For 20 years, Nawwaf and Bayan Said craved the opportunity to share their native cuisine and culture with their fellow North Carolinians. At Jasmin Bistro––named for both the flower and to nod to Nawwaf's first restaurant, Aladin's––the duo blend Greek and Lebanese recipes made from scratch. Imported ingredients and local produce intermingle in classic dishes such as kebabs, hummus, gyros, and chicken shawarma. Along with platters and sandwiches whipped up in their new Hillsborough Street location next to Meredith College, Nawwaf and Bayan cater festivities with buffets, party platters, and boxed lunches.
To the chefs at Mantra, atmosphere is nearly as important as taste. That’s why they serve contemporary and traditional Indian cuisine against a vibrant red floor, energetic pink mural, and eclectic array of artwork. Potatoes and peas fill the deep recesses of warm, deep-fried samosas, and lettuce wraps cradle tandoori mushrooms, paneer, and sprouts. Transported to tables via an utterly silent elephant in the room, entrees satisfy appetites via lamb vindaloo's spicy sauces and murgh tikka masala's ginger-and-garlic-marinated tandoori chicken. Finally, delectable desserts assuage sweet teeth with mango-flavored mousse, milk dumplings in rose-flavored syrups, or a carrot pudding sculpted into the diner's favorite geographical region. Sleek tables and chairs parade their modern lines across the restaurant's elegant dining room, which makes for an ideal setting for a first date, second platonic dinner, or third attempt to find lukewarm porridge.
Sunflowers Café’s creative culinary artisans have served up tasty, well-presented dishes in an intimate setting for 27 years. Latin zest and vegetarian touches pepper their fresh dinner menu, which brings together soups, salads, tacos, and seafood in a culinary harmony unseen since the California Raisins dominated the airwaves. The rich, moist Mexican cornbread is tinged with jalapenos and served hot with a piquant cherry-balsamic dipping sauce ($5), which is a tasty lead-in to the herb-encrusted salmon tacos, served either alone with slaw ($9) or as a meal with slaw, black beans, and rice ($13). Savory entrees such as the grilled Pamlico County shrimp tap-dance on tongues when paired with mango-pineapple salsa ($16), and the black-bean burger emcees a tummy-tickling variety show featuring pepperjack cheese, salsa, Mexican slaw, and Ed McMahon’s iconic jackhammer routine ($9). The setting is cozy and intimate—its pleasant light-yellow walls and framed photographs cocooning wooden tables and chairs and its attentive wait staff of butterflies.
Every Menchie's location around the world looks much the same: pink, yellow, and lime-green decor framing the eponymous mascot, a smiley twist of yogurt with a cone for a body. It's an identical template that allows for nearly infinite variations at each outpost's row of 14 or 16 rotating yogurt pumps, where guests can self-serve swirls of flavors such as pistachio, peanut butter cup, cake batter, and fruity raspberry pomegranate tart. Then, they can ladle scoops of nearly 60 toppings—including sprinkles, cookies 'n' cream, hot fudge, and locally grown fruits—onto their creations. Nonfat and no-sugar-added varieties join gluten- and lactose-free options for those who have food sensitivities or just hate the taste of gluten.
If variety is the spice of life, Ba-Da Wings' variety of spices must be its underlying meaning. Its ravishing roster of 22 wing flavors, including buffalo selections ranging from mild "Ba-Da Buffalo" to mildly flammable "Ba-Da Bam" and specialties such as Carolina barbecue, garlic parmesan ranch, and honey teriyaki make appearances throughout the extensive menu. Take a boneless flight of flavor ($8.45 for six wings), climb on a pile of jumbo wings ($7.45 for one pound), or allow the chefs to slather sauce inside a signature wrap with all the trimmings ($5.45–$5.95). Complement any heated strike against hunger with satiable sides such as two soft pretzels with mustard ($2), bacon cheese fries ($5.95), or the pepper spray for hot peppers, celery stalks (six for $0.50).