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.
Courtside Diner invites guests to taste something "down home countrified," with their chefs whipping up every dish on the homestyle menu from scratch. After nabbing a seat at the counter, rising grill steam prophesies morning offerings of three-egg omelets and soft blueberry pancakes. During lunch and dinner, flames kiss juicy burgers, and a stone oven bakes New York style pizzas to a bubbly finish. As guests dress greens at the fresh salad bar, they can peruse the diner's collection of wall placards, which are emblazoned with motivational phrases such as Simplicity, Faith, Family, and Exit This Way.
Hanging blue lights illuminate the sushi bar at Saigon Bistro, where chefs slice, layer, and hand-sculpt rolls. Seaweed and rice shrouds the fresh fish, tempura, and vegetables of specialty rolls, while teriyaki and noodle dishes simmer in the kitchen. A variety of lunch specials pair eclectic Asian entrees with rice, salad, and soda, and a kids' menu grants youngsters reprieve from regular diets of peanut-butter sandwiches and plastic action-figure heads. Customers can feast in the chandelier-lit dining room and gaze back at the Asian ornamental stone lions positioned at the bar.