Six Plates Wine Bar minimizes customers’ food indecision with a concise menu that pairs six upscale small plates with six wines by the glass. Despite the menu's diminutive size, there's no lack of variety—the foodies in the kitchen constantly swap out dishes to make use of as many local ingredients as possible, while a clipboard bears a list of more than 150 wines, and 30 beers, sold by the bottle. Mentioned in the New York Times for its use of local food, Six Plates Wine Bar puts an upscale take on comfort foods with its plates, which are about half the size of a traditional entree.
Six Plates Wine Bar's resident wine lover, Matthew Beason, curates a wine list that hails from around the globe—from behind the bar, he'll recount the tale of his first wine love, a 1995 JL Chave Hermitage Blanc that broke his heart when it eloped with a bottle of Boone’s Farm. Each glass romances tongues beneath crystal-drenched chandeliers in the warmly lit dining room, where eclectically framed vintage photos and mirrors share space on exposed brick and deep-amber walls. Diners can recline on red-upholstered armchairs, at the bar, or at intimate, candlelit tables flanked by backed barstools.
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.
While flipping through television channels, you might spot Chuck Hayworth slicing up spaghetti squash or sculpting a vegan meatball on his own cooking show, Thankfully Local. The skilled chef is a passionate proponent of eating locally sourced foods, having overcome stomach cancer on a diet of farm-fresh produce and fruits. In the kitchen of Worth It Café, Chef Chuck works with a colorful array of fresh ingredients—95% of which originated from local North Carolina purveyors. To craft his signature "stuffwiches", Chuck packs hollowed-out farmhouse bread with barbeque pulled pork, crispy chicken, and house-roasted beef.
Diners gather around tabletops in the cafe's airy seating area, sipping freshly brewed iced tea and lingering over last bites of freshly baked brownies. Some opt to grab one of Chuck's takeaway dinners—such as chicken pot pie or spinach lasagna—to bring home and enjoy with their family or the pack of wild dogs they've come to love like a family.
Tony, the owner of Bandido’s Mexican Cafe, learned the tricks of the trade while working at his family’s Mexican restaurant as a teenager. Today, he and his wife own and operate three Bandido’s locations, which serve sizzling fajitas, crisp tacos, and burritos stuffed with beef, chicken, pork, or sautéed spinach. The Herald-Sun's readers praised Bandido's as the Best Mexican Restaurant in 2009, and the restaurant returns the favor by awarding individuals who finish the El Gigante burrito—a massive compilation of steak and chicken fajitas, rice, black beans, and shredded cheese—with a T-shirt and gentle pats on the back. The restaurant often hosts live entertainment, and the Durham location supplements its selection of lunch and dinner fare with a Sunday brunch menu served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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.