Back at the beginning of the year when people were making resolutions, I decided to simply make 2013 amazing. One of the ways I was going to make 2013 amazing was to try 6 new-to-me restaurants in NC. This weekend, I tried not one, but two restaurants that I had never been to.
On Friday night, I had a dinner date with a girlfriend of mine (the Buttercream Queen). We decided to go to 18 Seaboard because we had intended to go last month but snow changed those plans. Let’s just say I was super impressed with 18 Seaboard. Originally I thought that 18 Seaboard had a fish-heavy menu, hence why I’ve never convinced Big Guy to go. But I was wrong. There is fish on the menu but there is plenty of other entrees. So much so that both Leann and I bypassed the seafood and went straight for the meat.
As an appetizer/salad course, we split two plates. Despite splitting the plates, the portions were huge (that’s a plus in my book) and they split the plates before they were brought to the table so we didn’t make a mess.
Spinach salad pickled grapes, Perry Lowe Orchard apples, pecans, basil-balsamic vinaigrette and a balsamic jam crouton
Wood-fire grilled Heritage farms fresh pork belly with spiced apples, Scott Farms sweet potatoes, and Tennessee Sorghum reduction
If pork belly is on the menu you can guarantee I’m going to order it. So tender and delicious. You didn’t need a knife to cut through the pork. And the salad was so fresh with so many different flavors. I particularly loved the bites with the pickled grapes and pecans. I guess that’s the Southern girl in me.
And for the main course, we were torn. We actually had to send the waiter away so that we could have more time. (I must mention that the service was fantastic that evening – our waiter was around when we needed him but he didn’t hoover over us.)
I finally decided on the Braised Carolina bison oxtail with goat cheese grits and grana padano cheese. Oh.em.gee. The grits were out of control. I literally had to practice self control to not lick the plate. And the oxtail was perfectly cooked and so tender.
Leann went for the Cracklin’ pork shank with blue cheese grits, spinach, and a pear marmalade. I’ve never tasted pork like that. It was tender but with a crunchy exterior. I loved the difference in texture. And the grits! Again, oh.em.gee. They weren’t overly blue cheesy and I know for a fact Big Guy would want them recreated at home.
There was no room for dessert but we did finish up our bottle of wine that was perfectly crisp and necessary.
On Saturday, Big Guy and I had a date in Raleigh. We went to go run a few errands, pick up our wedding bands (EEEEK!!!!) and have lunch. Chuck’s has been on our list of places to visit for quite some time now and I’m so glad we braved the “snow storm” for a burger.
We started off with a couple of drinks – beer for him and champagne for her. Yes, I will drink champagne with anything. Even a burger and fries.
The menu is simple. There are a handful of burgers to pick from and that’s about it (there’s some other stuff, but let’s be honest, we went for the burger and fries).
I ordered the High and the Valley – crushed avocado, bacon-onion jam and blistered red peppers. I ordered the 5-ounce burger since I knew that I wanted to eat my weight in fries. I wish there had been more bacon-onion jam on the burger because I couldn’t really taste it. But the burger was cooked perfectly and wasn’t greasy at all.
Big Guy loves a burger with chili. So he went with the Dirty South (Carolina) – Smoked pork shoulder and Anson Mills Sea Island red pea “chili”, crispy tobacco onions, roasted tomato slaw Ashe Co. Mtn Cheddar and yellow mustard. He was in heaven. He wasn’t able to say it was the best burger he’s ever had but he’d eat it again in a heart beat. The toppings were over-the-top…meaning he could actually pick up the burger and take a bite.
Now for the fries. Oh those Belgium fries. Crispy on the outside but soft in the inside. Fry perfection. We chose to pair our fries with the Garlic Aioli and “the Comeback sauce.” Both were amazing. The garlic aioli was the most perfect garlic sauce I’ve ever tasted. I wanted to smear some on my burger!
I would go back to both restaurants any day. I want Big Guy to try 18 Seaboard and I think that Chuck’s would be the perfect place to take my brothers when they visit next. Way to go, Raleigh!