Friday, October 15, 2010

A Southern Power Couple

Bacon and eggs, shrimp and grits, peanut butter and jelly…there are certain food pairings that belong together like soul mates, and chicken and waffles is no exception. This Southern power couple is the house special served up at Dame’s Chicken & Waffles on Main Street. Although there doesn’t seem to be certainty as to the origin of this dish, we think most would agree this pairing was meant to be!

Dame’s has been open for several months, and now we are not sure why we wasted so much time getting down there. The playful logo greets you at the door while you enter to sophisticated décor and a casual atmosphere. There were a couple of specials available, but we were there for the star dish.

The menu consists of creative interpretations of the signature meal, cleverly named with references to the feathered fowl. Between the chicken cuts (wing, leg, cutlet), the waffle variations (classic, sweet potato and blueberry) and the flavored shmears (7 sweet crème butters)—you are sure to find a combination that suits your tastes. With all these choices, we think they should add a Build-Your-Own option to the menu.
Most people associate waffles with breakfast, so one of us went with The Barnyard Honcho which is basically a big breakfast spread—2 eggs your way, grits, and a plate of classic waffles with a fried cutlet on top. Everything came hot, delicious, and in generous supply. The almond butter and syrup served on the side turned this dish into a masterpiece. If you have not tried this flavor combination, you are in for a real treat.
The Quilted Buttercup is a sandwich with a cute name and outstanding flavor. A fried chicken cutlet between two “petite “rare breed” scratch made sweet potato waffles and shmeared with maple and candied pecan” equals a match made in heaven. The salty, juicy chicken paired perfectly with the sweet flavorful waffles and the optional hot sauce added the extra spice to take the meal over the top. The apple cobbler ordered as a side was simply alright compared to the one-of-a-kind chicken sandwich.

The service in Dame’s was pleasing as we were quickly greeted by someone who took our drink orders and offered suggestions on choosing a meat cut. The food came out in decent time making this a great place for lunch if you’re in the downtown area—we know we’ll be back!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dessert That's Worth the Drive

There are two reasons to go to any restaurant, the food and the atmosphere—S&T's Soda Shoppe in quaint downtown Pittsboro has both. This family owned and operated restaurant never fails to leave a smile on your face and your stomach full. The ice cream is well worth the 30 minute drive from Chapel Hill or Durham.

One of us discovered S&T's several years ago through friends and have made it a point to return as frequently as possible—but not frequently enough to pack on the pounds. The menu varies between sandwiches, steak, lasagna, quesadillas, and burgers but the key when ordering is to save room for ice cream.

On a recent visit, we ordered the pimento cheese burger and the corn dog nuggets with a side of homemade salsa. One of us has a weak spot for a pimento cheese burger, and S&T's version was as fresh and satisfying as most, but not beating out Bull McCabe’s top standing. The corn dog nuggets were tasty dipped in the salsa and made for a fun meal; however, the entrée selection was purely strategic to save room for the best part.

Like all good ice cream shops, you can taste test as many flavors as you like. After trying lots of their more than 15 flavors--strawberry cheesecake, chocolate and peanut butter, pecan praline, and cookies and cream--we were set to order.  One of us went for the Hall River Mud Dessert while the other chose a banana split.

The Hall River Mud Dessert is a brownie sundae on steroids—piled high with your choice of ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry. It should be noted that S&T's portion sizes are bigger than most we’ve seen and after getting in good with the owners, ours a little larger still. This true GWG was able to finish the dessert, even when other males in the dinner party were not.

The banana split is an amazing sight. Although we ordered it “naked” (without the whipped cream, crushed cherries, strawberries, pineapple, nuts or sprinkles) it is still an impressive dessert. The three flavors of ice cream—sweet black cherry, banana pudding, and pecan praline—were heaped onto a banana and served with a side of stemmed cherries. It should take two people to finish this…but more power to the person who does it on their own.

S&T's is a great place for a large group of friends to hang out and get away from the stress of a fast-paced life or it can be a great date spot with a significant other (we know because one GWG got engaged here in April). Just be sure to get there before 7:30 to be seated (they don’t seat anyone new after that) and know they are closed on Sunday and Monday.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Save Deep Fried for the Fair

There are few eating events we look forward to more than the NC State Fair. With fall in the air and this year’s fair around the corner, we thought we’d pregame at the new Carnival Delights in Durham. Specializing in, well, carnival food, we thought this would be the perfect place to wet our appetites for the upcoming 10-day fried food paradise (Oct. 14-24).

In order to feel like we ordered a legitimate lunch, we started with hotdogs and fries—these are really the only non-dessert items on the menu. One of us went for the foot-long chili dog with cheese fries and the other a regular dog with chili fries. The food was prepared to order so it came out fresh, but it wasn’t anything beyond your basic hot dog and fries—they probably don’t have places like Joe’s Diner or King’s Sandwich Shop beat in this category.
After getting fairly stuffed on taters and dogs, we moved on to what we’d come for—true carnival food. As usual, we’d done some scouting on their website and had our stomachs set on trying the cookie pops (a deep dish chocolate chip cookie on a stick), cotton candy, and funnel cakes. But likely due to the fact that they didn’t have many customers, they did not have a lot of the food items prepared and we were disappointed to find out they did not have cookies pops or cotton candy. After striking out on two, we went with our third choice—a sundae funnel cake served GWG style with ice cream, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.
The funnel cake was good and fresh—thick and cake-like but crunchy around the edges. The ice cream on top added a cold, creamy compliment to the greasiness of the fried dough—we’d never tried it that way but enjoyed it, leaving nothing more than a few crumbs. The end was certainly the best part of the meal.

Other offerings at Carnival Delights include SnoBalls in 19 flavors, regular ice cream and corndogs. We wonder how long a concept like this will make it, particularly in a location surrounded by tons of food options. We were honestly a little disappointed that they didn’t offer anything a little more adventurous (what of the fried butter, fried macaroni and other concoctions that show up at the fair each year?). Then again, maybe these treats are best saved for the annual trek to the fried food Mecca in Raleigh—a little grease can go a long way.

If nothing else, they would be smart to stay stocked with the small offerings on their menu or they will leave people walking away and not coming back. In this economy we know it’s tough, so we hope they will work out the kinks. You may also be advised to bring a can of Febreeze or you will end up smelling your lunch for the rest of the day.