I bought a new iPhone this week. With its upgraded camera and increased space, I vowed to start taking lots of food and restaurant photos and uploading them to Twitter, Facebook, and to this blog. So I bought the phone on Wednesday and immediately drove to Raleigh to try four new places in one night. One of the Taste Carolina tour guides, Adrienne, joined me in this adventure. We had so much fun! And I took wonderful pictures, particularly at Garland, which is beautiful.
When I got home, I immediately went to delete the photos from my Pictures folder. Photos were always saved into two folders on my old phone, and that’s what took up so much memory. But that’s not how it works on the iPhone 5. I lost all of them. Except one – the one I texted to my husband to brag about what I was eating. Here’s a picture of two different kinds of meatball sliders, mac & cheese, and collards at the brand new Oak City Meatball.
So that’s all I have for now, but I promise to recreate my magical night and get all great new photos up here. In the meantime, here is what we ate and drank:
1) The Green Light Bar, Raleigh – I had never been to a bar called The Architect before, but I had heard of it and I knew where it was. A few months ago I noticed a Twitter spat between a blog called New Raleigh and a local restaurant owner. New Raleigh tweeted something like, ‘Green Light Bar. Discuss.’ The restaurant owner tweeted back something like, ‘Why so smug?’ New Raleigh: ‘What? I’m just letting out a little secret.” Restaurant owner: ‘Letting out a little secret would be to say something like, Hey! Has anyone been to The Green Light Bar inside The Architect behind the secret bookcase?’
And I’m like, WHAT? I LOVE secret bars! Especially behind secret bookcases. I immediately texted tour guide, Jeanie, who lives downtown, and she texted back that she would head right over. It took her a bit to find it, even though she’s been to The Architect many times. But when she did get there she texted back that it was perfect, that her drink was the best ever, and that we know the owner and he’s happy to host our tours. Best night, and I wasn’t even there.
Fast forward to this week. I finally got there to check in out, and it’s awesome. My drink, made from fresh juices and homemade syrups, was delicious, and the bartender was very friendly. There’s a neat view of Hargett Street, too. I can’t wait to go back and to bring lots of people by.
Oh, and here’s something cool. There’s a light out front of the bar. When it shows green, there are seats available. When it’s red, no seats available – and no entry.
2) Bida Manda, Raleigh – We have been working with Bida Manda for about a year, but they took a break from our Saturday tours (but not weekday tours) in December due to high volume and a trend toward 5:00 and 5:30 reservations filling the restaurant. Bida Manda is ranked number one on Trip Advisor, currently, and it’s well deserved. The owners, brother and sister Van and Vanvisa, are delightful. They hire nice people and they’re perfectionists: they make sure each customer who comes in has an experience that exceeds expectations. The food is unique and delicious and shows off their Laotian heritage. Bida Manda is only the second full-on Laotian restaurant in the country.
In the past I’ve had pumpkin curry, summer rolls, spring rolls (my fave), a shrimp and bacon crepe, and a green papaya salad with beef. This time, Adrienne and I split a roasted pepper stuffed with herb sausage, and crab cakes. Van sent us over a couple of hot toddies with homemade maple syrup, Evan Williams bourbon, and orange peel. Yummy and comforting on a very cold night.
Fortunately for Bida Manda, but sad for Taste Carolina, reservations continue to pour in, and there’s just no room for our Saturday groups. But Van was sweet to suggest a Friday evening tour, and I can’t wait to get that going! And we’ll continue to bring in weekday and weeknight corporate groups.
3) Oak City Meatball, Raleigh – OCM opened just this week. It’s the same owner as one of our favorite places, Calavera, and both are super fun. The night we were there, it was hopping with young, happy people. The service was terrific, the food prompt and yummy, and we had a great time.
We tried three different meatballs. Our favorite was the meatball of the day, which was a spicy chicken one. We also enjoyed the traditional beef meatball and the spinach and lentil ball. And that mac & cheese and collards were decadent and terrific. Oh, and because we were so hungry (not), we also ordered cake balls, which are made in-house. We loved the cookies and cream one and were happy to share our leftovers with a couple of random guys sitting next to us. After all, we still had one more place to hit.
Oak City Meatball’s menu shows a number of different types of meatballs, and you can eat them on a sub roll, a brioche bun, a slider bun or have them over spaghetti, gemelli, polenta, or risotto – or plain. You also pick a sauce, like marinara (perfect), pesto, cream, mushroom, etc., and a cheese. We ordered three sliders and let the kitchen choose the sauce and cheese.
The drinks were all superb. Great beer list, too. I can’t WAIT to go back.
4) Garland, Raleigh – While the Garland crew was building their restaurant last year, owner Cheetie took advantage of the completed kitchen and opened a walk-up window featuring her Southeast Asian fusion/ street food dishes. It was very popular and a fantastic way to preview the restaurant. Cheetie also cooked for our tours and served the food paired with a craft cocktail at her downstairs bar, Neptunes Parlour. It’s been a couple of months since the restaurant opened, but Wednesday was my first time in. It’s beautiful beautiful beautiful. And looked so pretty at 10pm on a cold winter night. Hence all the awesome but deleted photos.
But the food and drink were great, too. We had Bhel Puri, an Indian street food dish with crunchy puffed rice, crunchy chick pea noodles, cucumbers, and greens mixed with an herb vinaigrette. The flavors were different for me, and I loved them. I had a similar dish recently at Vimala’s, Aloo Chat, and loved that one, too. We also got corn cakes with local greens and a drink made from toasted coconut, cinnamon, and orange. I told them they should bottle it and sell it immediately. (It tasted a lot like a delicious bourbon liqueur that’s currently being bottled and sold in North Carolina only called Mystic.)
Will upload my phantom pictures as soon as I take them again!
Here’s to good eating. And thanks for reading.