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Posts posted by detlefchef

  1. OK, here's the run down as I see it.

    Miranda's on Pickett Rd at Chapel Hill (across from Four Square) is a great little stand. No seats, but very correct tacos with the usual trimmings.

    Super Taqueria on Roxboro is solid on pretty much all accounts and has a great garnish/salsa bar. I'm not sure if any single thing they do is the best in town but they're no dogs on the menu either.

    The little place on Club at Roxboro makes a mean taco from handmade tortillas. The only thing I didn't like there was the Chicarones con Nopales. They're like the Burgundy of Durham tacos. Outstanding at times but perhaps a bit spotty in terms of consitancy.

    Up the street from Super is a market next to the post office in the center that Old Oxford Hwy dead ends into. In the back there's a little taqueria that makes a very good Nopales Salad and some tasty mole as well. Once again, tacos are pretty correct as well.

    On Hwy 98, just off 70 going east is a little drive through to the left that makes a great egg burrito and some pretty good Tortas and Al Pastor. I like the vinegary salsa as well.

    Further out 98 @ Mineral Springs Rd is perhaps the best Mexican Find in the area, but it's not a taqueria or even a restaurant. They make fresh toritillas, rotisserie chickens, braised meats (including beef cheeks) for sale by the pound, tamales, and some killer salsas. It would be great for a picnic out at Falls Lake or something, but not a quick snack.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Nobody's mentioned the one where they take your dirty knife and stick it on the tablecloth when removing the first course. I want a new knife, dammit, is that so hard?

    That's my pet peeve as well. And its cousin, the "You better hang on to that," as they give you back your dirty fork.

    Agreed. Even worse is the dirty looks I often get when I politely say "I'd prefer to have a new set of cutlery with the next course please."

    I don't do this all the time, it depends on the meal. However, I ALWAYS do this when my first course includes shellfish as my SO is deathly allergic and it would be easy to forget when sharing some of my second course.

    I loathe, loathe, loathe lousy service of any kind. I shall be polite and courteous to my server at all times and expect the same back. Good service will get me to return every time. We went to a new (to us) mid range place the other night, a bit out of our way. Service was good, for drinks and apps but there was a loooong pause after that. While I couldn't tell what was going on, it was clear (to me) from the managers actions and the servers harried looks that something was wrong. Our server appeared with two glasses of the wine we had been drinking with our apps, comped, apologized for the delay, said only that there was a problem and that our meal would be up in about 10 minutes. Inquired if that was acceptable to us or if we would prefer to return another evening. We assured him it was fine, thanked him for the wine, had a lovely enjoyable dinner. That is great service, the comped wine a nice extra. He handled their problem professionally and efficiently and I will return again. I did, of course, show my appreciation both in the tip and a word with the manager on the way out.

    It never fails that a problem can become a complete asset if the situation is handled well. Your experience was actually made memorable (for a good reason) ultimately by the fact that the kitchen screwed something up and they made an effort to make it up to you. Had the meal simply gone off without a hitch, you may have forgotten about the place sooner.

  3. What the heck is wrong with ordering champagne before the meal?  I happen to like champagne as an apertif.  Or for breakfast.  Or whenever.  I don't get it... I'm being gauche?

    Amen to that. It's about as perfect a way to kick off a meal as I can think of. Then again, I'm not looking to keep my critical edge sharp as it appears some others are. I'm just looking to have a good time.

    About the only somewhat popular time for champagne that I just can't get down with is dessert (unless it's a demi-sec of course).

  4. 1- Chefs

    - Over rated restaurants thriving on the name of the Chef who is somewhere else counting the money!

    - Chefs throwing a fit when a customer ask for salt or any condiment!

    - Chefs failing to visit tables at the end of the evening.

    - Chefs with soiled outfit and silly hats.

    - Chefs PRETENDING to speak French.

    - Chefs who list their work experience at 2 or 3 Michelin without specifying what their role and tenure were!

    - Chefs who insist on displaying their pictures with the Pope-JLeno-Sinatra-Sophie Marceau...

    - Chefs who push their latest book yet to be released as the new life alteration experience.

    - Chefs who have signed up with supermarket chains and manage to rubbish their products.

    - Chefs who know EVERYTHING about ALL food.

    - Chefs who use testimonials from "experts" who nobody has ever heard about.

    - Chefs dressed up and eating at a table next to you!!!!

    2- Wine

    - Wine not served at correct temperature.

    - Important wine not being carrafed.

    - Wine not uncorked at table.

    - Cheap wine glass.

    - Slow/fast wine service.

    - Customers who know the drill for wine tasting but do not have a clue as to why they are doing it.

    - Customers who try the wine and nod with a smile to the sommelier.

    - Customers who do not have the guts to return a bottle of bad wine.

    - Wine bottle upside down in chiller!

    - Sommelier who is trying to push an expensive wine without having ever tried it before.

    - Sommelier who goes around with a silly silver cup and never uses it.

    - Sommelier who does not give each bottle of vintage wine the respect it deserves.

    3- Bread

    - Customers cutting bread with a knife.

    - Bread basket too big for table.

    - Non removal of bread plate for patrons who do not eat bread.

    - Crusty bread which needs a vacuum cleaner

    - Bread which is supposed to be dipped in expensive EVOO or Balsamic.

    - Cut "Pain Paysan" in classy French restaurants.

    4- Menu

    - Items on menu finished/cancelled.

    - Well worn menus.

    - Small print menu.

    - Menus to be read in low light and need to be lit with a flame or a cellphone!

    - Very large size menus.

    - Restaurant not accepting off menu orders.

    - Amuse-gueules renamed Amuse-bouches

    - Amuse-gueules needing a photospectrometer to find out what your eating!

    - Mid meal sorbet when only a 2 or 3 meal course is ordered!

    - Water in weird glass bottle with unknown label!

    5- Customers

    - People talking on cellphones

    - Customers who cannot pronounce foreign words and insist on scorching the language.

    - Customers who are clueless in front of a foreign menu and need the services of the waiter as translator.

    - Men who do not stand up when a lady stands up.

    - Men who do not know how to offer a chair to a lady at the table.

    - Men who order Champagne before the start of the meal.

    - Men who do not keep eye contact when toasting a partner.

    - Men who don't know how to sit guests at a large table.

    - Ladies who swirl a cocktail stick to kill the bubbles in a Champagne glass.

    - Ladies who are on a diet.

    - Ladies who laugh loudly.

    - Ladies with heavy perfume.

    - Ladies who do not know where to park their "sac a main"

    - Ladies who go in pairs to powder their nose.

    6- MaitreD'

    - Pompous MaitreD'

    - MaitreD' who acts like an usherette!

    - MaitreD' dressed like a penguin.

    - MaitreD' who insist in cleaning the table from bread crumbs before the dessert to show off his new silver tray and spade even if your tablecloth is clean!!

    7- Waiters

    - Poor students

    - Smelly waiters

    - Great designer outfit and they always forget the shoes!

    8- L'addition SVP

    - Over ornate check wallets

    - Service charge and tip already on check.

    - Silly PIN number machine in a first class restaurant.

    - Silly mint candy offered with the check or at check out!

    - Pen missing in check wallet

    - Waiters grabbling with two three wallets at the same time!

    9- Welcome and Goodbye

    - Although restaurants welcome and table seating is now an accepted norm. Very few first class restaurants accompany the dining patrons to the door upon leaving and this is a mark of top service.

    10- Rant still in process...

    My hang up with in industry in general is the perverse notion that a meal is like a game of chess. There are only good and bad moves and nothing in between. That each and every person (down to the customer) has a specific role to fill and if they stray at all, they should be chasitised. The above respondant is a classic example. For godsakes! It's a freaking meal! It's an opportunity to relax and enjoy yourself and the company of others.

    Ordering Champagne before a meal!? Are you kidding me? Not being multi-lingual? The chef showing the audacity of eating in his own restaurant? Are you implying that he shouldn't ever have a night off? Or are you saying that if he does, he'd better eat elsewhere?

    Even if you do know everything, there's a fine line between knowing how a perfect meal should progress and identifying everthing that comes short of perfection as an atrocity.

  5. And I believe that someone starting fresh has a better attitude toward their work -- as does someone who knows s/he is a short-timer (even for just a month or two).  Ever notice how someone's mood improves when they are on their way out? 

    Uh no, actually. In fact, I think pretty much everyone I've worked with became waaay less productive as they worked out their notice. I've known places that told employees when they hired them not to bother giving notice when the time came to leave. When they were ready to quit, just go ahead tell them the day before. That might be harsh, but it's probably sound. That is, they were better off struggling to fill the shift than keeping someone around with one foot out the door.

  6. The only thing that I can add to this heated conversation is that there is a little hidden money in restaurants that can be tapped to go toward "everyone making more money" theoretically, and I've seen it in practice, so I think there is something to be gained from the philosophy originally stated in the premise of this thread.

    Namely, anytime you have employees standing around, there is money to be gained. Anytime you have employees standing around, bored, while other employees are going down in flames behind a wall of weeds, there is definitely money to be gained. Anytime there is something inefficient happening anywhere in this lean business, there is money to be gained. And that money can be found through cooperation.

    The only flaw in this argument as it pertains to the subject is that those efficiencies are available to any restaurant that wants to impliment them. Yours is a fine example. I'm assuming that yours is not a cooperative venture in the style of Chef S and you are reaping the rewards. Thus, if he can garner some of that "extra money", he's not gaining any ground on your place. All you're talking about is simply being an effective manager of your labor which is something everyone should strive for regardless of the restaurant format. So this also can't be considered a reciprocal savings to his decision on structuring the labor.

    In actuallity, it could be even harder for him to reap those benefits. The "found" money you speak of is made real by being able to get 4 people to do the work of 5 and sending that 5th person home. Well, if your entire staff is basically on salary, where does the money come from?

    In fact, that brings up yet another major problem with the concept. How do you address the fact that you'll typically need 25% more staff to get the ball rolling than you do once everything is ironed out. In the real world, you hire more than you need and figure you can start cutting back people as things smooth out. With waitstaff that's easy, you've got a handful that have a bunch of other things going on and don't mind only getting a few shifts. Chef S better be pretty spot on when he determines how many people he needs because he's not going to have much wiggle room. Especially if he's recruited these people from all over the place to come be a part of this. What that's going to mean is an excessively high pre-opening labor budget and lot's of expensive dry-runs so they can be more dialed in than the average restaurant when they finally open the doors. Yet another thing standing in the way of the investors and their payback.

  7. I'm simply trying to explain some unavoidable truths. You say you're not an accountant but a chef. Well that makes two of us. That said, that doesn't give anyone liscense to ignore the basic facts.

    You mention that you could "easily" follow the 30-30-30-10 model. I don't see how. In an earlier post, you broke down how everyone would get paid and it came to about 35%. That, assumed that nobody made more than $35K until you exceeded $1.8 mil. I once again wonder how many commited restaurant pros who are talented enough to work every station in the house you'll get for that kind of money. If you're going to "easily" make it to 30% labor, now everyone's looking at closer to 30K which is even more unlikely.

    I suppose there are some fundamental issues that we are not likely to get past here. Since I've never met a single investor/landlord who's willing to completely forgo rent so that I can pay more labor costs, I guess I'm outside my area of expertise. I spent some time working with non-profits and just couldn't get down the lack of accountability.

    I'm just urging you, once more, not to assume that you can keep your overhead below 20%. There are many costs in that category that are essentially out of your control and it takes real hardcore accountant type mentality to squeeze them down. Since you rather proudly claim to not be of that ilk... Doing those types of numbers should be a pleasant surprise, not an absolute requirement for survival.

    Lastly, it is folly to overestimate the effect your concept will have on the dining public. Our rent is not paid by true enthusiasts that would get off on the sort of thing you are doing. Our rent is paid by Joe and Jane Spendingmoney who simply want a nice meal (which they're already getting and will continue to get regardless of whether or not your restaurant ever exists). The true enthusiast make up a tiny portion of your clientelle, especially if you are looking to do 180 covers a night in a market that isn't huge. As I said before, fair or not, you are likely going to have to overcome public perceptions at least as much as you are going to be able to count them among your assets. Just look at the number of people on a website dedicated to food that had concerns. I mean, these are the type of people that you'll need to have 100% in your court and you're pulling maybe 50%. You can write them off as pretenders who don't really get it, but if they weren't really into food, what are they doing on e-Gullet? Their fears may be unbased, but unfortunately, that's your problem, not theirs. After all, you're the one who's staking his livelihood on enough people thinking your idea is great.

    So, your choice to rotate staff can only be fairly looked at as a quality of life issue, not as an angle that will earn you market shares. Thus, any additional costs associated with doing so should not be assumed to be offset by additional revenues.

    Honestly, I applaud your desire to shake up the jar. My group is also comitted to shifting the paradigms of our industry. We too, want to inspire our employees and not created business models predicated on working our salaried employees to the bone.

    You don't need to convince me your idea is sound, you just need to make sure it's sound. Once upon a time, I was talking with someone who was opening a restaurant in my town about his projections. I told him that he seemed to have an enormous staff and the numbers didn't seem to add up. The next day he told me he fixed the problem. All he did was raise his sales projections! Needless to say, he lasted maybe a year.

  8. I'm not exactly sure why I'm writing this. Perhaps I just hate to see people fail, but I urge you to take a very hard look at the financials involved. Obviously I don't know the whole picture of your venture, but I have gleaned plenty from the bits you've thrown out and it very much appears to be the tip of an iceberg of poor financial planning.

    Honestly, I actually have little doubt that you can keep the quality up. You are entirely correct in thinking that you should be able to find enough people who can handle all the phases, provided you keep things simple. As you said, it doesn't take that many. That said, you are going to have public perception issues that are not unlike the unbased fears people have about dining in a restaurant on the Owner/Chef's night off. Often times the food is at least as good when the hungry and focused sous chef is behind the wheel rather than the distracted owner but people just can't get past the fact that they're being fed by the "B" team. In your case, right of wrong, people will be afraid you have the "B" team on several stations every week (if you stagger the rotation which I seriously suggest you do) or on the entire restaurant if everyone moves at once. I can't help but imagine that the most often asked question by people making reservations will be, "Did you just rotate the staff?"

    Of course, that is really a minor problem by comparison to the money issue.

    Do yourself a big favor and don't assume that your place will be immune from most of the same costs and concerns that effect nearly every restaurant in the world. In many cases, cutting costs from one side results in increased costs elsewhere. Obviously the rub is to find a concept that cheats one or more of the common costs without making it up elsewhere. Perhaps you've done that, but owning the land outright only solves that problem on a very superficial level.

    Unless the land and money to upfit it (I'm guessing an absolute minimum of $1 mil) was donated, someone needs to get paid. So every dollar you save on rent goes into either servicing the debt (if it's structured that way) or providing a reasonable ROE to your investor. Either way, the man's gotta get paid and likely to the tune of at least $200K/year. Simply regarding this as a real estate speculation doesn't hold much water either because they are tying up a considerable amount of money for a long time without any return.

    That you've eluded to the fact that you (or anyone) could survive labor costs as high as 40% or even 50% is nothing short of frightening because you've got to assume that absolutely everything will break just right to make those numbers up. No sound business plan should ever be predicated on overcoming such odds.

    The age-old breakdown of 30(COG)-30(Labor)-30(Overhead)-10(profit) is there for a reason because it often works out pretty damn close. Obviously each place is different, but I've always found it to be a very good starting point and require myself to find a specifically related and reciprocal savings associated with every cost that exceeds one of those numbers. For example, your high end steakhouse runs COGs higher than 30% because they're serving large cuts of very expensive meat. On the other hand, it takes one guy just a short while to portion all the meat for the night and you don't have a legion of prep cooks turning root vegetables into art. Thus, they make it back up on the labor and you have your specific and reciprocal savings. That is just one example.

    What substantial business advantage do you gain from running labor costs so high? If you can't find any, there's a problem. I can assure you, any market shares that it gains you will be smaller than you think. There's plenty of very tasty food being generated by backward thinking chefs like me that nearly the entire dining public will be no more inclined to dine at your place than Chez Whatever down the street. Certainly you'll enjoy lower turnover than most. Of course, the costs of high turnover are typically thought of as labor costs (training and productivity) and you've already forfeited those savings by running a high labor cost anyway.

    Once again, a savy businessperson can often shave some from one or more of those cost categories, and the overhead can often be lowered considerably. However, willingly exceeding any of those parameters by as much as you suggest is a risky move indeed.

    Your place could, in fact, prove to be a utopia for like minded restaurant professionals. However, that's only a good thing if you can create a thriving business. As souless and cold hearted as it may seem, that's a pretty unavoidable reality.

    There you have it. So which does this make me, mad or confused?

  9. f I had been told I was going to be rotating to the grill line in three weeks, I would have quit.  I know my limitations....

    You think putting addicted, surly people in FOH would be good for business?  Especially when they're used to a pecking order in the rigid hierarchy which they've spent years climbing? ...

    you or ANY of these guys wouldnt even get an interview. you obviously have to buy into the system! i mean come on thats common sense right!

    based on this model:

    120 seats

    a modest 900 covers per week

    $40 check average (which is somewhat low to start)

    thats $36,000 gross rev.

    thats $6,480 tip share(at 18%)

    (35% employee costs + tipshare)- $1000 per week medical / 25 employees =

    ($19,080)-1000/25= $725 per week per employee

    let me also add that i can go as high as 40% employee costs, and 900 covers a week is just until we get known.

    the rotation would be 4 weeks, it takes a person maybe a week to master their prospective station. the food wouldnt be anymore spotty than any other place because the unruly demands of more than one can handle, wont be an issue.

    if my math is inconclusive or wrong please tell me.


    please dont make an ass out of both of us.

    dont assume you know anything, because you dont."

    OK, gloves off.

    So, I take it from the enormously tactful replies you've given to anyone finding fault in your concept that you are one of those charming types of chefs that will have outstanding dining room etiquette? What happens the first time some customer has the nerve to send back a plate of food? Are you going to tell them "not to assume they know anything, because they don't"?

    If I may back up. You mentioned that EVERYONE would make more money. Let me illustrate the folly in that statement.

    Restaurant A and B have exactly the same sales, exactly the same tips, and pay exactly the same % in labor costs. One is the typical place that doesn't pay everyone the same, the other is Chez Shwartz, that pools tips and pays the same. The point is, regardless of how that money is distributed, EVERYONE, can't make more. There is only so much money to go around.

    Now, perhaps EVERYONE makes more money because Chez Swartz pays, as you imply, 35%-40% in labor costs. That, of course, would have more to do with the fact that your labor costs are 5-10% over industry standards. If I may. Unless you can get your combined food and labor costs to around 60%, you're going to be in trouble. So, obviously you're going to make it up on the food. However, I'm assuming that in this magical place of yours, only high quality, locally grown artisan foods will be served. That, of course, throws that theory out the window, so you'll be lucky to keep that number under 30% as well.

    Now for the biggest zinger. By limiting yourself to only culinarians who are talented and passionate at all phases of the restaurant, you're aiming pretty high. Basically, you're talking about people who could basically run a restaurant. And you're going to get all these people for about $35K a year?

    Don't get me wrong, there is a ton wrong with the industry. The business model that is predicated on working the kitchen staff to death has got to go. People shouldn't have to be martyrs to get ahead. It's just that I don't think your idea is very sound. I'm sorry, but that's my perogative. Deal with it.


    if the tipshare were divided equally among the staff, we pay the entire staff roughly 6 bucks an hour more on top of their adjusted salry and the enitre staff walks home with roughly , well, you do the math. the variance is with employment percentage costs. in my case it will be roughly 40% because i want health benefits as well.

    the salary of the staff will be directly proportionate to the amount of business we do, the quality of food and service. the cooks salary will be directly affected by their preformance.

    For godsakes Shwartz, you do the freaking math! Assuming that your restaurant doesn't generate anymore money than one that serves the same high-end cuisine but adheres to more conventional staffing formats (and there are as many reasons to say it wouldn't as there are that it would). There is no more money to go around.

    Assuming, also, that your utopian restaurant would have to adhere to industry standards in terms of labor costs, where does this extra money come from? Ah yes, the tips. Well, if that's the case, you are taking money from one segment and giving it to another. Thus, EVERYBODY, does not make more. Those who would have made less in the standard restaurant, make more in yours. Those who make more... well, as you said, do the math.

  11. Frankly, I find a number of fundamental flaws with this idea. To begin with, how would "everybody" make more money. There is only so much to go around, so if anyone made more than they typically do, it comes at the expense of someone else.

    More importantly, I think you're leaving out one major set of volunteers... the customer. As hard as it may be to find people willing to buy into that program from a staffing standpoint, I'd think it harder still to find people willing to pony up to induldge your experiment.

    The mechanic we go to has a guy on staff who specializes in VWs, so he's the one who works on my wife's Jetta. Needless to say, I'm glad that I don't show up to find that he and the receptionist have switched places for the week.

    People are simply good at different things. I've worked pretty much every position in a restaurant during my career and could handle any if pressed to do so. That said, there are jobs that I just know I can find someone better than me to handle, and I'd like to give my customers the best experience, so I stick to what I'm good at.

    Would an enormously talented pastry chef who just happens to be a bit neurotic and not much of a people person (hmm, I can think of a few), not be invited to join your crew? Certainly you don't want someone like that being the face of your restaurant, but, I for one, would have a hard time saying, "No thanks, your desserts are outstanding, but I'm looking for more of a waiter, bartender, sommelier, maitre 'd, broiler cook, saucier, dishwasher, pastry chef, accountant, handyman sort of person and you just don't fit the bill."

    All that said, I fully encourage moving people around within reason and especially think managers should spend time in as many shoes as possible. I could even go so far as to have cooks spend a few shifts as runners and waiters spend a few shifts prepping, all in the name of better understanding. However, I just don't see why your idea is very sound.


  12. A couple of weeks ago, the owner of International Delights posted a hand-scrawled sign on the menu that reads: "Any customer can have ketchup on his food. I don't care anymore!" --signed The Owner

    A sad sight. Even the ketchup nazi has given in. Maybe that little sign has something to say about the state of food in the Triangle. Maybe chefs just need to feel supported in taking stands against ketchup or other boring food. Maybe folks like the people here need to speak up when they taste something really inspiring--write a note to the chef, send friends--otherwise the folks who demand ketchup for their falafel and food that tastes like what they get at their favorite chain will have the louder voice. Go to the farmer's markets, support local restaurants, and buy the anti-ketchup t-shirts from ID before they're not available anymore. Celebrate what we do have, which is a much better way to build up the scene than complaining about what's missing.

    Here's another way of looking at it, Ketchup tastes good on fries and people want it. Dude runs a fast food restaurant and serves fries, he needs to get over himself. Frankly, I stopped going to ID some time ago because I felt the food was OK but not all that and I was sick of the attitude. The food at Neomonde is twice as good and everyone there is absolutely friendly. Always offering you a taste of something you may not be familiar with, never snarling at you at saying everything is "the best". You know what, it's not the freaking best. I have yet to try the fabled chicken philly, but every classic middle eastern dish I've had there was nowhere near the best version I've had, even at other take out joints.

  13. In the mean time, I remain skeptical of brunch and promiscuous use of balsamic vinegar, wherever they are found.  :wink:

    I'll see your balsamic and raise you a sundried tomato.

    For the record, I should also add that, though I stand by what I said earlier, I too found it a bit odd to read of kumamoto oysters being listed among someone's favorite dishes in the south east. I come from Pacific oyster country so there I do indentify them a specific location, and this ain't it.

  14. I'm sorry for your sake that this whole thread didn't turn into poetic waxings of BBQ shacks where shoeless bumpkins take your order whilest chewin' on a stick.  I can see why that would be more fun.

    I have enjoyed the responses thus far and, as a resident of the SE for some 28 years, have noted with no small amount of pleasure, the changes from those barbecue shacks, which still exist, to significantly more interesting fare within the region. Stereotyping, as you have in this particular quote, is not exactly what was desired in the initial query.

    you could get a mile long list of great, uniquely southern treats in any area down here.
    I believe that is precisely what I got in the responses of Artichoke, Ari, Guilty Gourmand, The Cynical Chef, wht, catdaddy, Milt, and so many others ....

    My response was not to you but to the person who complained about all the dishes that weren't "southern". If you look closely, you'll see I quoted him in my post. I think you've started a fine thread that revealed plenty of great meals both traditional and otherwise. I was simply irritated at what busboy was saying.

  15. When I hear "Best dish in the Southeast" my tastebuds get primed for something both addictive and rooted in the region.  Thus, tastebuds being fickle creatures, mine react with a "big deal" when, in this context, the conversation turns to Japanese beef and those overrated little bivalves.  Generic may be too strong a term, but "ubiquitous" is damming enough, in my eyes.  And I  don't doubt the talents of the chefs putting this stuff out but brunch for God's sake, or the year's trendy beef cut, short-ribs.  I'm a thrill junkie, I need more than Saveur Magazine highlights to drive out of my way.  Something that is not only "the best in the South," but "the best anywhere, and only available in the South."  :wink:

    If I may... Any chance at all that this thread was not created for the amusement of some outsider? Those of us who live in the southeast do not subsist completely on fried chicken and grits. Thus, for anyone who actually lives down here, eats down here, and are apparently interested enough about eating to come to a site like this, we may care to read about stellar dishes eaten in the area. Regardless of their origin. If it's a perfect brunch, so be it. If it's something than can be gotten in DC or NY, that's great too. In fact, I'm less concerned about turning you onto something "you can't get in DC" then I am in finding that I don't need to shlepp to DC myself to find these things. I, for one, am not native to the area. There are plenty of things I miss about my old home in the SF Bay area. If there's a place right under my nose where I can find a taste of home, I'd like to know.

    I'm sorry for your sake that this whole thread didn't turn into poetic waxings of BBQ shacks where shoeless bumpkins take your order whilest chewin' on a stick. I can see why that would be more fun.

    Now, if you asked nicely, I'd bet you could get a mile long list of great, uniquely southern treats in any area down here.

  16. Bryan, I think Nate's remarks about a bistro or Japanese place not making it was in reference to Greensboro.

    The more I think of it, the more I'm beginning to believe that it does come down to the restaurants and not the diners. (Which is basically a 180 degree turn from my original remarks in this thread). I can think of essentially no places that serve an honestly good product (and have with some consistancy) and market themselves reasonably well that aren't doing great. I've lived in plenty of places where one could not say that. Some great little restaurants just got lost in the shuffle and limped along for a while before closing their doors.

    Perhaps the raging success of chains around here has more to do with the fact that there are just so damned many people eating out, not that they'd rather go to Mangiano's if there was another, better option.

    I was talking to a friend from back home in Northern California who runs a great bistro. Nobody has any money to spend. Customers complain about $20 entrees mostly because they're trying to pay the mortgage on their $500K+ home with an income no higher than what we make out here.

    I do agree that the thing we are missing the most of is that everyday meal. I don't think, however, that segment is going to be filled by upscale-ish places that happen to be a few bucks below the norm because in those cases, you often do get what you pay for. I typically find myself wishing that I'd just sucked it up, spent a few more dollars, and ate at Nana's. That market is always best represented by straight forward, focused concepts (often ethnic). A good Chinese restaurant, a Pho house, a great deli, good taquerias, a real tapas joint. That sort of thing.

    Of course, what we not going to get is any more substantial ethnic enclaves driving truly authentic cuisine. If there was a chance of that happening, it was before home prices started going up. Places like I listed above will be opened, but more often than not, they'll be opened by white-boy enthusiast like me.

    Oh, and by the way. I completely agree with Nate that it should be anybody's business where Bryan gets his money.

  17. As someone who used to be a wine buyer for a restaurant in Idaho, I can speak first hand about the effects a simillar law on wine. Any alcoholic product over 14% could only be brought in by the state (that law changed, I believe, in the late 90s). So basically, they didn't get brought in. Thus, distributors who carried, say, Ridge Vineyards, could only bring in the lighter wines they made. No Lytton Springs Zin, well basically no Ridge Zin at all. It was absolutely annoying. Do you realize how many great wines were unavailable to me? These wines weren't great because they were 14.1, they were just great wines that happened to be 14.1.

    Were there plenty of good wines available? Certainly. But why the limit?

    Funny thing is, as little sense as that law made, it still made more than ours. That limit kept all fortified wines out of the grocery stores and into the state ABC stores (who as we know keep shorter hours and can be harder to find). Thus, at least the puritans and bible thumpers got the desired effect of making ripple harder to get. Hooray! Around here, however, you can go down to Sam's Quik Shop and buy MD 20/20 by the case just about any time but Sunday morning. However, some beer geek? He's gonna have to bootleg his $10 a bottle South Dakota Barleywine in from VA.

    To the person who wrote that it's no big deal: Are you kidding me? Do you typically volunteer to have your rights as a consumer limited for no particually good reason? Because you seem to be getting along just fine anyway? The reason in favor of lifting the cap is because there are exceptional beers that we can't get in NC. Kindly explain the fine logic behind keeping it.

  18. In case you don't know, there's a movement afoot to lift the alcohol limit on beer in NC to 15% from 6%. Many of the world's best beers aren't available in our state because of the obsolete law. The biggest resistance, of course, has come from lobbies supported by Miller and the other big boys. Anything to keep the playing field uneven in their advantage is worth their effort to fight for. Well, frankly, I'd rather not have my choices limited so they can make a few more bucks.

    Yesterday I spoke with some people who are spearheading the effort and they tell me that the most important step now is to get Paul Miller from the otherside to the middle. They've already convinced a few undecideds to vote in favor of lifting, now they just need to pull Mr. Miller from the darkside.

    Please e-mail him at paulmi@ncleg.net to express your opinion. (Unless, of course, you don't want the cap lifted, then please keep your thoughts to yourself ;) )

  19. mmm... i LOVE lettuce wraps :hmmm: with, oh yeah, peanut sauce :hmmm: I wonder where i can get some of those:hmmm:

    We face the facts of trendiness, and accept their role. Truth of the matter is somewhere, sometime the lettuce wrap was invented, then perfected, then bastardized by the American public. Doesn't anyone see a pattern here. (pizza, sushi, hamburgers, etc) It's part of our culture.

    For me being a Culinarian is embracing ALL types of food and levels of creativity. For me  a hamburger can be just as gratifying as eating the finest of cuisine. But you cannot put your self above these things, or you classify yourself in a heiarchy of loneliness. And that goes against exactly what food does, bring people together.

    I suppose I should also let the record state, that I hardly restrict my diet to the amazing and inspired. In fact, I probably go white table cloth less then most other foodies. I absolutely love hamburgers and would probably choose a simple carnitas taco as my dessert island food. I also have nothing against lettuce wraps. It is a conceptually very sound dish, so much so that it is essentially impossible to screw up. As a professional, I admire someone who can cash in to the degree they have on such a concept.

    My issue was specifically with an attitude that young Bryan alleged to be overly prideful shown by anyone, especially an outfit who's primary claim to fame is the aforementioned "delicacy".

  20. Well my my, didn't I stir up the pot. Let the record state, I'm sure Bryan is a great kid. In fact, I admire someone his age for being so into food. In fact, I actually PM'd him (at his request) with a rather comprehensive list of my favortie Mexican places.

    All that said, this whole thread was essentially started by him. If I was to do the same and then admit that I was, by my own choice, dining at a place like PF Changs, I'd expect to take some ribbing.

    I can also assure you, if they gave me any excuse what-so-ever to go elsewhere, like being surly on the phone, I'd take full advantage. In fact, there isn't a restaurant anywhere that should pull that crap. Our job is to facilitate enjoyment, end of story. But if you're going to cop even an ounce of 'tude, you'd better come through with something better than lettuce wraps and Yellowtail Shiraz.

  21. And I'm going to PF Chang's this weekend.  I would feel dirty if I didn't make that confession.

    You're about to lose all cred. Years ago I bought some stock in them (despite never having seen one of their stores) and did really well, so I was always curious to check them out. Finally, after moving here, I got the chance, so I went... once. That'll do, thank you. I do admire them, of course, for managing to create such a stir. Take essentially the exact same tired american/chinese cuisine, throw in a full bar, some splashy paint, get some english speaking servers, and drop a few horses out front... More power to them.

    However, don't piss and moan about the food scene down here in one breath and give in to that hype in the next.

  22. And another thing.  I've never had a friend in New York cook for me.  The couple of friends we have in the Golden Triangle are accomplished in regional cuisine.  I'd rather eat at their houses than at most restaurants in either city!  Robyn

    How people eat in their own homes provides a great insight into a food scene. When I lived in Berkeley and Oakland, I always felt that we probably had the best stocked pantries in the country. Other places may have had better restaurants (not that we didn't have our share), but great food was being prepared in kitchens all over the area. John and Jane Doe likely had a collection of 6 different olive oils, each used for specific applications.

    My guess is this area is certainly well above average in that department. However, if one uses Whole Foods as an indicator (since they're in most markets and are about the best thing we've got going around here for fresh foods), we're still behind plenty.

    As for NYC, somebody has got to be buying all that food at Balducci's, Garden of Eden, Dean and Deluca, and the like. Though it's certainly a place where one is more inclined to eat out.

    Your point about the bad food there is also well made. While there's no question that the top of the heap up there is going to have us beat, it could be brought into question whether there is, in fact, a higher percentage of good restaurants. I've certainly had my share of slop up there.

  23. I'll throw in my two cents since I was there last fall essentially researching restaurants (primarily for design).

    The Delano is very cool, but the bloody mary I had on the patio was poor.

    Miss Yips (off Lincoln St.) was very good. Pretty interesting interior and very solid Chinese food.

    Prime 112 Steakhouse was entirely average. We spent a fortune there (about $650 for 3 of us) and nothing was really all that great.

    The Shore club was also a very beautiful scene. I'm not sure what there is to eat in there, but it's certainly a great place to grab a drink.

    Tantra was silly. Nothing more pathetic that someone putting a ton of energy into trying to make a place super exotic and sensual and ending up with silly.

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