Local: Pizzeria Toro (@pizzeriatoro) - Durham, NC

Had the chance to check out this great spot in downtown Durham to celebrate Emily's first publication.

We walked in on a Wednesday evening to find the place bumpin'! There was a 30-45 minute wait at 7:30 at night and that seemed pretty conservative. The nice lady at the door sent us over to the bar for some amazing drinks though, and I highly recommend their signature drinks.

We ordered 2 appetizers and 4 pizzas between the 4 of us and that was more than plenty. Actually, it would have been fine with 2 apps and 2 pizzas.

The style here is wood fire oven done the right way with really fresh ingredients. We had the egg, goat sausage, the pistachio and onion (thanks to a twitter recommendations), and the buffalo mozz. and the stand out was for me was the egg.

All in all I can't wait to go back to this spot and proud that its in Durham.

Twitter: @pizzeriatoro

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Local Eats: Asuka Japanese Restaurant - Morrisville, NC

I'm constantly on the lookout for new noodle soups everywhere. I make it a point to order noodle soups in as many different places as possible from as many different regions as possible. Champong from Korea, boat noodles from Thai Land, ramen noodles from China, and of course, shown above, udon noodles from Japan. The most important components of udon are the broth and consistency of the noodles. The trimmings such as shiitake mushrooms, tempura shrimp, spinach, fish cakes, etc. are secondary. The udon from Asuka had a nice clear broth and a taut noodle. The trimmings were equally amazing. This is a great winter dish so I hope you'll try to find some in your area. If you're in my area though, go check out Asuka.

Joe Kwon

Local Eats: Only Burger

Only burger used to be Only a food cart but since their great success as a food cart they opened this retail location. I just had the pleasure of eating one of their delish burger delights and thought I should spread the word.

Only burger is located near the intersection of Martin Luther King Parkway and Shannon Rd in Durham, NC. The burgers can be topped with all sorts of goodies and their fries are hand cut. But, the big standout side are their onion rings! Crispy and thick cut onions that are dusted in panko and fried to perfection. And you can't forget about the herb ranch dressing that they are served with. Just awesome.

Their burgers are good. You can really just choose from their variety of toppings and go nuts. I went with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and jalapeños. You're not going to walk out with a drastically tinnier wallet and it's tasty.

I didn't think the fries were particularly out of this world, but they are nice fresh cut fries with plenty of crisp. I just like my fry to be a bit thicker, but that's personal preference.

I love the prices and reasonable sized burgers at Only Burger and you better believe with it being as close to my house as it is, that I'll go back!

--Joe

Local Eats: Neal's Deli - Carrboro, NC

I've always loved the breakfast sandwiches at Neal's and I just haven't had the opportunity to take a picture of them for the blog. Here are a couple samples of the many options they have there at Neal's Deli.

The pastrami, egg, and cheese is awesome. There is a sweetness, either from the biscuit or pastrami, that translates well in the sandwich. The biscuits at Neal's are super flaky and buttery and not overly bready. Very dense with a salty buttery soutside and a moist inside. Just the right kind of biscuit.

The ham and egg biscuit I don't nearly like as much as the plain ole ham biscuit. I guess I was expecting a runny fried egg rather than scrambled egg. I still enjoyed it though!

Em ordered the cucumber salad today and it really hit the spot with just the right amount of sour and crunch to offset the heaviness from the buttery biscuit.

--Joe

Local Eats: Achalee Thai - Greenville, NC

Chicken WIngs Achalee serves up some great dishes with always fresh veggies. One of the best parts about getting food here is that their veggies are never overcooked. (at least the three times I've been) I thought I'd just post up a quick little post about some of the dishes that Em and I really have come to like.

These wings are so crispy and crunchy you'll love how they are fried up. They have a perfect crunch, and a ton of meat on the wings.

Tom Yum Noodle Soup with Seafood

This is definitely a main course kind of dish. The bowl of soup is plenty big and comes packed with seafood and fresh veggies. (this last time I felt the squid was a bit strong flavor wise)

Green Curry with Pork I like to order a good green curry because the flavor is so complex with savoriness and sweetness all at once. You can order dishes at Achalee with a spice scale of 1-5. I chose 6. I love the burn of the broth with all the fresh eggplant, sugar snaps, bell peppers, onions, bamboo shoots, and pork.

Achalee is located in a bit of a depressing looking strip mall, in my opinion though, that makes me like it even more!

--Joe

Local Eats: Pie Pushers

Another great area food truck. Pie pusher serves up some of the best cart pizza in the area with some very interesting toppings. You can find their location by following their twitter feed @piepushers.

Here are two of the pizzas we got to kick off our triangle restaurant week celebrations. The one on the left is called the 1243 a very hearty pie while the one on the right is the Under My Shoe a lighter fare.

--Joe

Local Eats: Kokyu Food Truck

Just wanted to do a quick post for some fine local eats. This is one of the excellent food trucks Durham has to offer. You can find their location by following their twitter feed @kokyubbq.

Duck fat tots are the way to go for that decadent snack food! Kokyu deep fries them in duck fat then tosses them with some nice rosemary. Don't forget to try their hotsauce. It's delicious!

--joe

Local Eats: Watt's Grocery - Durham, NC


I'd heard so many good things about Watt's from everyone who had ever eaten there, so I thought it was time for my Em and I to go have a nice night out.

I have a hard time composing my thoughts when I write about food because I don't think the English language has enough words for describing flavors/textures/temperatures/essence. I use the same adjectives over and over again in my writing and I just wish there were better words for what I'm trying to say. It all comes down to how wonderful our experience was at Watt's Grocery.

Arugula and Strawberry Salad
This really is such a sign in NC that summer is almost here. Strawberries, are one of the few fruit that we grow really well in NC and restaurants celebrate them as soon as they come in season. The combination with the slightly spicy arugula is so nice.

Country Ham Tart - with caramelized apples, shallots, arugula and house made crème fraiche
We didn't order this but our server thought we should give it a try so he brought it out for us anyways. I'm so glad he did. The local pork and the caramelized apple go so well together and you really wish you could have more after your last bite. Salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and then the creme fraiche to cool it down and smooth it over.

Winter Salad - Arugula, oven-roasted tomatoes, fried shallots, with dijon vinaigrette
I love the idea of this dish. Put the things on a salad that are in season in our region and make a beautiful salad out of it. The canned oven-roasted tomatoes go so well with the salad that we started doing it at home.

Clam Fritters - with seaside tartar sauce and cole slaw
Just the thought of these makes my mouth water. I pretended at the beginning of this meal that I wasn't going to get anything fried so I could splurge my cholesterol intake for the main course, but of course, we had to get clam fritters. What on EARTH was I thinking to even question not ordering these. Fried to flakey perfection, these huge fritters are good enough to make a meal out of them. And by the way, Watt's also gives you plenty to go around.

Tasso Seafood Stew - shrimp, mussels, clams, caramelized onion, roasted tomato, house-cured tasso, and white beans garnished with roasted garlic crostini
Emily's dish was very rich in flavor with tons of different seafood swimming around in the rich bean based broth. Unfortunately, I was so full I couldn't fully enjoy our main courses. Not that I didn't eat everything on my plate though.

Watts' Pork and Peas - Sea Island Peas, duck confit, grilled pork belly, wilted greens, and pickled beets

I wanted to give both of these pictures to you because the dish was really stacked high and it was so pretty to look at from above as well. You could say that this is probably the most unhealthy dish on the menu. Duck confit AND pork belly, both cooked to amazingly well (I like my confit to be crispier), and sitting in a nice rich broth as well. Again, I wish I wasn't so full when I approached this dish, seems like a waste of amazing food lost on a full stomach.

Chocolate Tart
Now you realize that we were totally full right, well of course we couldn't skip desert. We ordered one desert and got two. Oh my. About . . . to . . . burst . . . need . . . sweatpants . . . must . . . force . . . down . . . all . . . the . . . . . . . food.

Banana Pudding
You get the point. Too full, but nothing stops me. I preferred the banana pudding over the warm choco cake. But, then again I'm more of a fruit person than chocolate.

We're very fortunate in Durham to have so many fine restaurants at our disposal. In my opinion of all the spots I've eaten in the area, which is not enough by the way, Watt's Grocery is one of the best. They succeed in producing amazing food that sources from local farms. A beautiful thing indeed.

--Joe Kwon

Local Eats: The Pig - Chapel Hill, NC


I used to think that my spirit animal was butter. I'm starting to think I'm a pig. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking with Victoria Bouloubasis(click here to read that article), a writer for The Independent. We spoke for hours at length about tour and food and performing all the while stuffing our faces with amazing food. This is a recap of that meal.

The above (drool) is a pork belly sandwich topped with cole slaw, and served with a side of home-made pickles. The pork is perfectly braised to that fall apart texture and the pickles are sweet and crisp.


So the above is what I consider to be vegetable bliss. It's roasted brussel sprouts with mushrooms, and seriously, it's so good you'll swear there's lard on them. PERFECTION in a bowl.


If you're ever in the mood for some good ole fried zucchini I'd say it's official, The Pig, has the best fried zuchs. in town and darn good fries to boot. The BBQ is chop style and for my palette could be spicier and more sour.


This dish reminds me of being in Germany. ThaSam was so nice to bring us out this awesome cold cut plate with home made sauer kraut and spicy mustard. The Germans really know what's up.


Now THAT is a fried green tomato. Most of the time when you get these at restaurants they are thin and non substantial and really don't have much to offer. The crust on these were super crunchy and these tomatoes were HUGE. They were practically a big thick slice of bread with some warm, firm green tomato on the inside.


Prior to this meal I had no idea what the process was for making real "cracklin's." The process is a lot more than just throwing some fat back in a fryer. In fact very little fat is left on them when they hit the grease. The process is too long to discuss for this post but let's just say the next time you eat a cracklin' you should savor every moment of it. AND, if you get the chance to eat some of Sam's cracklin's you're in for a treat. Perfectly airy and crisp, with a touch of sweetness just the way the should be.


So let's go over what we've eaten so far, pork belly, sprouts, zucchini, fries, bbq, cold cuts, fried green tomatoes, cracklin's, and now how am I supposed to fit puffs of air and dough into my belly? Ok, well the fact that they are mostly air really helps, but these things are perfect for that long meal. You get the sweetness without all the heavy, unless of course you eat the whole bowl like we did.


This is Sam. Does he look familiar, because he sure did to me when I walked in. Turns out Sam and I were on the UNC varsity fencing team together my senior year. Crazy small world I tell you. Thanks so much Sam for all the fantastic food!

If you live in Chapel Hill and have a car, you need to drive on over to The Pig and have some pig.