Drawing on 25 years working in prominent Thai restaurants, owners Oddy and sister, Kanchana, have lined Thai Cafe's menu with recipes from their home digs of Bangpoo––a village southeast of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. Striving always to balance the four basic Thai tastes of salty, sweet, sour/bitter, and hot, the duo also instills a precise flavor profile through meticulous knife work. Finely cutting ingredients into smaller pieces ensures seasoning coverage, stir-fry crispness, and an ego boost for the self-conscious baby corns.
Butter-hued walls prepare senses for yellow-, red-, and green-curry dishes insulated with tender morsels of chicken and beef. Skilled sushi artists slice sashimi and form hand rolls from yellowtail and tempura shrimp, and chef specialties dispatch from the kitchen with Thai barbecue, crispy catfish, and roasted duck––many of which have been left to marinate or cook overnight. Thai Cafe also conveniently represents each dish's spice level by placing two red peppers beside hot dishes, three beside Thai hot dishes, and an invisible pepper beside secret-recipe dishes for the eatery's magician clientele.
Though Carolina Smokehouse Grill is relatively new to the triangle culinary scene, the eatery has wasted no time making its mark. Under the direction of restaurateur Matt Naugle and executive chef Caroline Pudova, grillmasters smoke up tasty southern favorites that have earned spots on WRAL’s Five Favorites lists for Best Ribs and Best Mac and Cheese. Braised short ribs simmer slowly in beef broth, or pork ribs smoke slowly before dressing in sauce or keeping it casual by arriving to the table dry-rubbed and singing Journey songs. Pudova also prepares eastern North Carolina–style chopped pork barbecue with vinegar-based sauce, or beef brisket that grills for nine hours before sliding onto plates underneath a tomato-based sauce. Carolina Smokehouse Grill pairs these entrees with sides such as fried okra or cheesy bacon grits, as well as specialty peach and berry cobblers topped with vanilla ice cream.
From behind walk-up and drive-thru windows, staffers dip cones into chocolate and butterscotch, top turtle sundaes with nuts, and twirl twist cones with specialty flavors such as tiramisu and cheesecake. But the Dairy Depot's signature confection is the Train Wreck, a combination of soft serve and candy, fruit, pretzels, or other toppings. The eatery also features unsweet treats including The Pullman, a pulled-pork sandwich; The Steam Engine, a chili-topped coney; and The Conductor, a sloppy-joe sandwich. As guests ponder these and other menu items, they can draw inspiration from a sign outside. It pictures a black and white steam locomotive with a sugar cone smokestack that seems to be powered by soft serve, much like fuel-efficient vehicles on the North Pole.
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.
Nestled in historic downtown Wake Forest, Over The Falls whips up steaming hand-tossed pizzas and stacked sandwiches in a dining room that recalls a cozy log cabin. Red and yellow ceiling lanterns cluster together like glowing mushroom tops, casting light on dark wood furnishings and sleek exposed brick walls. While dining on a hand-tossed pesto pizza or sauce-slathered wings, patrons can sip a beer, catch a game on the flat-screen, or chest bump their reflection in the floor to ceiling front windows.
As a native of North Carolina with more than 30 years of experience working in restaurants, pit boss Vernon Griffin knows the difference between cooked pork and proper barbecue. He incorporates influences from North Carolina?style barbecue, hickory-smoking and slow-cooking the meats until they?re shot through with bold flavor and tenderness. His menu of down-home favorites, like Buffalo Bill's lunchbox, is full of hand-pulled pork, smoked brisket, and Brunswick stew, simmered for hours.