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Restaurant News: Café 121 opens second location in downtown Cary

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

The original Café 121 in Sanford has been a popular dining destination for locals since 2008. So popular, in fact, that owner/chef Gregg Hamm is taking his show on the road. The Johnson & Wales-trained chef opened a second Café 121 (140 E. Chatham St.; 919-468-9884; chefhamm.com) in downtown Cary on Valentine's Day.

"We tried to keep the opening quiet," says Hamm. "We're still hanging pictures on the walls, and the exterior renovations to the building aren't finished." Even so, those who remember the last incarnation of the space as EJ's Soul Food will be astonished at its transformation into an inviting, casually romantic spot with fresh flowers and white linens on the tables.

Café 121 serves lunch Tuesday-Friday, brunch Saturday and Sunday, and - at least for now - dinner Friday and Saturday nights only.

The chef's signature Jala-Ribeye (grilled to order and topped with jalapeño-spiked pimento cheese) highlights a mostly traditional offering of steaks, seafood and pasta dishes. An extensive selection of sandwiches, wraps, salads and homemade soups should attract a lunchtime following in short order.

And with eggs Benedict, jumbo pancakes, and Southern fried chicken with gravy and eggs your way among the brunch options on weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Café 121 just might succeed in bringing people into downtown Cary on weekends.

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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About the blogger

Andrea Weigl has been the food writer at The News & Observer since the summer of 2007. She has won a handful of awards from the Association of Food Journalists and the Society for Features Journalism. Her profile of chef Ashley Christensen titled "A Force of Nature" will be published in the sixth edition of "Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing." She is serving a three-year term on the James Beard Foundation book awards committee. Follow her on Twitter at @andreaweigl.
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