Tasty 8's, Raleigh- A cool and fancy hot dog joint in downtown Raleigh! Think sausages made supreme
Now that winter is upon us, who isn't up for a bowl of warm soup? And while chicken noodle soup is always a favorite of mine, have you ever tried some popular international soups like pho, ramen and more? Well my friend, you've got some great ethnic soup options in the area so if you're ready to slurp and chow down with some chopsticks. Let's check out some of my favorite noodle soups: Chinese beef noodle soup, Japanese ramen and the ever popular, Vietnamese pho!
Chinese beef noodle soup is a popular cold weather dish that my mom would make from time to time and I've even been able to replicate the dish at home. It's a basic beef broth spiced up with anise, soy, chiles and more. An inexpensive beef cut like chuck or shank is stewed in it for hours to bring it to a tender and soft braise.
Served over some thick wheat noodles and some baby greens like bok choy, it's a heart-warming meal full of textures and flavor. It's not a common dish on menus in the Triangle but the one place you can order it is at Grand Asia Market where it's served in a thick, steaming ceramic bowl. Just beware that it's a bit messy as you slurp, don't wear a white shirt if you're ordering this noodle bowl!
Another favorite Asian noodle soup is the well-known Japanese ramen! In major cities, ramen is a popular dining option with ramen noodle houses springing up on the landscape. I even got the chance to try one of the best in the country, Ippudo located in NYC. But out in the Triangle you've got very limited options. Currently Sono in Raleigh has it on their menu and the recently opened Dashi in Durham is dedicated to ramen and online reviews have been decent. And I do know that several other old-school Japanese/sushi restaurants may have it on the menu like Kashin in Cary.
So why all the fuss about ramen? Just open up one of those plastic packages, dump the noodles in along with a sachet of salt and spices, right? Well real Japanese ramen is a long and tedious process of making the perfect broth and then pairing it with delicious freshly-made thin noodles, sliced pork, a poached egg and other condiments dependent on the ramen style. You get savory, soft, crunchy and more in one bowl, yum...
One of my favorite healthy soups is the popular Vietnamese pho which is thankfully, easier to find in this area! Probably my favorite spot for pho is Pho Far East up on Capital Boulevard. Choose from 6 or 8 different types of beef pho which means different cuts of meat ranging from brisket, flank, ribeye, tendons, meatballs and more. Pho Far East also does chicken and seafood pho but I consider those options to be a bit untraditional.
Order some pho and you'll get a large bowl of steaming soup! Thin white vermicelli noodles at the bottom, scented and spiced broth with thin slices of quickly cooking meat. Anise, cinnamon and more creates a flavorful broth and you're given a plate of jalapenos, thai basil, lime and more to bling it out to your heart's content. There's nothing like tucking into a great bowl of pho on a cold day, it's like coming home...
So there you go, some great options to slurp up some noodles when you're tired of opening up that little red and white Campbell's can. With the recent opening and popularity of Dashi, it looks like the Triangle is ready to slurp it up! All you need are some chopsticks, a soup spoon and you'll be good to go. Stay warm out there...
Asian Soups in the Triangle
Grand Asia Market- Chinese Beef Noodle Soup
SONO and Dashi- Japanese Ramen
Pho Far East- Vietnamese Pho
Ahh, Chippys. I had seen a LivingSocial for Chippy's and I couldn't resist because it was so close to work. And yes, I get in the mood for fish and chips every now and then. So armed with a coupon we headed over to Chippy's for a work lunch and it met most of my expectations in a good and not as good way. You can decide for yourself whether it's a dining fit for you!
Located in a small strip plaza, Chippy's is super basic inside. Tiled floor, sparse cafe tables and chairs, soda dispenser to your right and order counter in back, Chippy's is quick casual, order at the counter-type eats. Smallish menu with some sandwiches, fries, wings and burgers along with fish offerings, the place is staffed pretty lightly with one person in front and another in the kitchen. So I was a bit worried when our group of six people showed up! Orders took a while, scribbled on a paper pad and tabulated on an iPad, I go with some buffalo wings along with cheese fries with bacon and fries with garlic sauce for the table. We grab a round table in back for our group.
After self-serving our drinks the food comes out pretty quickly in spits and spurts. My wings and fries show up early even though I ordered last. I've got a large plate of plump, fried wings with a nice coating of buffalo sauce. The fries are pretty large plates of well-brown spuds and covered pretty well in cheese, bacon, garlic sauce and more, respectively. And everything is tasty, the wings are done quite nicely and the fries disappear quickly at our table. But I do notice that the cheese is not melted on the garlic fries and presentation just seems a bit messy making everything a bit less appetizing.
Service is decent overall, the one guy working the front of the restaurant is courteous, polite and working hard today! And overall I'm not surprised by anything I find at Chippy's. Based on their website, I was expecting a more casual experience which is what we got but thankfully the food mostly made up for things. With the reasonable prices, Chippy's does a good job bringing tasty, basic American eats to the area. If you can overlook the casual surroundings and presentation you'll enjoy your meal. Focus on the food and you should be fine, just don't expect too too much when dining here. Thanks so much Chippy's for your solid eats and good luck with your business!
1001 Davis Drive
Apex, NC 27523
In the world of pizza, I'm a huge fan of thin-slice Neapolitan, NY and New Haven style pies. Just the right mix of crust, sauce, cheese and toppings make for a fantastical dining experience. So I was both excited and curious to hear what the new Blaze Pizzas would be bringing to the Triangle. A small chain based out of Pasadena, California, Blaze does BYOP (Build Your Own Pizza) and delivers them to you after 180 seconds in the Blaze oven. Artisanal pizzas that quick? Sign me up. Thankfully a Yelp Elite event brought me to the first Blaze Pizza in NC, located at the Grace Park shopping center in Morrisville. It's time to mangia!
Given how big this plaza is, you might have trouble finding Blaze Pizza. It's located across from Gander Mountain if that helps. Inside Blaze, I'm greeted by the Yelp team (Lauryn and Kristine) and put on my California Culinary Academy apron for tonight's event theme. The space at Blaze is large and open with a interesting mural on one side "Chart Your Own Course" and the order counter in back. Pretty minimalistic and basic, think modern pizzeria style! We've got carte blanche on the menu today and thankfully it's small. 9 specialty pizzas, 6 or so salads and you can build your own pizza from scratch. I go with the Link In: sausage, onions and peppers with red sauce and mozzarella.
I'm intrigued by the custom build of my pizza. On the end there's a young guy forming the pizza dough in a large red pie press. Out comes a round dough base with a lipped crust on a wooden pizza peel. It heads down the assembly line where they've got bins of colorful and fresh ingredients. A spin of red sauce, smattering of shredded cheese and then the toppings. I ask the Blaze pizza experts to bling my personal pie out with some fresh basil, yum!
After assembly is complete it heads on over to the pizzaiolo and the short wait begins after I grab an unsweetened tea. At our table is the requisite shakers of red pepper flakes, oregano and more parmesan cheese. And even with the very busy line of hungry Yelpers, it only takes 15 minutes or so to get my pie. I imagine that most times, service would be much quicker at Blaze.
And it's a great looking pie nicely melted cheese with a good balance of sauce and nice hunks of sausage. Just enough toppings without being over-done. I lift up the crust and there's a bit of char on the bottom, just the way I like it. The pizza at blaze is definitely thin-crust and probably a cross of Neapolitan and NY. While they don't use fresh muzz on this pie, the topping and sauce density is more bare-bones, similar to a Neapolitan. I take a bite and the slice is excellent, some toothsome crust with a good mix of basic ingredients (sauce, cheese, toppings). Taking a look at the other pies around me, they seem to be doing an excellent and consistent job putting out pies even with this heavy crowd.
I finish up the meal with half a smores pie which I should have requested heated up but my bad! Empty pie plates are picked up quickly and we are asked about our meal, nice job there. So what can I say but I'm pretty impressed with Blaze Pizza. While it may not be DiFara's in Brooklyn or Pepe's in CT, it's an excellent version of thin-crust pizza that suits my fancy and is a reasonable price ($8/pie). For a quick-casual chain restaurant, they are doing a solid artisanal pizza that mimics some of the best pizza in the country. So if you're a pizzaholic like I am, check 'em out. With aggressive plans for additional locations in the Triangle, you'll likely not have to travel far to get your Blaze pizza on.
1024 Market Center Drive
Morrisville, NC 27560
Over at 510 Glenwood Avenue there's a cluster of restaurants that used to be part of Rocky Top Hospitality's empire: Red Room, Bogarts and Hi5. Over the years after they vacated that space, multiple restaurants have come in and out to those locations with very mixed success. But I'm hoping the most recent addition to 510 Glenwood will do well: Shuckers Oyster Bar and Grill. With a sister restaurant based out of Wake Forest, Shuckers has a pretty good reputation but I had yet to try it out until recently. Thankfully I was meeting some friends for lunch and they wanted to try something new, so Shuckers it is!
When you head over to Shuckers, just be aware that the storefront is not visible from the street, it inhabits the old Bogart's space which is further back in the complex. You'll first notice their large patio area with large Shuckers sign as you approach. inside the double doors I was surprised at how spacious the place is, given that Bogarts must have closed down 3 years ago and I haven't been in since. A large circular bar to the right, hostess kiosk to the left. Beyond the hostess area is an oyster bar section with high-tops and stools. Further to the left you'll find the main dining area and a private room in the back. There is LOTS of room to stretch here and the space is nicely lit with metal lamps and burnished wood paneling all around. Shuckers sports a modern marine and nautical theme for decor which is not a surprise.
With a basic menu of oysters, seafood and American fare, Shuckers has a menu that should please most folks unless you're looking for something more exotic. We order up some fried asparagus, grilled oysters and I go with a shrimp poboy for my main. Shuckers has a decent wine list but shorter beer list, I'd have to guess their crowd is the 30 to 60 year old range and probably pretty local. Prices for the entrees are mid to high-range with apps and sandwiches at $8 to $11 and entrees from $15 to $30. It takes about 15 minutes before we get our appetizers and they look good. Oysters look a bit small but they're nicely grilled with cheese, spinach and garlic, yum! At $10 for 6 they are good but certainly not cheap. The fried asparagus is a generous portion of perfectly fried spears with a nice creamy white sauce, very nice.
My poboy is loaded with nicely fried shrimp and piled atop a fresh hoagie roll. Some remoulade is spread on one side of the sandwich for a bit of moisture and spice, it's a nice rendition. The shrimp are nicely plump with a bumpy coating (corn meal?) and I end up skipping the bread and eating just the good stuff to end the meal. Some nicely spiced fries complete the plate but all in all it's a good deal for $9.
Service at Shuckers was what caught my eye when I perused their online reviews. They do have a young staff and that can be a problem for a mid to higher level destination like Shuckers. Our service was solid and attentive but the place was mostly empty during our visit. So I'll have to keep an eye on their service moving forward, but they did fine for our meal. Given how close Shuckers is to my home, I'm pretty sure I'll be back here soon for a re-visit so I'm curious to see what kind of crowd they draw and how the place evolves but they're off to a decent start! With a great space, decent menu and fresh seafood, they just have to watch their service levels and market themselves well to prosper. Because while Glenwood is great for bars and clubs, its reputation for good eating is a bit tougher! So good luck Shuckers and welcome to the neighborhood!
510 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27605