Studio 91’s elegant gallery space and boutique wine selections combine the passionate products of both artists and vintners, regaling the eye with fine art and the palate with fine wine from family-owned vineyards. Budding oenophiles get to tipple a 3-ounce tasting from a batch of four boutique wines, served in a combination of either two white wines and two red, one white and three reds, or all reds. To match each sip with sustenance, Studio 91's servers will raid the Mouse King’s treasury and bring forth a cheese plate of gourmet brie, aged sonoma jack cheddar, sliced apples, olives, walnuts, and fresh bread. Gourmet chocolate toffee almond truffles, accompanied by fresh raspberries and whipped cream, dance out with the last glass of red wine. The Studio 91 crew's guidance for properly tasting a vino will sharpen your senses to such nuanced flavors as black currant and democracy.
The chefs at El Rincon Mexican Restaurant create Mexican specialties such as enchiladas with mole poblano sauce, pork chops slathered with a green hot sauce, and sincronizada—a grilled tortilla sandwich stuffed with chicken or beef and cheese and served with sliced jalapeños and avocado slices. Guests pair these eats with libations from the full bar, including imported Mexican beer such as Bohemia and Tecate bottles and Negra Modelo drafts. After concluding meals with fried ice cream, patrons can head over to the eatery’s game room for some foosball and pool.
With the fountain chortling pleasantly in the background and the sun soaking into the fertile ground, it's easy to lose track of time at Vineyards at Southpoint. The glasses of handcrafted wines probably don't help much, either. In addition to shipping varietals to wine-club members, the vineyards offer weekly and special-event tastings, so guests can sip award-winning vintages while taking in the beautiful scenery.
Judging by his daring attitude toward fusion cuisine, head chef Michael Schiffer probably tried to fry the rule book before throwing it out the window. He founded Maximillian's Grill in 1991 with humble aspirations: it would be a 32-seat pizza restaurant where guests could enjoy quiet meals. In four months, however, he had amassed magazine awards and a clientele that would line up outside the restaurant for an hour before he opened the doors. They were there, waiting patiently, to see what delicious fusion food would sail out of the kitchen that night—Michael hand wrote a new menu every day and often invented new dishes on the spot, fusing Italian flavors with creole and Asian influences.
Unfortunately, in 1998, a fire closed Max’s for good. Though he and his wife Gayle later opened a gourmet deli, it wasn’t until 2001 that they opened Max’s once again, this time in a roomier location with high ceilings, soft light, and tinted windows. The new joint even has a wine bar in the back separated from the dining room by a partition.
In the kitchen, Michael devises fresh takes on fusion cuisine while holding onto many of the dishes that made Max’s famous, classics as the grilled caesar salad—prepped by grilling the actual lettuce—and the peppercorn-encrusted Voodoo tuna. Michael has also archived his old menus on the restaurant's webpage, viewing them as a timeline for his culinary evolution and a way to remember how to spell "bouillabaisse."
zpizza— voted best pizza in Raleigh by CitySearch and Best Pizza in Cary by WakeCary Magazine —is known for its inventive, California-style pizzas: think zesty Thai-style chicken pizza with peanut sauce and cilantro, or Mexican-style pizza loaded with taco fixings. But even a simple cheese or pepperoni pizza from zpizza is sure to be memorable. That's because the restaurant's cooks use only top-shelf ingredients in their brick-oven-baked pies, from the Montana winter wheat that goes into their hand-thrown crusts to the organic tomato sauce and Wisconsin skim mozzarella layered on top. Diners can customize pizzas with other toppings, including locally sourced meats, fresh produce, and gourmet ingredients such as truffle oil.
April Schlanger, a 15-year wine-industry veteran, believes that the words “organic” and “eco-friendly” are not mutually exclusive when relating to affordable wines. She and her husband Josh opened Sip... A Wine Store in the hopes of sharing their passion for and knowledge of organic wine and beer, earning the young store a glowing feature on CaryCitizen. Respect for the planet oozes from every design detail in the quaint shop, be it the VOC-free wall paint, reclaimed-wood display tables, or complimentary wine carriers given to customers upon arrival. Those hoping to challenge their palates and forego the day's to-do lists can sidle up to the tasting bar or partake in formal wine classes, focusing on specific producers or varietals.