Thursday, October 19, 2006
Elmo's and Daniels
Last week started off like a marathon in a bad dream. After the Apex evacuation and disaster, we were understandably shell-shocked. In spite of our exhaustion (or because of it) we did manage to eat at several fabulous restaurants. Two of our sampling have become solid favorites.
One is a called Elmo’s(http://www.elmosdiner.com/). It's a little diner with at least two different locations-one in Durham and the other in Carrboro (http://www.elmosdiner.com/). Breakfast is abundant, creative, cheap and served all day. I had southwest grits –green hot peppers, cheese, tomatoes served with scrambled eggs and sourdough toast with real orange marmalade. I've also tried the lunch food (it is a diner after all) but I keep going back to the breakfast. Sometimes on the weekends they have pumpkin pancakes as a special. If you miss those, don't worry- they always have 4 different kinds of pancake available on the main menu.
The other new favorite is called Daniels (http://www.danielson55.net/). Daniels does very little advertising and the building is un-prepossessing. I've driven by it for years without even a second though. But, the Raleigh food critic loves them AND they got a wine spectator award every year for the past 10 years. I thought it might be worth trying out since it’s only about 3 miles from home. If nothing else, it could be a nice take-out joint.
It was so, so good.
Great wine list-very easy to get a fabulous glass of wine for $5. We went with my brother and Sister in Law so we actually got a really even sampling of the menu. Here’s what we ordered:
1 blue cheese/pear/grape salad with pecans
2 house salads
I love a restaurant that serves a great salad. These salads are $5 each, loaded with cheese, pecans and hidden yummies. Served with homemade dressing. Off to a great start.
Sucar-penne alla norma (if you know what Penne alla norma is already forgive me. For the rest of us who didn't- it’s capers, olives, tomatoes, red peppers and eggplant. Obviously an oversight in my obsession with eggplant that needed to be rectified.)
SIL-cheese tortellini in alfredo with chicken
Brother took his first bite and said “This is hands down the best chicken marsala I’ve ever had in my life”. They give huge portions but he stuffed all of it in (except for the one bite he gave me). It really was the best I’ve ever tried. K’s carbonara tasted perfect-like a heart attack waiting to happen. My penne was very, very good-summer topped with shaved feta and fresh basil. We didn’t have room for dessert but they are supposed to be even better than the food.
UPDATE: We've been back since the original post and I can add a few pointers, addendums, etc. The atmosphere is slightly zoo-like for the early diners. But, if you have a small child and don't mind the zoo, you will fit in nicely. The wait is shorter when you go early (or late) and you can actually find a spot to park.
The standard Italian-American fare is what Daniel's really excels at. The recipes that you associate with the Italian joint down the block-marsala, red sauce, vodka sauce, pizza. Anything with Daniel's pink sauce will be rich and worth it. The sausage with spinach and white beans is lovely and seasonally appropriate. Daniels sometimes stumbles a bit when they start getting creative. Don't get me wrong-the chef's specials are still solid food worth eating-but I'm not as impressed with them as I am with the perfect piccata or marsala. I won't be trying a special again until I've worked my way through the whole rest of the menu!