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.
Charron's Deli's green awning and brick exterior gives way to a tidy shop, interspersed with tables, wicker picnic baskets, and a glass display case stocked with filler-free Boar's Head meat and cheese. Master slicers carve hand-trimmed hams ($9.99/lb.) to pair with cheddar, provolone, and pepper jack cheese ($7.99/lb.) or pastrami and corned beef ($10.99/lb.), and other requested cuts are shaved to fill house-made sandwiches or meat scrapbooks. Diners perusing the deli menu can customize subs and sandwiches by mixing and matching the meat and cheese or settle on options such as the club sub with bacon ($4.79 for a 6”; $7.09 for a 12”), the grilled roast beef and cheddar ($5.99), or a hot dog dressed with chili and loaded with toppings ($1.59–$2.29). Sandwiches are served atop a roll or white, wheat, or rye bread, which servers can grill panini-style to warm diners chilled from clearing snowy driveways with their tongues ($1 extra).
Made fresh daily, Daylight Donuts bakes and shakes a bevy of baked goodies to satisfy hungry stomachs and coat throats with a spread of liquid energizers. Sate dough desires with a delicious assortment of bountiful sweets, including the light-textured, made-from-scratch donuts ($0.89+), taste-bud-tantalizing cupcakes ($2.50), or tongue-smothering cakes ($30+).