When Jennifer Lemmons was choosing a name for her business, she decided to combine the names of two of her favorite things: Lorelei, her grandmother, and pralines, a delicious treat that inspires fond memories of her childhood. At Lorelines, she and her crew smother North Carolina pecans with their signature slow-cooked buttery caramel to craft authentic pralines just like the ones Jennifer used to enjoy during trips to her grandmommy’s house. Though pralines are the specialty, they also whip up other confections ranging from chestnut pralines and chocolate-covered espresso beans to peanut brittle, chocolate-covered sea-salt caramels, and coconut-apricot pralines.
Inside the large dining room of Vesuvio’s Italian Kitchen, light floods in through lofty windows over plates of steaming homemade lasagna and lobster-stuffed ravioli, carried hot from the kitchen by servers. Dark booths line a pair of walls, where a mural window looks out through curving arches onto a bright sea, dotted by sailboats and famous philosophers surfboarding. Next to the stone fireplace, rows of tables are arranged across the rustic hardwood floor, and wine and beer flow freely below the tiled awning that hangs over the bar. A range of house specialties populate the lunch and dinner menu, and an expansive salad bar supplies garden-fresh greens.
Dick & Jane's Tapas and Martini Bar’s entire menu is designed to be sipped, savored, and shared among friends over conversation. Classic tapas include housemade white cheddar pimento cheese, baked brie drizzled with caramel, and shrimp sautéed with chilies, and an equal portion of the menu is devoted to unfussy, bite-sized takes on American comfort favorites—roast beef and brie stuff mini croissants, pulled pork fills a sourdough panini, and smoked salmon or medium-rare filet mignon lie atop tartines. At the bar, beer and wine join 30 martinis that range from a classic dry martini with pimento-stuffed olives to the sneaky Bruce Willis, which looks like a traditional martini but sneaks orange liqueur and white cranberry juice in through the glass’s ductwork.
Beyond the red walls and checkerboard floors of the dining room, bright umbrellas alight on the patio, where little windows in the wooden fence peek out on flower boxes. On the brick wall just above, a recently refurbished antique mural shows a fresh-faced woman cheerily obeying the instruction to Drink Coca-Cola, adding a splash of vintage character to back up the historical downtown Mebane locale. Some nights find Dick & Jane’s serenading their quaint neighborhood with the sounds of live musicians.
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.
La Fiesta Restaurante Mexicano’s classic dishes have earned the eatery a long-standing award proudly displayed on the website: Best Mexican Restaurant nine years in a row, as voted by readers of the Times-News. At the start of each workday, the restaurant’s chefs fry the popular tortilla chips and whip up bowls of salsa. Then they get to work on such dishes as chicken simmered in a chipotle cream, char-grilled steak tacos, and spinach burritos.
Inside Russell's Steakhouse, butter oozes through the crevices in soft, flaky shells of baked sweet potatoes, dusted with cinnamon and sugar and sharing skillet space with hand-cut, certified-USDA Angus steaks, aged a minimum of 21 days. Outside of the rustic, two-story clapboard building, a wooden bench perches on the front porch, and a stone chimney and horse-headed valets recall a bygone era. The main dining area features two levels of tables and a glossy barn-dance floor that sprawls before a stage. From behind the wooden bar, replete with a wall-mounted flat-screen television, bartenders pour wines by the glass or bottle, frosty brews, and mixed drinks for thirsty diners.