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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

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

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.



February 2015



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 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]



November 2009




Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

Thanks for visiting our

How many times has this conversation happened in your house?

“I’m hungry, what do you feel like eating?”  “I don’t know, what do you want?”

If you’re like the rest of us, probably quite a bit! Whether you are new to Raleigh or have lived in the Triangle for a long time, you still may get stumped on where to eat out tonight. Don’t worry! We’re going to give you reviews of local restaurants so you can narrow your search and find the perfect meal that “hits the spot.”

Have a restaurant you’d like reviewed? Contact us and let us know!