The two best friends behind Bean & Barrel wanted to create a cozy space where patrons could feel at home and lounge for hours, so they decided to open a coffee, wine, and craft-beer bar. In 2010, the duo devised a way to make guests stay even longer without sneaking around and setting every person's watch back one hour?they hired a chef to whip up gourmet food that would pair with the drinks.
Executive chef Sam Allen dishes out American comfort food, including fried pimento mac 'n' cheese bites, Angus beef and lamb burgers, and a free-range-chicken breast in pan drippings. These plates accompany American craft beers and more than 20 rotating wines sourced from the Americas, Europe, New Zealand, and points beyond. Each glass is poured using a nitrogen-pressurized wine dispenser, which keeps the wine fresh enough for millionaires to use as mouthwash.
For lighter options, organic pastries from nearby Ninth Street Bakery pair perfectly with organic, fair-trade brews made with beans roasted by local Larry's Coffee.
A red bicycle hangs on a wall at The Red Bicycle Coffee Café and Catering. Its perpetual stillness contrasts the bustling activity of the café's baristas, who grind single-origin beans for bold cups of coffee and creamy lattes. Though the beans are imported from exotic locales such as Hawaii, Ethiopia, or India, the local coffee artisans at Joe Van Gogh in Hillsborough check the expiration dates printed on each bean before roasting them to ensure a fresh taste.
In addition to steaming cups of joe, guests can sip Mighty Leaf whole-leaf teas, nibble locally baked pastries, and chomp into sandwiches loaded with deli meats and cheeses. The Red Bicycle's light morsels and laid-back atmosphere also attract local artists and musicians, who display their work on the walls and swing by to strum a guitar or perform Brahms's Second Concerto on the kazoo.
Some of the cooking techniques that chef Jim Anile honed as a child while working in his family's restaurant still define his cooking style. He's well versed in various cuisines and has helmed the kitchens at a range of upscale restaurants, including, most recently, Il Palio in Chapel Hill. At L'Uva, his new rustic-modern restaurant, he chooses to focus solely on traditional Italian dishes, inspired by the sort of fare one might find in small Italian villages. Anile designs a new menu every week, but always uses local ingredients and focuses on simple preparations. To complement this culinary theme, L’Uva limits its wine list to small-batch Italian bottles. Bartenders pour these by the glass or mix them into wine cocktails.
Cafe Renaissance?s seafood-laden menu treats guests to classic comfort food. Grilled shrimp pairs with homestyle grits for dinner and is covered with creole mayo and tucked into a toasted roll in the po' boy sandwich. The fried shrimp and fish dishes mix the crustaceans and white fish with cabbage and fries. These meals are complemented by sides, such as sweet-potato casserole, black-eyed peas, and Cajun-seasoned fries. On select nights, guests can relax during poetry readings, live musicians, and auctioneers in training.
Tropical Smoothie Café's wholesome smoothies are filled to the gills with fresh fruit, juices, yogurt, chocolate, nuts, and healthful supplements, minimizing the crushing guilt of dessert consumption to a soft heartbeat emanating from the floorboards. Puréed potions such as Pomegranate Plunge (pomegranate, banana, strawberries, cranberry, $4.99) are stuffed with super fruit, and low-fat options, such as Mango Magic (mango, pineapples, non-fat yogurt, $4.29), trick gullible taste buds into believing that they are traversing a candy factory full of whipped-cream lollipops. Supercharged smoothies are stocked with a healthy dose of supplements, such as the Kiwi Citrus Green Tea's antioxidant-laden matcha charge or the Muscle Blaster's whey or soy protein ($4.89 each). Individual supplements can also be added to any other smoothie ($0.59 extra), boosting its magic points by +10.