The proficient pie twirlers at Merlino’s blanket crusts of homemade dough in palatable piles of fresh cheese and toppings. A large 16" pizza quells the hunger pangs of game-day gatherings or an impromptu Thanksgiving with 12 slices of golden crust oozing with melted cheese. Although not included in the price of this deal, additions of pepperoni, sausage, jalapeños, pineapple, or green peppers ($1.95 each) add piquancy to each steaming bite, and specialty ingredients such as gyro meat ($3.25) add a gourmet touch to the comestible circlet. Fingers receive pre-meal warm-ups and postmeal cool-downs by lifting hefty doses of piping-hot wings, made all the more succulent when slathered in a choice of eight sauces, including hot barbecue, buffalo parmesan, Cajun, and butter garlic.
When the Station Brake Cafe first opened in 1986, owner Tom Setz made a commitment to gourmet Italian-inspired cuisine. Today, his menu features traditional veal marsala in wine sauce alongside creatively named dishes such as the chicken Neptune, which marries the white meat with lobster and scallops in a sherry cream sauce.
The eatery still boasts its original decor, which weaves exposed brick, stained glass, vintage woodwork, and carpet into a dining room that evokes memories of homey family dinners and belie the gourmet cuisine. Arching solarium windows bathe diners in natural light from the ground up and, in the corner, a stone fireplace crackles with heat to fend off the winter chill or dispose of secret messages scrawled on cocktail napkins.
The chefs at Luciano's Italian Brick Oven whip up prepared-to-order Italian cuisine with house-made meatballs and tomato sauce made from scratch. Divvy up a 14-inch alfredo pizza ($12.25) or embark on an archeological expedition through the lasagna's layers of cheese, lean ground meat, and house-made tomato sauce ($11.30). Diners revel in the sea’s tasty bounty with the shrimp scampi sautéed in lemon-butter sauce ($15.55) and sink forks into the flaky, breaded, and fried eggplant parmesan ($11.95). The chicken marsala, lightly sautéed in marsala wine and fresh mushrooms ($15.50), is as tasty as a framed chicken-marsala portrait is tasteful.
The bartenders at Brewstone Beer Company have trouble picking their favorite types of beer, so they don’t bother. Instead, they serve domestic and imported pours from all over the atlas, grabbing brews from as close as Sun King Brewing and as far away as the great ale houses of Europe. Each flavorful beer harmonizes with hearty steaks such as ribeyes, new york strips, and sirloins. They also play well with the menu’s half-pound Angus burgers topped with avocado mayo, seared ahi tuna spiced with wasabi mousse, and pasta tossed with spicy chicken and grape tomatoes. Feasts unfold inside a spacious dining room, where a mural of electric guitars presides over roomy leather booths and flat-screen televisions tuned to the day’s sports.
Founded in 1902, when everyone walked uphill both ways, the Bulls have evolved into one of the country's best-known minor-league teams. Boasting a rich history and talented prospects making their way to the majors, the Bulls play in the 15-year-old Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Featuring a 10,000-seat capacity, comfy extra-wide seating, a new video board, and a sublime view of the bull perched atop the 32-foot Blue Monster in left field, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a superb place to witness the 2009 AAA National Champions run, hit, and skillfully communicate with a flurry of dexterous semaphore. Stocked with young talent, the Bulls will showcase several players in 2010 that are sure to soon end up on a major-league roster. Inspired by 23-year-old Desmond Jennings—who posted a .325 batting average and .419 on-base percentage last year—and 22-year-old, hard-throwing Jeremy Hellickson—who fanned 70 batters and walked only 15 in 57.1 innings—the Bulls are primed for another title run through an action-packed schedule this year.