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.
If you're a Triangle-dwelling Thai food fan, it's likely that you know about Sawasdee Thai Restaurant?it won Indy Week's Best of the Triangle award for Best Thai Cuisine every year from 2007?2011. In 2013, it picked up another honor from the paper: Best Restaurant with Gluten-Free Options. While the Thai chefs at Sawasdee ground the menu in their homeland's culinary traditions?which means the salt comes from fish sauce, the sweetness from palm sugar, and the pucker from tamarind?they're always looking for ways to make them feel fresh and relevant to local diners. That means things such as creating a separate gluten-free menu so no one has to begin their meal simply hunting for a dish that suits their diet. And an extensive vegetarian section leaves out the fish sauce (and egg, if desired), replacing animal products with mixed greens, tofu, and other botanical elements. Naturally, the heat can be adjusted, too, on a scale that starts at "spicy" and tops out at "make-you-cry."
Sawasdee's chefs also give the ingredients themselves extra scrutiny. Even in seasons when fresh herbs are hard to find, they scour suppliers' shelves to make sure they always have authentic seasonings such as galangal and lemongrass on hand. In meat dishes, all-white-meat chicken, large shrimp, beef sirloin, and pork tenderloin bed down on Thai jasmine rice. And at both Sawasdee locations, designers have shown a similar attention to detail in the decor. On Glenwood, a huge compass rose in the ceiling softly lights the dining room's woodwork and trailing succulents and helps curry-intoxicated diners find their way out the door. The location on Capital is less sleek and more cozy, with red walls, traditional carved screens, and even a patio surrounded by dense greenery on all sides.
Legend has it that when The Flying Biscuit Cafe first opened, diners were so enamored with the kitchen's soft, flaky biscuits that they polished off the entire stock before 11 a.m., causing the restaurant to close its doors for the day. Today, the cheerful eatery has expanded to 13 locations across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida, each one serving an average of 5,000 biscuits per week. Cooks are forever busy in the kitchens, slicing up the fluffy biscuits for breakfast sandwiches and folding farm-fresh and organic ingredients into a variety of American comfort classics. They dole out breakfast dishes all day long, from wood-smoked salmon scrambles to the gooey grits lauded by reporters from The Emory Wheel as "the most delicious cheese grits you’ve ever tasted (or ever will taste)". As the day wears on, the cooks turn their attention to juicy Angus beef burgers and Southern-style dinners such as chicken-fried steak and spicy jambalaya pasta. Committed to promoting healthy lifestyles, they also offer a variety of good-for-you menu items and modifications, whipping up omelets with egg whites, baking biscuits with whole wheat, and serving pancakes with a side of cast-iron kettlebells.
Operating a pizzeria for more than 20 years, the family behind Mr. Pizza and Salad knows how to quickly cater to guests' hunger pangs. The cooks forge pizzeria classics with in-house-marinated chicken and signature recipes for dough and sauce. They make sure pizzas don't float away by holding them down with ingredients such as bacon, banana peppers, and roasted peppers before baking pies to a crispy golden brown. Diners can load up bowls with a smorgasbord of veggies from the salad bar, giving taste buds a chance to marvel at the delicious wonder that is photosynthesis.
The indoor dining room accessorizes its apple-red walls with colorful artwork, and an outdoor patio shades its chrome tables and chairs with a smattering of umbrellas. Mr. Pizza and Salad is open as late as 3:30 a.m. on weekend nights, and visitors can dine in late, opt for delivery, or pick up their meals to enjoy them at home or in a showroom dining room at the nearest furniture store.
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.
When Debbi Fields opened the first Mrs. Fields in 1977, it wasn?t all sunshine and cookies. Between her lack of business experience and the unorthodox business model?selling only cookies?not many people believed in her. More than 30 years and a global franchise later, it?s safe to say the doubters are eating their words, at least when they're not busy stuffing their faces with one of Debbi's signature semisweet chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin and walnut cookies.
The wild popularity of Mrs. Fields's cookies can be attributed to the richness of their basic ingredients: real butter, whole eggs, and special blends of chocolate. Classic flavors include chewy fudge, peanut butter, and white chocolate macadamia, and seasonal flavors complement the lineup throughout the year. Select varieties can also be made into cookie cakes of various sizes and shapes that add a delicious twist to any celebration or milk-truck spill.