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Best Restaurant in the Triangle (NC)


Varmint
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Beginning on Saturday, January 29, Mrs. Varmint and I will be joining another couple in a regularly scheduled survey of the "top-rated" restaurants in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-Cary metroplex. Our mission is to find the absolute best dining in the Triangle. We're starting this Friday with Fins, my favorite restaurant in Raleigh.

Others that will be tried:

Magnolia Grill

Nana's

Four Square

Bloomsbury Bistro or the Cosmopolitan

Enoteca Vin

Elaine's on Franklin

Il Palio

Fearrington House

When we are done, the four of us will crown the King/Queen of the Triangle restaurant scene.

Have I missed a restaurant? I didn't include Lantern, even though I like it very much. It's an excellent second tier restaurant, but not in the upper echelon.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Is Farrington House too far out of the Triangle?

I like the Lantern is not included in the non-scientific list, but given a shout out nonetheless. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I like it so much. What about Frasier's or Glenwood Grill? Are they cut from the list as well?

Doth not a steak house merit inclusion on the heavy hitters list?

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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Doth not a steak house merit inclusion on the heavy hitters list?

'Tis nary a house of beef on this precious list, as fair Mrs. Varmint doth not partake of flesh from animals bearing fur.

Glenwood Grill and Frasiers aren't anywhere in the same league.

Fearrington is a possibility, but it's so damn expensive!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I've eaten at Bistro 607 many times, and the chef is a friend. However, it's just not quite in the same category as the ones we'll be trying. Same with La Res. Finally, as a die-hard Tar Heel, I just couldn't bring myself to eat dinner at that Duke place. :raz:

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I had a magical dinner at the Fearrington House when I was in school. Of course, I can't comment on whether it was the food or the companion but I remember the evening fondly. :raz:

The setting is absolutely beautiful. The servers were very gracious, never batting an eye at our young age.

I look forward to hearing how it is now.

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I have been to Fearington house a few times in the last 6-8 months and feel it is at its best. About two years ago Graham Fox, an Englishman working in the kitchen at the casual spot in Fearington village took over. The food changed from high quality, often high amounts of it, southern inspired dishes jazzed up, to refined ingredient focused fare. I heard some complained initially about the lack of southern inspiration, but not me, the quality is much higher and the food is more interesting and the quantities are perfect. Because you can choose the dish you want with each course, you can go heavy or light.

I have eaten in a lot of great spots, and the rabbit dish I had about a year ago was the best rabbit dish I have ever had, and I like and eat a fare share of bunnys. Pricey, and o so much different than anything in NC and totally worth it in my mind. Service has been from good to almost perfect for us over the years,and much of the staff is the same as it was years ago, I really think this makes a difference.

The wine list does not have the steals on it that it used to. The list was truly lopsided with CA ripoffs and French finds, but not so much anymore, although good deals can still be found. It used to be the kind of list where Silver Oak and Romier Musigny where the same price.

I really like the place and would call it my favorite in NC.

Nate

Edited by nhconner (log)
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I have eaten in a lot of great spots, and the rabbit dish I had about a year ago was the best rabbit dish I have ever had, and I like and eat a fare share of bunnys.  Pricey, and o so much different than anything in NC and totally worth it in my mind.

Thanks for this insightful, very perceptive review of Fearrington House and welcome to the Southeast Forum of eGullet, Nate! I even had to check out their sample menu which made me even more desirous of visiting the place!

While I have not eaten many bunnies personally, I will take your word for their tastiness. :wink:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I have heard good things about Second Empire, but have never dined there. 

Nate

we just ate at second empire for the first time in about 1.5 years. it was ok, but not great. too expensive for what is served. portions too big with too much going on. also, it seems a bit pretentious from an atmosphere standpoint. i would leave it off this list, but, varmint, if you want to definitively answer your question, you probably need to hit fearrington house, despite the cost

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I am an enormous fan of Elaine's, but I think it's fair to say that they are at their peak during spring and summer, when Bret Jennings gets heavily involved with the Carrboro famers market.

Unfortunately, fiscal issues have kept me from exploring the majority of top tier restaurants in the Triangle. I have a "fine dining" change jar, and it only fills up every so often. I'll probably base my next choice on the outcome of this thread. I wish you luck, Varmint.

Formerly known as "Melange"

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Fins closed last night due to the expected nasty weather, which never arrived. However, that was the right decision to make. The restaurant dug out my home number and called me, informing me early in the afternoon of their decision. We'll try to go in a couple of weeks.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Beginning  on Saturday, January 29, Mrs. Varmint and I will be joining another couple in a regularly scheduled survey of the "top-rated" restaurants in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill-Cary metroplex.  Our mission is to find the absolute best dining in the Triangle.  We're starting this Friday with Fins, my favorite restaurant in Raleigh.

Others that will be tried:

Magnolia Grill

Nana's

Four Square

Bloomsbury Grill or the Cosmopolitan

Enoteca Vin

Elaine's on Franklin

Il Palio

Fearrington House

When we are done, the four of us will crown the King/Queen of the Triangle restaurant scene.

Have I missed a restaurant?  I didn't include Lantern, even though I like it very much.  It's an excellent second tier restaurant, but not in the upper echelon.

You didn't put Crook's Corner on the list? (I'm pulling for Vin, if only for the deviled eggs.)

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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I love what Bill Smith does at Crooks, and I am confident I'll be over there in the next several months, but I just don't think it's quite on par with the other places. And I don't think Bill's trying to make Crooks into that type of restaurant, either. One of the great things a restaurant can do is to understand and embrace what it wants to be. Crooks fits in perfectly with that philosophy.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Living in the dastardly place called California - we're only able to get home occasionally - and over the holidays we made it to Foursquare (it was between them and Magnolia). Although the ambiance was lovely, the main thing I remember of the meal was that it was too salty - and on visits home with few exceptions that's something we always seem to notice.

For those of you lucky enough to live in the Triangle - do you notice this? Or is it us? My husband and I recognize that the use of salt highlights flavors - but it can be used to excess as well.... Are we too sensitive?

Live and learn. Die and get food. That's the Southern way.

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I agree with many of the choices, although I don't like Fins because the tables are too close together and it's noisy, which is also my complaint about Nana's. But I must be in the minority in that I don't like noisy, packed places. I would definitely try to save my pennies (or quarters) for Fearrington. I have always had a wonderful experience there. Ditto for Magnolia Grill. I agree that Second Empire's portions are way huge, and I fear progress in the Triangle dining scene may be leaving them behind. I would add to the list The Duck & Dumpling in downtown Raleigh. It's fine-dining Asian flavored, but with twists, and he makes his own dumplings, even the wrappers. Very uptown contemporary interior. Not as expensive as Fearrington.

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Well, after saying I didn't include Crook's on my list, we're going there anyhow this Saturday. In many ways, this is appropriate, as Crook's Corner is THE restaurant where I truly learned to appreciate food, and Bill Neal's teachings still inspire me. So, the first report you'll hear will be about Crook's.

We were going to go to Fins, but they're having to deal with the Valentine's Day crush, which was very nice of them to tell me that. They're running a limited menu, and that's something that I didn't want to deal with! Thanks, Lisa!!!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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  • 1 month later...
I would add to the list The Duck & Dumpling in downtown Raleigh. It's fine-dining Asian flavored, but with twists, and he makes his own dumplings, even the wrappers. Very uptown contemporary interior. Not as expensive as Fearrington.

Absolutely no way they belong in this conversation. Fine enough food, I suppose, but nothing near the experience that one would expect from "best restaurant in the triangle".

Same goes for Starlu (someone mentioned them as well). While there have been some good comments about the place, there have been plenty less than great as well. Besides, they're way to new to be in the running.

I think your list is pretty solid and I look forward to the results.

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Our friends with whom we planned on doing this survey recently split up, so this may put a bit of a damper on the experiment. However, maybe we'll find more friends to keep this alive!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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