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Restaurant Review: Greg Cox gives 3 stars to Hong Kong Dim Sum in Durham

Go HERE to read Greg's review.

Two new Irish pubs, and a third rising from the ashes

This is a post by N&O restaurant critic Greg Cox:

It’s early spring and, right on schedule, Irish pubs are sprouting up all over the place. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve written that a pub opened “just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.”

You can add the newest location of Hibernian (8021 Falls of Neuse Road; 919-803-0290; hibernianpub.com) to the list. The North Raleigh pub opened its doors with ten days to spare in the building that formerly housed Duffy’s for a decade. Owner Niall Hanley has given the space a complete overhaul to match the menu, a mix of Irish and American pub fare that now counts house-corned beef among its attractions.

Hanley is also fervently working on the restoration of the original Hibernian on Glenwood South, which was closed by a fire in December. He hopes to reopen by May with a few improvements, including a rooftop patio. I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile in Morrisville, the opening of a second location of Trali (3107 Grace Park Drive; traliirishpub.com) will miss its originally targeted St. Paddy’s Day opening by just a couple of weeks. According to chef-partner Eamonn Kelly, they’re now hiring staff and are shooting for an early April opening.

Send restaurant news to Greg at ggcox@bellsouth.net. Be sure to tune in to Greg's radio show at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF.

Hotpoint Deli moves, Hot Point Café morphs into Black Cat Café

This is a post by N&O restaurant critic Greg Cox:

Hotpoint Deli (1718 Walnut St.; 919-460-6299; hotpointdeli.com), the Cary restaurant that rose from the post-kitchen-fire ashes of the original Maximillians on Buck Jones Road nearly 14 years ago, has pulled up stakes. Owner/chef Anthony Scazzero cites a more visible location and improved facilities as reasons for moving around the corner to the former Waffle House building on Walnut Street.

Returning fans will be happy to know that the restaurant's quirky chalkboard menu of pizzas, sandwiches, salads and light entrees has survived the move, and still includes longtime favorites such as Felix the Cat (tortilla-crusted catfish sandwich) and Cry Baby (a grilled chicken calzone that lives up to its name with a fiery "Green Demon" pesto).

Meanwhile in Raleigh, Steve Jones and Sharon Rhue have opened Black Cat Café (4209 Lassiter Mill Road; 919-788-8240; blackcatcafenh.com) in the former Hot Point Café space at North Hills.

Actually, Jones and Rhue bought Hot Point Café - which was once an outpost of Hotpoint Deli, though the two restaurants have long since gone their separate ways under different ownership - last October. But the husband-and-wife team retained the old name for several months as they gradually began to transition to a menu more in keeping with their culinary style.

That style, according to Jones, features "Southern comfort food and Southwestern flavors," with an emphasis on local produce. While the menu retains the Hot Point underpinnings of pizzas, sandwiches, salads and eclectic entrees, an expanded selection of meatless options reflects the fact that both the owners are vegetarians.

The couple plan to increase the number of gluten-free options as the menu continues to evolve. And they're in the process of scheduling a calendar of live music, especially for Sunday brunch.

Send restaurant news to Greg at ggcox@bellsouth.net. Be sure to tune in to Greg's radio show at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF.

Greg Cox gives 3 1/2 stars to Doherty's

Go HERE to read the review.

Restaurant News: Monuts Donuts opens in Durham, serving donuts and more

This is a post by N&O restaurant critic Greg Cox:

Lindsay Moriarty and Rob Gillespie, whose scratch-made donuts have won a devoted following at the Durham Farmers' Market and food truck rodeos, have opened a brick-and-mortar location. And they're taking full advantage of the roomier digs at Monuts (110 E. Parrish St.; 797-2634; monutsdonuts.com).

An expanded selection of yeast-raised and cake donuts now includes five popular standards (among them apple cider and "something glazed") as well as daily features such as grapefruit-bourbon with candied ginger and peach jelly-filled with a Sriracha-peanut glaze.

Monuts also offers a modest selection of homemade bagels (which can be transformed into breakfast sandwiches with cooked-to-order eggs and other fillings), as well as muffins and occasional specials such as bread pudding. The shop serves beer, wine and Counter Culture coffee.

Monuts is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day but Tuesday, though hours are "still getting worked out," according to Moriarty. The husband-and-wife team have parked their tricycle cart for now (except for special events), but they hope to get it rolling again once the shop is running smoothly.

Send restaurant news to Greg at ggcox@bellsouth.net. Be sure to tune in to Greg's radio show at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF.

Restaurant News: Giorgios Bakatsias opens Kipos in Chapel Hill

This is a post by N&O restaurant critic Greg Cox:

Giorgios Bakatsias, prolific restaurateur whose eclectic portfolio currently includes nearly a dozen establishments ranging from steakhouse (Bin 54) to French bistro (Vin Rouge), is at it again. This time, he's returning to his Greek roots.

And it looks like he's pulling out all the stops for Kipos (431 W. Franklin St.; 919-425-0760; kiposgreektaverna.com), which opened over the weekend in the erstwhile home of local landmark Pyewacket (and more recently, the Malaysian restaurant Penang). The location in The Courtyard comes with a bonus of three al fresco dining spaces that more than live up to the restaurant's name, which is Greek for "garden."

An extensive main menu of hot and cold meze, house-made phyllo pies, and entrees ranging from whole roasted fish to pastitsio and moussaka to rotisserie-roasted lamb is just part of the attraction.

Daily features include temptations such as Wednesday's braised pork shank, Thursday's lamb meatballs in Smyrna tomato sauce, and Saturday's eight-hour braised wild rabbit with pearl onions and fresh bay leaves.

You could make a vegetarian feast from the likes of gigante beans in tomato sauce with fresh herbs, simmered wild greens with lemon oil and sea salt, and a salad of local roasted beets, Greek skordalia and baby arugula in a dill lemon vinaigrette.

The restaurant and in-house bakery (which turns out an international assortment of breads and pastries) are open Tuesday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday-Saturday from 8 a. m. to midnight, and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Send restaurant news to Greg at ggcox@bellsouth.net. Be sure to tune in to Greg's radio show at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF.

Vinny's Italian Grill & Pizzeria keeps it all in the family in Chapel Hill

This is a post by N&O restaurant critic Greg Cox:

The space in Eastgate Shopping Center that was for many years home to Sal's Pizzeria (and more recently Carmine's) is back in the family. Josephine Finazzo, daughter of Sal's owner Leonardo Tornetta, opened Vinny's Italian Grill & Pizzeria (1800 E. Franklin St.; 919-942-6989; vinnysitaliangrille.net) late last month with her husband Carlo.

The restaurant is the latest location of a Virginia-based chain founded by Finazzo's cousin, Vinny Vitale. The family also operate the Triangle area's other Vinny's location in Hillsborough.

Carlo Finazzo has roots of his own in the local Italian restaurant landscape. His brother, Joe, owned the now-shuttered Carini in Cary.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Vinny's is a family-friendly place. Or that the specialties are New York style pizzas, subs and classic Italian-American pasta dishes - some made, according to the website, from "old family recipes."

Vinny's is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Send restaurant news to Greg at ggcox@bellsouth.net. Be sure to tune in to Greg's radio show at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF.

Greg Cox gives 2 stars to Raleigh's Sushi Gami

Go HERE to read the review.

Restaurant News: Rare sherry tasting at Mateo

This is a post by N&O restaurant critic Greg Cox:

Nobody enjoys a good wine dinner more than I do, but there are simply too many of them nowadays to post them all here. This one's special, for a couple of reasons.
First, it's at Mateo (109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham; 919-530-8700; mateotapas.com).

Second, the tasting will pair Mateo's primo tapas with sherries, including a few rarities you won't likely get your hands on otherwise, in a session conducted by world-renowned expert Peter Liem.

The dinner costs $80, and will start at 7 p.m. on Saturday March 30. Call the restaurant for reservations - the sooner the better, given that Mateo's the hottest ticket in Durham even when there isn't a special event going on.

If for some reason you can't make that hour, all is not lost. Just up the street, Liem will be at at Cave Taureau Wines from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. for a book signing and tasting of sherries (and maybe a little champagne).

Send restaurant news to Greg at ggcox@bellsouth.net. Be sure to tune in to Greg's radio show at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF.

Restaurant News: Sake Bomb opens in Durham

This is a post by N&O restaurant critic Greg Cox:

Tham Nguyen, prolific local restaurateur who has owned several restaurants in the area (currently including Sushi Love and TASU locations in Raleigh, Durham and Cary), is at it again. His latest venture is Sake Bomb (4215 University Drive; 919-401-4488; sakebombdurham.com), which opened late last month in the former Eastern Lights space.

Like most of Nguyen's previous restaurants, Sake Bomb explores the pan-Asian theme (with an emphasis on sushi, Thai curries and his native Vietnamese cuisine) in a vibrant contemporary setting with a bar serving colorfully exotic cocktails. The bar at Sake Bomb raises the ante (and lives up to the restaurant's name) with an impressive selection of nearly three dozen hot and cold sakes.

The menu explores new territory, too, in the form of a few items I haven't seen before on a Nguyen-owned restaurant. I've got my eye on two in particular: de xao lan, a spicy yellow goat curry with lemongrass; and hu tieu, a glass noodle soup with seafood and quail egg.

Sake Bomb is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Send restaurant news to Greg at ggcox@bellsouth.net. Be sure to tune in to Greg's radio show at 11 a.m. Saturdays on WPTF.

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