Towering brick walls reach up to the exposed wooden rafters and modern, spherical chandeliers hang from 604 at West Village's high ceilings. Beneath this rustic, yet refined decor, plates of contemporary Italian dishes travel to tables, loaded with locally sourced produce, wild boar from Broken Arrow Ranch, and housemade pastas. Every day, chefs incorporate new ingredients from the Durham Farmers' Market into their risotto and craft the pasta primavera exclusively from fresh, seasonal vegetables. During warmer months, the restaurant hosts live jazz performances on its outdoor patio, allowing diners to enjoy the music and eat with silverware made from smelted saxophones.
Sharing the location, but offering a more casual dining environment, The Pizzeria serves oven-crisped pies alongside a similar selection of refined entrees with locally sourced ingredients. Although the chefs are equally comfortable with tossing thin-crust, new york style pizzas by hand and sculpting thicker, sicilian-style pizzas, their signature creation is the Grandma pan pizza with garlic- and basil-spiked tomato sauce. Although The Pizzeria's dining room shares the same brick walls as 604 at West Village, it creates a more lounge-like feel by lining them with neon beer signs and vintage posters advertising low-definition TVs.
It's been more than a half-century since the first Char-Grill opened its doors on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, but not much has changed at this beloved local chain. Whether in the original cinderblock building or one of the 10 locations that have been added since, people still approach the counter to jot down orders, pass them through the window, and then look on as cooks grill half- and quarter-pound steak patties over charcoal flames.
In addition to the signature smoky-flavored burgers, Char-Grill also fires up grilled chicken, chili dogs, and pulled-pork sandwiches. Milkshakes and fries add to the eatery's classic feel, helping land it on USA Today's list of 51 Great Burgers and reminding guests of simpler times when hamburgers were used as currency.
While steak, seafood, salads, and wines share the spotlight, it's the fondue pot that transforms the dining experience at The Melting Pot Durham into an interactive one. Bubbling at the center of the table, steel cauldrons steam with cheese blends such as aged cheddar and lager beer, or fontina, butterkase, and buttermilk blue. Diners spear slices of granny smith apples, artisan breads, and veggies, before dipping them into the thick, creamy cheese. While a wine and cheese fondue pairing may suit the evening on its own, a fresh salad followed by lobster and steak turns the experience in to a three-course event. Continue the dipping feast by adding one of nine velvety chocolate fondues and diners can gather around the table to dunk strawberries, marshmallows or chunks of cheesecake.
Baba Ghannouj blends Greek and Lebanese flavors for an exotic medley of pita wraps, platters, and salads. The chefs intertwine the flavors of grape leaves, Moroccan eggplant, and hummus to complement lamb and beef entrees. The culinary artisans also accommodate all diets by dishing up a regular and vegetarian buffet for lunch and dinner.
As diners nosh, they can gaze at the restaurant's wall-mounted flat-screen television or listen to the lilt of Mediterranean music. And before departing, they can fortify their stomachs with a piece of baklava that's crispy yet hearty, like a valentine card sewn from an onion's skin.
Since 1984, Champps Americana's kitchen has sizzled with made-from-scratch dishes, satiating sports fans and families with a comfortable atmosphere. Amid sunlit dining rooms, diners seated at wooden tabletops can root for their favorite pixels on flat-screen TVs broadcasting live sports. In the kitchen, chefs prepare pastas with grilled chicken and roasted artichokes, pile buns with barbecued pulled pork and spicy buffalo chicken, and fill soft taco shells with grilled steak. Behind the bar, bartenders whip up specialty cocktails and margaritas and fill goblets with wine and local craft beers on tap.
The cooks at Cinelli's Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria craft New York-inspired classic and modern Italian entrees, including tilapia encrusted with crabmeat, filet gorgonzola, tortellaci—a homemade beef and veal dumpling—in a wild-mushroom ragout with truffle oil, and a goat-cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom topped with arugula, fire-roasted peppers, and balsamic reduction. Their success has allowed them to spread across multiple locations, each of which also serves New-York-style pizza.