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lunch Archive

Friday

17

April 2015

0

COMMENTS

Torero’s Mexican Restaurant

Written by , Posted in $ - Grab change from the couch cushions, $$ - Bring your debit card, Mexican

We were in the mood for Mexican food, so we headed over to Torero’s Mexican Restaurant, located in the Millbrook Collection Shopping Plaza, at 4721 Atlantic Ave, Suite 101, Raleigh, NC 27604.

Atmosphere

The atmosphere at Torero’s can best be described as a fiesta for both your eyes and your stomach. Given the location and surroundings of the restaurant, you don’t expect much. However, when you step inside, you feel like you are stepping into a festive party. There is generous outdoor seating on a separate, enclosed patio.

The interior of the restaurant is colorful and decorated with black and white checkered tiles, bright, multi-colored walls, artwork, and Mexican-themed paper decorations hanging from the ceilings. There is a ton of natural light towards the front and center of the restaurant, while the back portion is windowless but well-lit. In the mood to catch the latest fútbol game? There is definitely no shortage of flat screen TVs here! Whether you’re sitting at the bar, or seated elsewhere in the restaurant, you’ve got the best seat in the house.

Below, we tried and reviewed three separate lunch specials at Torero’s. Lunch specials are available at this Raleigh location Monday through Fridays only, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Saturday/Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Fajita Quesadilla (Chicken) + Soft Drink

Chicken fajita quesadilla

Cost: $7.95 + $2.25

The Fajita Quesadilla consisted of a crispy flour tortilla filled with cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese, pico de gallo, and your option of chicken and/or steak. The dish was served with a side of sour cream, guacamole, and a choice of refried beans or Rancho beans, and Mexican rice.

The presentation of the meal was very simple. I LOVED how they served it with separate, edible taco cups. One was filled with refried beans, and the other was filled with rice. It kept the overall meal neat. The pico de gallo tasted ok, but it the avocado could’ve been a little more fresh. The chicken was cooked well, and the overall flavor was decent. I just wish they had better flatware. The knife was so dull, and it made it difficult to eat my meal. 

Fajita Taco Salad

Taco salad

Cost: $7.95

The FajitaTaco Salad consisted of a giant flour tortilla shell filled to the brim with: grilled onions, bell peppers, your option of steak and/or chicken, rice, beans, salsa ranchera, lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole. Picture Elaine’s “Big Salad” from Seinfeld.

Three words: HUGE and CHEAP. Everything on their lunch menu was priced at a great value. Everything was very well thought out. Even the appetizer of chips and salsa was served with individual salsa for each person. The Taco Salad was great. It was served in a golden-brown shell, along with a healthy serving of chicken and guacamole. The flavor was great, and they didn’t skimp on anything – especially with it being so affordable!

Fajitas with Black Beans

Chicken fajitas with black beans

Cost: $7.95

The Fajitas consisted of a half serving of your choice of chicken and/or steak. The meat is then served sizzling hot over sautéed onions and green peppers. You have a choice in sides – either refried beans or Rancho (cholesterol-free) beans. Mexican rice and corn tortillas are served on the side, along with: lettuce, pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and guacamole.

This meal was a great value. The service was good and quick, and it makes for a good office lunch- especially if you need to get back quickly. You received a great amount of food for the price (great value). While the food tasted great, and the atmosphere was nice, the one gripe I had was that the guy up front was not really friendly. To his credit, however, he was fast and professional.

Overall, Torero’s was a great experience. You truly got a decent amount of food for the price that you wound up paying. Besides, where else can you snag a meal for three adults  for under $30?

Total: $28.12 (not including tip)

Friday

27

February 2015

0

COMMENTS

Applebee’s – Triangle Town Center

Written by , Posted in $$ - Bring your debit card, Bar and Grills

Our most recent restaurant adventure took us to the Applebee’s at Triangle Town Center. If you want to avoid the lunch rush during the week, 2:30 p.m. seems like the perfect time to eat.

When we arrived, we almost had the entire restaurant to ourselves. The atmosphere was relaxing, the table was clean, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover that Applebee’s had upgraded to digital table menus as well as their traditional, hand-held menus. The menu had been revised as well and now included more food options.

The wait staff was extremely friendly and attentive. Our waiter was well groomed and didn’t even need to write down our orders – something I found to be even more impressive after we received our food with zero errors.

Ordering from the digital menu at applebee's

When one of our staff members suggested Applebee’s for our lunch spot, I was skeptical. In the past, my experiences with this chain restaurant were mediocre at best. Applebee’s was the place you went to with your college friends for late night dinners; it wasn’t exactly the first place I imagined eating at as a business professional.

However, to its credit, Applebee’s has emerged as great restaurant option. It’s versatile and attracts a diverse crowd of people – both with its food options, pricing, and atmosphere.

Mozzarella Sticks (8-Count)

Mozzarella sticks at applebee's

Cost: $7.49

The mozzarella sticks have become sort of a signature appetizer at Applebee’s – and with good reason. They are delicious!

Served up nice and hot, with a side of marinara sauce for dipping, these mozzarella sticks were on point. They were crispy and not overcooked. In the past, we’ve had issues where mozzarella sticks tasted overcooked and had a rubbery consistency, but these tasted great and went FAST. Also, these mozzarella sticks seem larger than they used to be, years ago when Applebee’s was serving them. Overall, it was a decent portion size for four adults.

Riblet Platter + Sweet Tea

riblet platter at applebee's

Cost: $12.69 + $2.39

The Riblets tasted great. True to the menu description, they were served hot and had a smokey, chargrilled flavor. The honey bbq was really good- it was sweet and not too hot. This is definitely a finger food, and the waiter was attentive to this, bringing wet naps to help keep things neat. The dish was served with Applebee’s signature fries and a side of cole slaw. Overall, it was a delicious dish that definitely hit the spot.

Kobe-Style Meatballs

kobe style meatballs at applebee's

Cost: $6.99

The Kobe-style meatballs consisted of meatballs served with Pomodoro sauce, sprinkled with blended parmesan cheese and served with a side of partially sliced ciabatta bread. This pub appetizer was tasty despite the somewhat unappetizing presentation. We suspect that the meatballs may have been zapped in a microwave and then “dressed up” prior to being brought out to the table. Regardless, the flavor wasn’t affected, and it was a satisfying, filling dish.

Clubhouse Grill + Sweet Potato Fries

clubhouse grill with sweet potato fries at applebee's

Cost: $9.99 + $0.99

The Clubhouse Grill sandwich had a lot going on: thick cuts of warm ham, turkey breast and melted cheddar & Jack cheeses with Applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a drizzle of the Applebee’s signature honey BBQ sauce on freshly toasted Tuscan bread.

Overall, the sandwich was nice and crisp. It had a buttery layer on the outside, and the bacon was crispy. It had had a good flavor, and it was VERY tasty.

The french fries were good but not great. They were NOT crisp, and they tasted too minimally seasoned.

Cedar Lemon Chicken

cedar lemon chicken at applebee's

Cost: $9.99

I decided to order something from the healthier side of the menu, so I went with the Cedar Grilled Chicken.

The dish was served hot and featured a generous portion of grilled chicken, garnished with finely sliced Granny Smith apple slices. The chicken sat in a bed of light, lemon and olive oil sauce, and it was accompanied by a blend of rice, quinoa, honey-glazed pecans and chopped cranberries.

Overall, the flavor was great. It could’ve been a tad hotter. I also found that while this meal was portioned appropriately, it’s probably not the best option to go for when you’re starving (as I was). I found that I was still hungry after I was done!

Blondie

blondie dessert at applebee's

 

Cost: $6.29

What can be said about the Blondie? It was EXCELLENT. I liked that they served the maple icing on the side because even though one of our other staff members loved it- a sweet Blondie, PLUS sweet ice cream, PLUS sweet icing was just a little too much “sweet” for my personal taste.

Another LTTR staff member commented, saying, “Dessert was amazingly good. The Blondie by itself was too dry, but with the ice cream, it was amazingly good. The drizzle sauce was pure sugar goodness as well.”

Triple Chocolate Meltdown

triple chocolate meltdown at applebee's

Cost: $6.29

If you’re a chocolate lover, then the Triple Chocolate Meltdown was made for you. This dessert has been a featured item on the Applebee’s menu for years now, and with good reason! This molten lava chocolate cake is served up hot. When you cut into it, it oozes warm, chocolate-y goodness. Add a side of vanilla ice cream, and top it all with melted fudge, and it truly is a slice of heaven. This dessert is generous enough to be shared or decadent enough to be enjoyed alone. Just make sure you hit the gym afterwards!

Overall, our experience at Applebee’s was great. The staff members were polite, professional, and extremely attentive. The food was flavorful and delicious – and for the most part, presented nicely. And for a mere $68.00 for four adults, it was also budget friendly. We’ll definitely be back in the near future!

[photo credit: Irwin Funes]

Monday

16

February 2015

0

COMMENTS

Jason’s Deli

Written by , Posted in $ - Grab change from the couch cushions

You can’t always make it to a sit-down lunch; so this week, we decided to order lunch to-go. Looking for something quick, healthy, and not too far from the office, we called in an order at Jason’s Deli.

Located at the corner of Spring Forest Road and Falls of Neuse Road, Jason’s Deli is one of several health-conscious sandwich and salad chains in the Triangle area. This location is conveniently parked at one of the busiest lunch spots in the North Raleigh area in the Sutton Square shopping plaza.

Jason's Deli in North Raleigh, NC

Ordering Food By Phone from Jason’s Deli

Because one of our office staff members had previously ordered from Jason’s Deli, placing an order on the phone was 100% seamless. As soon as she gave them her phone number, they immediately pulled up her information and were even able to suggest what she had ordered the last time.

We had some minor difficulty locating and then reading the menu online. The  menu shows up as a PDF document online, and while it is color coded, it is extremely text heavy. This made it somewhat difficult to take in all of the items offered. Also, because the PDF document opened up in the same window as the website, it was a little frustrating to have to navigate backwards through screens to go back to the website (versus having the menu open in a separate tab automatically).

On the plus side, Jason’s Deli certainly gives you plenty of options. Those with wheat allergies have a gluten-free menu option, while those who opt for a meatless diet can choose to look at a vegetarian-only menu. There is also a catering menu as well as the regular deli menu.

California Club + Fruit Cup

California Club from Jason's Deli in North Raleigh, NC

Cost: $7.49

The California Club consisted of roasted turkey breast with bacon, swiss cheese, guacamole, tomato, organic field greens, and mayonnaise on a toasted croissant. While delicious, be prepared to get a little messy. The toasted croissant definitely creates crumbs!

This sandwich comes with your choice of side. In this case, we opted for the fruit cup. However, Jason’s Deli lets you choose from other sides: steamed veggies, baked chips, or organic blue corn chips with salsa.

Reuben Sandwich + French Onion Soup (Manager’s Special)

Reuben Sandwich from Jason's Deli in North Raleigh, NC

Cost: $8.49

While you can order the Reuben Sandwich as a regular menu item (under the “Famous Favorites” section), there is also a section called “Manager’s Half-Sandwich Special.” This section allows diners a choice of half-sandwich and their choice of either a cup of soup, or a cup of fruit.

In this case, we went for the 1/2 sandwich + soup option and settled on a Reuben sandwich with a cup of French Onion Soup.

French Onion Soup from Jason's Deli in North Raleigh, NC

The Reuben Sandwich consisted of a generous portion of hot, corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing – all grilled into melted deliciousness inbetween two slices of rye bread. While the sandwich was delicious, the French Onion soup left more to be desired. Our staff member stated that while the soup tasted great, she was disappointed that Jason’s Deli didn’t include a slice of bread in the cup of soup, stating: “French Onion soup usually has bread in it, and the bread prevents the cheese from sinking to the bottom – which is exactly what happened.”

French Onion Soup lovers – You’ve been warned!

Turkey Wrap + Steamed Veggies

Turkey Wrap from Jason's Deli in North Raleigh, NC

Cost: $6.59

For those with more of a bland palate and an eye on the calories, the Turkey Wrap is a fantastic option. You get all of the flavor of a delicious sandwich without sacrificing too much. At roughly 400 calories (it’s listed on the menu), the sandwich consists of: a generous helping of roasted turkey breast, along with Roma tomatoes, organic field greens, guacamole, and ranch dressing inside of a toasted, organic wheat wrap.

Make this sandwich even healthier by ordering the ranch dressing on the side, which is exactly what we did. The sandwich comes with your choice of side item: fresh fruit, steamed veggies, baked chips, or organic blue corn chips with salsa. We decided to go healthy all the way and ordered the steamed veggies.

We were definitely glad to order the ranch dressing on the side. Not being a huge fan of ranch dressing to begin with, the dressing was extremely rich and creamy – so being able to dictate how much went on the sandwich was a huge plus. The steamed veggies were perfectly steamed and still retained a little bit of crunch without being overcooked. We also liked the fact that they were truly “steamed veggies” and that there wasn’t any added salt or seasonings.

Turkey Wrap with Steamed Veggies from Jason's Deli in North Raleigh, NC

We should also note that we did not order any drinks with our meals since we already had beverages back at the office. However, drinks did NOT come with any of these meals.

Despite dining at our desks versus at the restaurant, we were not disappointed in the least. The food was great. The ingredients tasted and looked fresh, the presentation was simple yet neat, and the flavor was fantastic. The ordering process, despite some minor issues finding and reading the menu, was seamless from start to finish, and the proximity of the Jason’s Deli to our office made the whole order time fast and convenient.

Some of us have already dined here; and for a mere $24.32 for three adults, we’ll definitely be dining here again in the near future. Keep up the great work, JD!

Monday

9

February 2015

0

COMMENTS

Taza Grill

Written by , Posted in $ - Grab change from the couch cushions, $$ - Bring your debit card

This week, we decided to dine out, Greek-style, and Taza Grill did NOT disappoint! With a variety of daily menu specials to choose from, there is something for even the most picky foodie out there.

Located in the busy Sutton Square shopping plaza at 6325 Falls of Neuse Road, Taza Grill is easy to miss. The restaurant is anchored in the corner of the shopping plaza, and it is convenient to The Fresh Market (next door) as well as plenty of other shopping.

Atmosphere at Taza Grill

 

Taza Grill Daily Menu Specials

Just before you walk into Taza Grill, you walk into an open-air, partially enclosed terrace area. While we didn’t sit outside (due to the chilly winter air), it is easy to see how inviting the outdoor seating will be once the weather warms up. The terrace area is expansive and covered, allowing for plenty of fresh air while protecting you from the capricious North Carolina weather.

Step inside the door to Taza, and you are immediately greeted by the warm, rich smells of authentic, Greek-style cuisine. Employees work diligently behind a clear, glass divide that allows you to see the fresh food cooked right in front of you. Meat is sliced, diced, and cooked to order, and the different toppings are arranged neatly and within close enough view for you to point out your meal additions.

We stepped in for lunch right around 12 noon; and while it was bustling, it wasn’t too crowded. We easily placed our order, found our seats, and sat down to enjoy our meal. By the time I whipped out the credit card to pay, one of our orders was ready to go. Shortly after, the other orders followed. The speed and accuracy of our orders (no mistakes made) was only complimented by the employees’ professionalism – which was both kind and calm despite being busy.

After we sat down and began to eat, the lunch rush kicked into full swing. The music, friendly chatter, and wonderful smell of mediterranean food gave way to a warm, inviting atmosphere that made you feel right at home.

Taza Grill employee at work

The only downside to Taza Grill is that it tends to get a little smokey at times, due to the proximity of the grill to the dining area. While it’s great that you are able to see your food being prepared, the smoke was visible and seemed to spill out into part of the seating area. While this was brief and intermittent, it is something worth mentioning. Also, seating may be an issue depending on the time of day you decide to dine in.

We were lucky to have arrived just before the lunch rush. However, if you’re planning on dining in, it would behoove you to go just before or just after the lunch crowd. The seating situation is likely better during the warmer weather months, when folks have the option to sit outside. On the upside, the majority of the crowd seemed to be time-sensitive, eating fairly quickly before dashing out to get back to work.

Falafel PlatterTaza Grill Falafel platter

Cost: $8.99

The Falafel platter consisted of a generous serving of falafel served with a freshly made Greek salad. Tahini sauce was served on the side. Hummus was dolloped neatly onto the plate, along with warm pita bread. The meal also came with your choice of a fountain beverage.

According to our LTTR staff member, the Greek salad was “..one of the best Greek salads [she’s] ever had”. Overall, the entire meal was delicious, and she would definitely order it again.

Gyro Express Platter (Chicken)

Chicken Gyro Platter at Taza Grill, Raleigh, NC

Cost:  $8.49

The Gyro Express Platter came as a meal deal. You get your option of meat to fill in, and the meal is served with french fries and a fountain drink. The meat choices are, chicken, lamb (traditional), steak, or beef.

If you plan to order the steak or beef in your gyro, plan to pay an additional $1.50.

Skewer left in chicken gyro

According to our LTTR diner, who chose the chicken option, the overall meal tasted good. However, he experienced an unpleasant surprise when he bit down into what he thought was a bone. It turned out that Taza had mistakenly placed (or misplaced) a skewer into the meat of the gyro. While this wasn’t a total meal crusher, it certainly put a damper on the overall experience.

According to our LTTR diner, the overall meal “tasted good”. He commented on the spices tasting strong but flavorful. The biggest meal thrill was the tzatziki sauce, which “tasted great”.

Gyro Express Platter (Lamb)

Lamb Gyro from Taza Grill

Cost: $8.49

I followed suit and ordered a Gyro Express Platter as well. However, I opted to go the traditional route and chose lamb as my filling. The meal came with french fries and a drink. The gyro was DELICIOUS. The lamb was tender and cooked thoroughly. The fries were crisp without being greasy, and the thing I loved most about the fires? They hardly had any salt on them (which was a huge plus for me).

I would order this meal again in a heartbeat.

Dessert – Baklava

Baklava from Taza Grill, Raleigh, NC

Cost: $0.99

We ended our lunch on a sweet note and ordered three pieces of baklava. At $0. 99 per piece, it was worth it.

According to one LTTR team member, the baklava was sweet but not as flavorful as he’d had in the past. Another LTTR team member thought that the baklava tasted great. Her only complaint was that she wished it came in bigger portions because the current ones were “too tiny.”

As for me- sugar is sugar, and I love my decent share of it. However, I’d have to agree that while the baklava tasted fine, it was just that: fine. The dough was flaky, but it was a little on the greasy side.

In sum, Taza Grill is a restaurant that we’d definitely revisit in the near future. At $33.22 for three people, not only is Taza a fantastic deal, you get to enjoy incredibly fresh and flavorful food in a warm, inviting atmosphere. We just hope that next time, we won’t be playing Hide-and-Seek with skewers in our gyros!

Monday

2

February 2015

0

COMMENTS

Dominic’s NY Pizza

Written by , Posted in $ - Grab change from the couch cushions, Pizza

Those who consider themselves “pizza snobs” may find very little to complain about after visiting Dominic’s NY Pizza. Not only is the food delicious, the service is prompt, the staff is friendly, and the menu options are plentiful and varied.

Located in the Poyner Place Shopping Center (near the Triangle Town Center Mall), Dominic’s NY Pizza is conveniently located near shopping and I-540.

About Dominic’s NY Pizza

Owner of Dominic’s NY Pizzeria, Marco Zelliche, honed his culinary skills while living in Naples, Italy. In 1995, Zelliche emigrated from Naples to Brooklyn, NY where he quickly earned the reputation of “the pizza man”. Not long after that, Zelliche took his delicious Italian recipes and restaurant experience down to North Carolina.

The North Raleigh Dominic’s NY Pizza shop has been around since December 2005 when owner, Marco Zelliche decided to expand and open his second location. Zelliche had previously opened his first location in Cary, NC.

Today, Zelliche runs the North Raleigh pizza location and lives nearby with his wife and daughter. Zelliche’s personality and zeal for authentic, high quality Italian cuisine is evident – both in the food as well as his interactions with customers.

Dominic's NY Pizza Interior

Atmosphere

When you walk into Dominic’s, you’re immediately greeted by the savory smell of Italian cooking: notes of garlic, parmesan, dough being baked, and tomatoes. The atmosphere is open and airy, and there are nods to Italy as well as New York City as seen in the murals, photographs, and other artwork and decor.

The front of the restaurant features floor to ceiling windows that overlook a pond and an additional outdoor seating area. We went here during lunch, and while it was busy, we were able to find a table without any issues, and we were able to have a conversation without yelling to be heard. Overall, it’s a very relaxing and inviting atmosphere, great for lunch dates, casual corporate get togethers, or family gatherings.

Garlic Knots

Garlic Knots

Cost: ~$4.00

Dominic’s NY Pizza features a great lunch special. For $6.99, you get your choice of two slices of pizza and a fountain drink. Before we decided on our pizza slices, we placed a small order for garlic knots. A small order turned out to be more than enough for three people with eight garlic knots in one order.

The garlic knots were as great tasting as they looked. The flavor was incredible: a perfect blend of garlic infused bread with lightly brushed garlic butter and parmesan cheese dusted on top. In the past (in North Carolina), whenever you order garlic knots, you often get “garlic knots” that consist of baked balls of dough that are sprinkled with garlic salt and garlic powder. This was most definitely NOT the case with Dominic’s.

As a self professed pizza snob, these garlic knots were freshly made. There was a light crust and a mildly doughy center. The knots were served hot, and the blend of flavor between the garlic bread, parmesan cheese, and garlic butter was out of this world.

Pizza #1 – White Pizza Slices + Fountain Drink

White Pizza Pie

Cost: $6.99 + Tax

This pizza consisted of tomato, spinach, feta cheese, and garlic. All of the ingredients tasted fresh, and the flavors blended together for a delicious taste. The pizza was hot, and the crust was crisp. While it tasted great, it would’ve been perfect if the crust was basted in butter or if they made this with some sort of a stuffed crust option.

Pizza#2 – Pepperoni Pizza Slices + Fountain Drink

Pepperoni Pizza Slices

Cost: $6.99 + Tax

Hailing from Long Island, NY and having lived in North Carolina for more than 10 years now, I’ve often joked with friends that there are no decent pizza places in the Raleigh, NC area. That joke may have finally run it’s course after paying a visit to Dominic’s NY Pizza. The flavor of the pepperoni pizza was a blend of pepperoni and melted cheese, baked onto a thinly set, crisp crust.

Two of us ordered the pepperoni pizza slices, and we really tried to savor as much of the flavor as possible. It was THAT good. The pizza was served hot, and the crust was perfectly baked – not soggy, but not dried out either. The amount of cheese was just right. However, if you are a true lover of cheese, you can certainly request your pizza slices with “extra cheese” on top.

While we didn’t get into the desserts, Dominic’s offers up a wide assortment of dessert options- the most enticing of which was the Nutella cheesecake. Outside of this, their menu is impressive; there is truly something for everyone – from cold/hot Italian subs to traditional pizza slices, pies, and more. Definitely stop by. Dominic’s is, by far, one of the best kept Italian secrets in the Triangle.