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$$$ – Better budget a little for this Archive



May 2015



Kamado Grille

Written by , Posted in $$$ - Better budget a little for this, Bar and Grills

Located at 832 Springfield Commons Drive, Raleigh, NC 27609, Kamado Grille is brand new to the North Raleigh restaurant scene. Previously inhabited by Lucky 32, business partners, Tom Allen and Joe Dunn got the inspiration for Kamado Grille from their own backyard cookouts. As such, the fresh-faced restaurant features food cooked on “highly efficient, lump charcoal burning ceramic grills” [source].


Kamado Grille Atmosphere

Before you even step foot into Kamado Grille, the view from the outside is impressive. Anyone who may remember what this area looked like pre-Kamado Grille, will definitely do a double-take.

The outside  of the restaurant features plenty of parking, and a larger than life exterior with bocci ball out front, a covered, outdoor patio on the side, and an entry that makes you feel like you’re walking into an REI store.

As we walked up, we were immediately  greeted by friendly staff members (who were poised and ready at every entry point to open doors for guests entering and exiting the restaurant).

The atmosphere inside was light, airy, and clean. We received a brief, guided tour of the restaurant where we learned more about the way the food is cooked. There are at least 12 kamado grills, based on the traditional Japanese kamado), which are equipped to cook food at high temperatures for searing as well as low, slow roasting temperatures. Because these grills use charcoal, the food has an especially distinct, more flavorful taste.

Like the way the food tastes, and wish that you could buy your own kamado grill? Well, you can. Kamado Grille has a small, open guest shop area in the front of the restaurant where people can purchase their very own kamado grill on site, as well as purchase other restaurant-related memorabilia.

Kamado Grille

The restaurant also has several, large, flat screen TVs affixed to the walls. The screens feature live feeds of the chefs in the kitchen, preparing food interspersed with nature scenes and other images). There is semi-circular-shaped open bar area which boasts around 40 types of beer on tap, and there is also a separate bar area where you can dine while watching several of the chefs prepare your meal.

The seating is reminiscent of the outdoors and reflects Kamado Grille’s desire to ‘bring the outdoors inside’. There are evenly spaced pub tables and patio tables. The tables are made of a nice, high quality grain of wood while the chairs are wicker. There are also several black olive trees throughout the restaurant, imported from Arizona – and yes, they are real (we asked).

One of the highlights, however, is the fact that you can order your food sans waiter. Each table features an iPad where diners can select everything from speciality beverages, and refills on fountain drinks to ordering your appetizers, customizing main dishes and splitting checks. We found the iPad menu easy to use, and the service exceptionally fast.

Appetizer – KG King Wings

KG Wings

Cost: $9.50

The KG King Wings consisted of speared, smoked and grilled wings tossed in Bourbon teriyaki glaze and served with a side of ranch sauce.

These wings were absolutely fantastic. I’m typically not a wings person, but these were perfection. The combination of that glaze plus the fact that the chicken was cooked just right (not too overcooked, but well done and juicy) – delicious. I could’ve just ordered this and have been happy.

The wings were awesome. The meat practically fell off the bone, they were tender and juicy – and the teriyaki glaze was out of this world.

The wings were good, messy since they were all ‘together’. The sauce was great; the charred flavor was perfect, not too much. I just wish they had offered us some wet naps with this appetizer since wings, in general are messy.

Ipswich Lobster Roll + Sweet Tea

Ipswich Lobster Roll

Cost: $14

The Ipswich Lobster Roll consisted of fresh lobster roll, lobster meat, KG sauce, lemon juice, celery, and romaine served as an open sandwich.

This meal was definitely more than enough for one person. In fact, it was such a huge serving, that I wound up saving the other half and taking it to-go. The lobster tasted incredibly fresh, and I loved the flavor of the sauce with the lemon juice and celery. I wasn’t crazy about the side of veggies that I ordered though. They were labeled as “grilled veggies” in the menu. However, they tasted weird – like soggy and stale or something. The rest of the meal was fantastic though.

Reverse Seared Pork Bomb + Gingerale

Reverse Seared Pork Bomb

Cost: $16.50

The Reverse Seared Pork Bomb consisted of german reverse seared pork shoulder fillet with sweet bourbon glaze.

Like the name suggests, this dish was “the bomb”. The pork was SO incredibly tender and juicy. The blend of flavors between the pork, the charcoal grill flavor, and that bourbon glaze….I literally have no words. I would absolutely order this meal again in a heartbeat. The only thing I didn’t like at all was the side of grilled vegetables that I ordered. I took two bites and left it alone. The flavor was off – like the veggies were prepared by reheating some frozen vegetables several times in a row and then letting it sit. Also, the veggies were soggy tasting and lukewarm at best. The pork more than made up for this though.

St. Louis Style Ribs + Coca Cola

St. Louis Style Ribs

Cost: $16.50

The St. Louis Style Ribs consisted of a dry rub, cooked low and slow with Apricot Chipotle BBQ sauce.

The ribs were good – fall off the bone. They seemed a little fatty, but the sauce was great. The side of veggies was bad, or maybe just whatever they put them in? The oil? I did not like the taste. 

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

Cost: Complimentary

The White Chocolate Bread Pudding featured homemade bread pudding topped with Jenny’s Bourbon dream sauce.

I loved this flavor. I just wish that the top layer of bread wasn’t quite as hard; I wish it was easier to bite into (like the rest of the dessert). The sauce and overall presentation were great, however.

Desert was good. I probably would not order again, but it was good. It tasted very custom.

Kamado Grille is a little on the pricey side. You’re definitely paying for the atmosphere; however, the food is just as delicious as it looks. You can definitely tell that quite a bit of work and thought went into Kamado Grille, and it shows.

Details such as high, vaulted ceilings with ample, natural light, to flat screens that give diners an inside, behind-the-scenes look at their food preparation, to how meticulously the dishes are presented – this is a restaurant that we would certainly recommend trying. Kamado Grille certainly brings a freshness to the North Raleigh food scene, and we are undoubtedly grateful.

Total (for 3 adults): $65.91*

*does not include tip



March 2015



Vinos Finos Kitchen and Wine Bar – Lafayette Village

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Located at 8450 Honeycutt Rd #110, Raleigh, NC 27615, Vinos Finos Kitchen and Wine Bar is nestled in Lafayette Village in North Raleigh. The popular wine bar features a lovely selection of tapas and an equally impressive South American wine list.


We had planned to arrive for dinner at 6 p.m. However, the parking situation was a little nightmare-ish. It was also a reminder to plan ahead when dining out at Lafayette Village. There is limited parking at this location, and the combination of snow and ice-filled parking spaces and walkways didn’t help matters. By the time all of us were seated inside of Vinos Finos, it was closer to 6:30 p.m.

When you walk into Vinos Finos, the atmosphere is other-worldly. There is a warm, earthy feel complete with low lights, candles, and an impressive floor-to-ceiling display of bottled wine on open shelves. We arrived ahead of the dinner rush, and there were couples scattered around the restaurant. Some sat at the bar, while others were tucked away in the lounge area on couches. We liked the ambience and the variety of seating available.

There were booths, pub-style tables (suitable for 2-3 adults), seating at the bar, and a few couches in a nook. All of the seating was arranged tastefully and gave you enough space that you didn’t feel as though you were sitting on top of other people. Our party of four sat at a booth, and while it was comfortable, we found ourselves looking around for a place to hang our jackets.

The music was kept at a reasonable volume so that you didn’t have to yell to be heard. As the night wore on, the volume was raised slightly as more people began to arrive.

Casa Silva Carmenere

Casa Silva Carmenere wine

Cost: $36.00 (bottle)

For our first wine choice, we all agreed on a red wine. One of our LTTR team members had invited his girlfriend, who is from Chile. She has a penchant for great tasting wine, and thus, we looked to her for our first pick: the Casa Silva. It was delicious.

The wine had a vibrant, bright violet color, and there were hints of blackberries, dark chocolate, and licorice. It wasn’t as dry as a Cabernet Sauvignon, but it wasn’t overly sweet either. It had a nice, smooth finish with a touch of spiciness. Overall, we all agreed that it tasted great.

Bodega Gratia Malbec

Bodega Gratia Malbec

Cost: $36.00 (bottle)

For our second wine selection, we wanted to go with another Chilean red wine. However, we opted, instead for an Argentinian variety: the Bodega Gratia Malbec (2011).

Similar to the Casa Silva, this wine wasn’t too dry or too sweet; it was medium-bodied and had an intense, red color with deep purple tones throughout. The flavor was a combination of ripened blueberries, dark cherry, and dark chocolate with  hints of strawberry and vanilla.

Both wines paired nicely with our appetizers as well as our meals. As one LTTR team member recapitulated:

I would say their wine descriptions are spot on. That’s huge for me. I feel like I can trust their menu when making decisions on wine, which was one of my favorite things about this place. That, alone, would get me back: knowing I can try new things and they will match the description of ingredients.

3 Empanadas (2 Beef & 1 Duck)


Cost: $8.00 (beef), $4.00 (duck)

The empanadas were nicely presented. We ordered two empanadas, which consisted of beef, corn, & cheese. We also ordered a single, duck empanada, which consisted of duck confit and sweet potato. While all of the empanadas were absolutely delicious, they were served to us cold. As one LTTR team member stated:

The appetizer was cold; it was good – but it would have been much better (and a much better experience) had it been served hot. I wonder whether they even put the effort into serving it hot/warm.

Cheese Plate

assorted cheese plate

Cost: $13.00

We also ordered a cheese board to share among us. The board featured a mixture of three different types of cheese, a small serving of apricot spread, and a partially sliced, warm baguette.

Again, the presentation was wonderful, and we enjoyed sampling the different cheeses. Overall, everything on the board tasted great, and the goat cheese was a staff favorite of ours. The only thing we would’ve changed about this presentation was the quantity of jam as there wasn’t quite enough to share among four adults.

Tuna Nachos

tuna nachos

Cost: $9.00

Despite the Tuna Nachos being listed as an appetizer, one of our staffers decided to order it as her main meal. Her thoughts:

The Tuna Nachos were GREAT. It was a very different cultural fusion dish. The tuna was perfectly seared on outside, rare on the inside, and all the elements of the dish came together really well. I appreciated the freshly fried nacho, and it was well salted. The cilantro was also very well balanced with the avocado creme- really a great harmony of flavors.

Skirt Steak

skirt steak

Cost: $16.00

The skirt steak was delicious and perfectly cooked to order. It was served hot and grilled, complete with house chimichurri, roasted vegetables, and a slice of chargrilled bread. Our staffer ordered her steak medium-rare and commented about how the meat was extremely flavorful and also that the portion was just right.

Filet Mignon

filet mignon

Cost: $20.00

The Filet Mignon was one of Vinos Finos’ dinner specials, and it did not disappoint. From the presentation of the meal to the actual flavor, every aspect was on point. As our staffer explained,

The Filet Mignon was great. It was cooked just how I wanted. It was served hot, and all of the ingredients tasted high quality; I loved it.



Cost: $14.00

Another house special, the grilled salmon was cooked to perfection. The portion and presentation were both wonderful. Our staffer explains:

I absolutely loved the way this meal was presented. You could tell that they put a lot of thought into not only the quality of the food; they also put a lot of effort into how you felt upon seeing it. From the julienned veggies to how perfectly well-done I ordered my salmon, not a single detail was missed here.

Apple Strudel

Apple Strudel

Cost: 7.50

For dessert, two of us ordered the Apple Strudel to share. The strudel was made fresh to order, and it was delightfully presented. However, there was a slight issue with salt in this otherwise sweet treat. They commented:

Dessert was okay, it was very salty! This was not something we were used to (or expecting). It made it almost unpleasant at times finding super salty bites, and we actually did not finish the strudel due to that fact. It would have been great without the salt!

Chocolate Surprise

Chocolate Surprise

Cost: $6.50

The second, shared dessert was the Chocolate Surprise. Like the Apple Strudel, this was baked fresh, on site (which meant having to wait roughly 15 – 20 minutes). However, it was worth the wait!

The “surprise” is that this dessert is basically a mini, chocolate lava cake…except a million times better. It was served hot/warm and was adorned with a tasteful amount of powdered sugar and melted chocolate sauce. There was also a generous dollop of mint ice cream on the side. As our staffers put it:

The mint flavor was not too strong in the ice cream. The ice cream was also a great texture – not too firm, and it really let the chocolate shine! The cake was not too sweet, and it was crisp on the outside with a soft, moist center, which was also very nice. We loved it!

Overall, our experience at Vinos Finos was wonderful. The wait staff was nothing short of professional, friendly, and attentive. Wine was uncorked, water glasses were refilled before even having to ask, dishes were cleared promptly, and the ambience in the restaurant invited us to sit and relax without feeling the need to rush through dinner.

We would certainly recommend this restaurant as a great place for single diners, small groups, and first dates. For a total of $181.02 (+ Tip) for four adults, it’s well within the price range of any corporate gathering or working professionals. Do be sure to plan ahead – both for finding a parking spot as well as for spending a little extra cash. However, when it comes to spending a little extra cash, we find that you get a lot more for your money at Vinos Finos. ¡Tienen una buena comida!

Visit Vinos Finos on Facebook, or you can also follow them on Twitter.



October 2014



MachuPicchu Peruvian Cuisine

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If you blink, you may miss this little restaurant. Tucked away in the corner of a parking lot, hidden in a blend of other strip mall stores, MachuPicchu Peruvian Cuisine is a breath of fresh air in an area otherwise devoid of ethnic food varieties.

The restaurant is located in North Raleigh and is open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays at various hours:

4500 Falls of Neuse Road #100
Raleigh, NC 27609

The interior of the restaurant feels more like a cafe. There are few embellishments, but there is definitely an “other worldly” feel in the choice of decor, paintings and music.

Pisco Sour

Drinks – Pisco Sour

The meal started off with a Pisco Sour, a cocktail typical of South American cuisine, and which both Chile and Peru claim as their own. The drink’s name comes from pisco, which is a type of liquor made from fermented grapes, and the cocktail term sour, in reference to sour citrus juice and sweetener components.

If you’re a lightweight, you may want to take it easy when drinking a Pisco Sour. Looks are deceiving! I found this drink to be a little strong, and though it was delicious, I probably should’ve had more to eat before drinking it. The flavor could best be described exactly as the name describes it – a little sweet and a little sour; it reminded me of a sour apple Jolly Rancher, to be honest. This alcoholic drink is small, but it packs a punch – both in flavor and in price at $10.00.

Aji De Gallina

Aji De Gallina (Entree)

Next came the entrees. The Aji de Gallina consisted of shredded chicken cooked in a creamy yellow sauce made with aji Amarillo, spices, walnuts, cheese and cream, served with rice and over boiled potatoes, boiled egg and Peruvian black olives.

The flavor had a hint of warmth and sweetness without being overbearing. You could taste the spices, which blended excellently with rice and potatoes. It was very flavorful and delicious. This meal was fairly reasonable at $10.95.

Lomo Saltado

Lomo Saltado (Entree)

The Lomo Saltado consisted of flambéed Beef filet mignon tenders (Black Angus Tenderloin) with onions, tomatoes, red bell peppers and cilantro, served with white rice and fries. Like the menu described, the meat was incredibly tender. The flavor could best be described as having slightly sour undertones, and the cilantro seasonings on top blended in nicely. While the french fries tasted completely fine, I might have served this dish with a different side – especially at the pricey cost of $20.95.



May 2014



Winston’s Grille

Written by , Posted in $$$ - Better budget a little for this, Bar and Grills

From the outward appearance to the interior decor, Winston’s Grille has ‘fine dining’ written all over it. However, it still gives off enough of a casual presence so as to not be as intimidating. While Winston’s Grille does have a Kid-friendly menu, you may want to leave the kiddos at home as this restaurant primarily caters to a more mature crowd.

Winston's Grille

First Impressions

Winston’s Grille is a standalone restaurant located in a busy shopping plaza, at the intersection of Falls of Neuse Road and Spring Forest Road. Parking is a bit hairy during the lunch rush hour, so be prepared to circle the lot a few times, or plan to park in an adjacent parking lot.

The exterior of the restaurant is well kept with manicured landscaping and clean surroundings. We were only inside of the restaurant briefly before being seated on the patio. However, the interior decor reflected the outside of the restaurant; you could see the attention to detail.


Prior to the appetizers and entrées, the waitress brought out fresh baked buns with whipped butter. The butter and bread were incredibly delicious. The bread had a nice crust on the outside, and it was soft on the inside. The butter, because it was whipped, was easy to spread on the bread. The flavor of the bread had just the slightest hint of sweetness to it.

Fresh Baked Rolls with Butter

Dish #1 – Seared Tuna

The Seared Tuna is one of the featured appetizers on the menu. It consisted of sashimi tuna topped with sesame seeds, seared and served with wasabi, pickled ginger and a teriyaki sauce. I didn’t realize that the wasabi was going to be mixed into the sauce. I’m not a fan of wasabi, and when I read the menu, I thought it would be on the side. Despite this, the tuna was good.

Seared Tuna

Dish #2 – Chicken Caesar Salad

I ordered this with extra chicken. It was A LOT of chicken, but I preferred it that way. The caesar dressing was a mild caesar flavor- not too overbearing. The bread was AH-mazing. The service was a little slow. We were seated outside, but we weren’t seated where we wanted. I felt that the wait staff didn’t communicate the outdoor seating situation very well, especially since it was a cool day and we were seated in the shade. The service was not overly friendly or attentive. 

Chicken Caesar Salad

Dish #3 – Health Nut Salad with Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

I ordered lemonade with my meal, and it did not disappoint. It was served in a glass with a straw and a fresh lemon wedge on the rim. The lemonade was freshly made at the restaurant, and contained the perfect balance of lemon to water to sugar – not too much sugar, but rather, just enough to satisfy any sweet tooth (like mine). It was so good that I actually wound up ordering a second one (There are no free refills on lemonades).

The Health Nut Salad was also delicious. It consisted of fresh spinach leaves, mixed with a lemon-champagne vinaigrette, strawberries, bananas, almonds, cantaloupe, craisins, goat cheese and grilled chicken. The flavors blended together were incredible. I’m not usually a fan of dressings on my salads, but the lemon-champagne vinaigrette was light and airy and infused the salad with just the right balance of flavor. Everything blended well together to create a satiating dish.

Had I skipped the bread and the drinks, I might have been able to make more headway into my salad.

Healthnut Salad with Chicken


The service was excellent. The presentation of the food was excellent. The wait staff was friendly and attentive. Water glasses and fountain beverages were promptly refilled before anyone needed to request it. Dishes were cleared immediately in preparation for the next round of food, and all food orders were placed and executed without error.

The atmosphere was a little on the chilly side (sitting in the shade on the patio), but the table cloth, chairs and utensils were clean, the decor was on point, and the other restaurant patrons were respectful and on the quieter side. Overall, Winston’s Grille is a great spot for a more upscale dining experience, but what you pay for you most certainly get back tenfold in the quality of the food and in the quality of the service.



April 2012



Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Written by , Posted in $$ - Bring your debit card, $$$ - Better budget a little for this, Bar and Grills, Italian

Date night is always fun, but can be a challenge to find somewhere to eat when nobody is quite sure what they’re in the mood for. Such was the case the other night as my boyfriend and I asked each other “whatchu wanna eat?” and replied “I dunno, whatchu wanna eat?”

We finally decided we were in the mood for some Italian food and settled on giving Carrabba’s Italian Grill a try and headed to the location at 4821 Capital Blvd in Raleigh. As is to be expected on a Saturday night at any restaurant, there was an hour long wait. We were starving and decided to give the bar a try. We lucked out and found two seats immediately and got great personal attention from the two bartenders working that night.

He tried a glass of red wine and I opted for a blackberry sangria in a quartino (about a glass and a half). We were served fresh bread with olive oil and a mix of herbs and we also ordered the bacon and caramelized onion flat-bread appetizer. It came out pretty quickly which we appreciated. The flavor, however, wasn’t that great and we probably would not order this particular appetizer again.

For dinner, we ordered pasta Carrabba (fettuccini Alfredo with grilled chicken, mushrooms and peas) and the Manicotti (red sauce with a requested side of Alfredo sauce to add in). For our sides, we ordered a side salad and a soup (Italian Wedding soup).  The food was absolutely delicious.

I’m a huge fan of sangria and I have to say that the blackberry sangria here is probably the absolute best sangria I’ve had in the Raleigh area.

In all, our experience here was really great. Our food was served quickly and was hot and fresh and tasted great. Like I said, we’d skip the particular flat-bread that we ordered the first time but would be open to trying another flavor in the future.

We enjoyed the ‘personal’ service at the bar and appreciated how quick the staff was to take our order, bring us our food, and keep our drinks refilled. The bar did get a little busy as the night went on but for us, it was a far better experience than we think we may have had on the busy dining floor.

We can’t wait to go back to Carrabba’s and I am hearing that there’s a drink special on Wednesdays for $10 off a pitcher of sangria. I’m in!