succulent tomato based cream sauce.

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Both of these dishes were delicious.  I enjoyed sopping up the sauce with Peshwari naan (sweet naan stuffed with dry nuts, raisins, cashews and cherries).

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In addition to the excellent food, the service at Swad is attentive and friendly.  Thanks to Swad, this area in North Raleigh no longer lacks an upscale restaurant.

Lunch: Umami Shoppu

I really wanted to try the ramen at Umami Shoppu in the West Village, but when I went here for lunch, I was craving sushi.  So I ordered a lunch special of two rolls and salad for $9.  A great deal in NYC!

My salad:

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My sushi:  a Philly roll and a salmon avocado roll.  A great value for lunch.  I do want to return to try the ramen some time, as it sounds delish!

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