Carafe's micro-wineries brew and bottle their own grape blood on-site, harvested from the fruit of the world's many vine varieties. Tapping into the thrills of kiddie chemistry experiments, the wine-masters at Carafe custom-mix each bottle of inebriation-fuel at their creation station, imbuing brews with the extra love and care that enables them to mature into responsible citizens of stomachs everywhere. Not to be outshone by the contents, bottle labels are similarly customized, bearing personalized messages from bottler to bottlee. Label designs from the Raleigh wine-wranglers are printed on water-resistant gloss paper, ensuring that your birthday, anniversary, or Tuesday wishes are clearly conveyed. The stock does vary according to availability, so before promising the gift of pinot, make sure you call or stop in to check on your favorite varieties.
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.
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.
Vinos Finos y Picadas serves an assortment of delectably cured meats, fine cheeses, and bite-sized gourmet morsels sourced from far-flung culinary destinations. The Vinos Finos y Picadas meat and cheese combo platter (a $30 value) abounds with a multifarious assortment of tidbits to complement your vintage of choice (wine not included). Like members of a California Raisins cover band, dried fruits, nuts, and a warm baguette make sweet epicurean music with meats and cheeses. Meat choices consist of hard salami, ham, prosciutto, and mortadella with pistachio; Argentine sardo, cambozola, pecorino, crucolo, and jarlsberg round out the cheese roster.
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."