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Obamacare seminars getting underway to explain complex health care law

The season of health care seminars is getting underway as enrollment for subsidized insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act starts in just two and a half months, and many still confused about the requirements of the complex federal law.

Two upcoming seminars will be sponsored by the N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association, one to be held in Durham and the other in Charlotte.

Restaurants, along with other retailers, are a category of business that could see substantial changes under the Affordable Care Act, because such businesses typically do not provide insurance to employees and could be required to do so under the federal law.

A new fondue restaurant opens in Durham

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

Fondue restaurant Little Dipper (905 W. Main St.; 919-908-1023; littledipperfondue.com) has opened in the old Taverna Nikos space in Brightleaf Square.

The restaurant is the second in what now officially becomes a chain - and a chain with what appears to be a winning formula, at that.

The original Little Dipper opened in 2005 in Wilmington. The restaurant's historic waterfront location, combined with its made-for-date-night specialty, have made it a popular dining destination.

In Durham, the converted tobacco warehouses of Brightleaf Square fill the romantic-setting bill quite nicely.

The other half of the equation takes the form of an almost bewildering variety of fondues, cooked in pots over burners built into custom-made tables. The menu offers half a dozen variations on cheese fondue alone, from classic Swiss to Baja cheddar (spice it up with jalapeños if you dare).

Entrees are even more diverse. Individual fondues are offered as a mix-and-match combination of 12 proteins and vegetables, and six cooking styles (from chicken broth to peanut oil to Asian firepot). Entrees for two (The Full Moon, to name one: two lobster tails, filet, sashimi tuna, shrimp and chicken) and for four are also offered.

In the they've-thought-of-everything category, vegetarians sharing a table with meat-eaters can even request a separate cooking pot.

Rounding out the experience is an extensive list of dessert fondues, from simple chocolate (dark, white or milk) to Fluffernutter. You can optionally spike your fondue with the liqueur of your choice, or walk on the wild side and go for the Aztec: dark chocolate with Patron Café XO, cinnamon and red chile.

Little Dipper is open for dinner every nignt but Monday.

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: A new Honduran restaurant opens in Durham

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

The recent opening of La Cacerola (2016 Guess Road; 919-286-3303) is a double boon for the local dining scene.

First, it brings a measure of closure to the tragic story of Kabab & Curry House, the previous restaurant at this address, whose owner was murdered in December.

Second, the Honduran fare that is La Cacerola's specialty has historically been an underrepresented cuisine in the Triangle. Among the dishes you'd have been hard-pressed to find until now are grilled Honduran chorizo, steak in onion sauce, and yuca (fried or steamed) with chicharrones and their traditional accompaniments, pickled vegetables and a distinctive salsa called chismol.

You can order à la carte or hit the compact buffet. A lunch special offers your choice of meat and three sides from the buffet for a bargain $6.50.

On Sunday mornings, options expand to include Honduran breakfast items such as the Tipico La Cacerola: beans, sweet plantains, eggs, sour cream and your choice of pork, beef or chorizo.

La Cacerola is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 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.

Restaurant News: New Vietnamese restaurant opens in Raleigh

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

Veteran restaurateur and Vietnamese chef Quan Tran has opened Pho Super 9 (6401 Triangle Plantation Drive; 919-878-1599; phosuper9.com) near Triangle Town Center mall. The chef owned Pho 9N9 in Durham before selling it three years ago, and was a partner in Pho Cali before that.

Tran has given the old Hibachi Express space in Plantation Point Shopping Center a thorough makeover, transforming it into a casual contemporary setting with full table service and a granite bar where, pending permits, beer and wine will be served.

The main draw, not surprisingly, is the Vietnamese beef noodle soup that is the restaurant's namesake. But it's by no means the only attraction. A six-page menu offers a broad cross-section of the Vietnamese repertoire, making Pho Super 9 the chef's most ambitious venture yet.

Pho Super 9 is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant's website is still under construction, but you can find them on Facebook.

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.

UPDATE: The OC Bar & Grill opens TODAY in Raleigh

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

UPDATED: The OC Bar & Grill (1028 Oberlin Road; 919-322-9710; theocraleigh.com) opens TODAY (4/17) in Raleigh.

No, not that OC. This one is named for Oberlin Court, the retail and residential complex near Cameron Village where the upscale sports bar is located. The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner daily, remaining open until 4 a.m. Thursday-Saturday and until 2 a.m. the rest of the week.

The extended hours are just one of the ways that owners Ryan Faircloth (who formerly owned Ham's in Chapel Hill and was a partner in The Corner in Cary) and Ryan Reid have in mind to set their establishment apart from the competition.

From house-smoked beef brisket to signature two-day-brined, slow-cooked chicken wings, scratch cooking is the rule for The OC's kitchen. In addition to the usual pub fare, the extensive menu covers a wide spectrum from loaded Tater Tots to cedar plank-grilled salmon to pork belly mac 'n' cheese to pomegranate molasses pan-roasted chicken.

The bar is aiming higher than the sports pub norm, too, serving cocktails made with fresh squeezed juices, homemade mixes and fresh herbs. And rotating taps will feature brews selected by fan votes on The O.C.'s Facebook page. Winners for the opening taps include Goose Island Summertime Kölsch, Carolina Brewery Oatmeal Porter, and Angry Orchard Cider.

When 4 a.m. rolls around on a Friday night, I'm betting coffee would get a few votes.

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.

With Raleigh restaurants, is beauty in the eye of the beholder?

I had a puzzling phone conversation with a reader today. He and his wife had done some drive-bys to see the exact locations of some well-regarded Raleigh restaurants. What he saw surprised him and during our conversation I was struck by how worlds apart I was from this man in terms of our evaluation of restaurants.

He specifically mentioned Poole's and Bida Manda. Where I see the charm in Poole's modern update of this former diner, he saw a "dump" and wondered why a James Beard finalist didn't pick a better restaurant location. Where I see the sleek Asian design of Bida Manda, he again failed to see any beauty.

As we were talking, he mentioned Bruno, a steakhouse near Wake Forest, as a restaurant aesthetic that he liked. He called it "charming." I've never eaten at Bruno so I don't know what it looks like. But Greg Cox gave it four stars so I know it is a worthy dining destination. (Go HERE to read Greg's review.)

I urged the gentleman to look beyond whether he likes the look of the place and taste the food. But I'm still scratching my head about this phone call.

Is this a generational divide among diners? He seemed older than my 38 years, maybe close to 60. Is it based on a person's prior dining experience? He said he and his wife moved here from Boston. Are big city restaurants really that much different than what's here in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill? Or maybe some folks have very different ideas about what a restaurant experience should be? I'm as happy to eat off a food truck as dine at Lantern in Chapel Hill. Maybe others don't see dining that way. How can two people be so far apart on the beauty of a place?

What do you think?

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.

Restaurant News: Chopstix now open in North Raleigh

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

Justin Chen, a newcomer to the Triangle but a veteran restaurateur, has opened Chopstix (5607 Creedmoor Road; 919-7781-6268) at Creedmoor Crossing, in the space long occupied by Jin Yuan (and more recently, Rose Garden Asian Bistro).

A native of China's Fujian Province, Chen comes to Raleigh by way of Ocean City, Maryland, where he still owns Blue Fish Japanese restaurant. The broader Asian concept (not to mention the name) for his new restaurant is inspired by Chopstix restaurants belonging to a friend in Maryland. The restaurant is not affiliated with the Chopstix in Durham.

The bulk of the extensive menu is devoted to the reigning champs of Asian cuisine in terms of popularity: sushi and Chinese-American fare. The offering also includes a handful of tempura, hibachi, teriyaki and Japanese noodle dishes, as well as a token nod to Thai cuisine.

Chopstix is open for lunch and dinner daily. The restaurant doesn't have a website yet, but you can pick up a takeout menu that includes a couple of coupons for free sushi rolls. It is not affiliated with the Chopstix in Durham.

The restaurant does have a Facebook page.

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.

February 1960 sit-ins moved to Raleigh

The lunch counter sit-ins that began at the Greensboro Woolworth’s on February 1, 1960, quickly spread across the state. Following demonstrations in Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Durham, Fayetteville, the movement landed in Raleigh on February 10.

Writers Charles Craven and David Cooper covered the event.

Some 150 boys and girls took part in the demonstration against white-only food service at eight stores, but the only immediate result of their action was the quick closing of all lunch counters.

The only incidents in connection with the protest movement were the tossing of one egg and the heckling of students by teenagers and other whites.

Ironically, the demonstration came at the same time when Negro church leaders of Raleigh were meeting with white store operators to work out a peaceful solution to the problem....

The Raleigh sitdown demonstrations began about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Woolworth’s downtown store. It moved on to other stores -- McLellan’s, Hudson-Belk, Kress, Eckerd’s Drug Store, Cromley’s Sir Walter Drug Stores, and Woolworth’s in Cameron Village -- and in each place the lunch counters were immediately closed when the Negro students asked for services.

Signs, apparently prepared beforehand, were quickly brought out and put on display. They read: “Closed in the Interest of Public Safety,” “Luncheonette Temporarily Closed,” and “We Reserve the Right to Serve the Public As We See Fit.”

Lunch counters in several places were roped off and “No Trespassing” signs were hung....

Mayor W. G. Enloe and City Councilman Paul Hooyer were at the entrance of Walgreen’s Drug Store shortly after the demonstration began. Enloe told a reporter that he had no comment at that time. He later issued a statement in which he said: “It is regrettable that some of our young Negro students would risk endangering Raleigh’s friendly and cooperative race relations by seeking to change a long-standing custom in a manner that is all but destined to fail....”

A heavy red-faced man, arms crossed and a cigar burning in one hand, stood placidly near one of the doors at the downtown Woolworth store. Inside, a conglomeration of people milled about. A coed from one of the Negro colleges started out the door where the man stood. The coed wore a tan sweater and as she went through the door, the man unfolded his arms and raked the burning cigar across the back of her sweater.

“Did you burn it?” the girl asked mildly.

The red-faced man looked back upon the scene in the store, grinning now and arms crossed once more, giving her no answer.

Unnoticed by him, a large portion of the cigar’s fire flicked from the girl’s sweater into the crook of his folded right arm.

A bystander watched as a thin stream of smoke curled from his burning coat sleeve.

The wholesale shutdown of lunch counters, coming at noontime, posed an eating problem for State employees and other downtown workers. Unusually long lines of customers turned up at Ballentine’s and the S&W Cafeteria. -- The News & Observer 2/11/1960

The demonstrations went on for several days. On February 12, the management of Cameron Village, “Raleigh’s big model shopping and apartment center,” had 41 students arrested for trespassing. The following week, two white men were arrested, charged with assault, following an encounter with the students.

One of the white men and a Shaw University student exchanged blows after a protest placard was snatched from a Negro student’s hands....

The first outbreak of physical violence in the eight-day-old demonstration... occurred about 3 p.m.m on Fayetteville Street. An area in front of Eckerd’s Drug Store, Woolworth’s and McLellan’s was crowded with young white men, and some older men who heckled the Negro protests...

Mrs. Elizabeth Miller, who was visiting in Raleigh, told the white crowd, which included boys and girls of school age, that they were wrong in abusing the Negroes.

“You’re going about this in the wrong way,” Mrs. Miller said. “I’m as much a segregationist as you are, but I believe you should meet courtesy with courtesy.” -- The N&O 2/18/1960

See more photos of the 1960 sit-ins.

Test your heart health at Rex, get a free meal at Sweet Tomatoes

Rex Hospital and Sweet Tomatoes have teamed up this month to offer folks a free lunch or dinner when they complete an online assessment for heart disease risks.

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