Second, perhaps, only to the meteoric rise in popularity of local micro and craft breweries is the proliferation of local coffee. Be it cafés, roasting or specialty brewing, coffee has never been more popular as an entrepreneurial endeavor in America. I’m especially excited about the local coffee scene that’s been brewing in the Triangle for the last few years. Continue reading
Category Archives: Savory
A Mountainous Feast Fit For the Sea
No two visits to The Lobster Trap (35 Patton Ave, Asheville; $17-$49) have to be the same but, in my opinion, there are two requirements for every trip: oyster shooters and lobster macaroni & cheese. Fill in the rest however you please. Even if you disregard my recommendations, I dare say you will not be disappointed. In two trips to this downtown Asheville institution, I certainly have not.
On the most recent outing back in May, the group decided to attempt The Lobster Trap Feast – a smorgasbord of menu offerings fit for a party of four to six (our party included eight, myself and two others going out on our own to explore the menu). The seemingly never-ending arrival of food to the table is impressive, if not overwhelming. It begins with the oysters, pulled from a selection of locales and prepared to your preferred temperature, cooked or raw. Cups of soup or bisque soon follow, paving the way for the main event, a smattering of crustaceans, mussels and clams. A selection of sides for this group begins and ends with lobster macaroni and cheese, possibly with a vegetable somewhere in there to placate the carbohydrate overload.
I’m not a lobster guy1, but I do enjoy seafood. Over two separate trips to The Lobster Trap I’ve tried their crab cakes, the aforementioned lobster mac & cheese, and, most recently, grilled tuna accompanied by the superfood du jour, avocado2, and matching drizzle. I ordered the tuna rare and it arrived as near to perfection as I could detect. To put it succinctly, the food was spot on.
Not to be outdone by the kitchen, the bar offers a wide variety of cocktails, even putting their own spin on a few classics. This group has been on a bourbon kick lately, and many of the custom offerings, sounding like unique yet familiar concoctions3, catered perfectly to our tastes. The Lobster Trap is also associated with its own brewery, though I don’t think any of us took a dip. I’ve already mentioned the oyster shooters, which are fantastic.
The Lobster Trap is smallish, and is certainly not quiet. The staff is very pleasant and accommodating – the hostess took a cell phone number and offered to call us to let us know when our table was ready, allowing us to pre-game around downtown Asheville while we waited. The eight of us sat reasonably comfortable at one of their large booth tables, with one person at the end. The atmosphere is rustic without feeling old; modern materials intended to look old adorning the room.
Someone once asked me why we eat. Unguarded and let down by my inner Admiral Ackbar4, I fumbled through an apathetic, yet ill-fated response. Emboldened by my failure, my antagonist proceeded to lecture me on food’s vital role as an energy source for our bodies and our collective over-dependence on food as a source of pleasure5. But, to me, this is an overly simplistic view of the relationship between food and the human experience. If we are all just machines, mechanical processes dependent on optimized input and output for the most efficient operation, then yes, food is just fuel. But we’re not. We are human, designed to experience pleasure, to fellowship with each other and, when possible, share our experiences with each other. I’ve been fortunate to be in great company every time I’ve visited The Lobster Trap, but being complicit in that experience is no small feat. As easy as it may be to serve as the backdrop for that experience, it can be just as easy to ruin it. The Lobster Trap nails it, providing a great atmosphere, pleasant and accommodating staff, and fantastic food to top it off.
- It falls into a category I call “Things I Don’t Need to Know I Like”.↩
- I am among the smitten.↩
- Our waitress claimed authorship of one of the drinks (Smokey Eye).↩
- “It’s a trap.” ↩
- Later that evening, he proceeded to wrestle with our waiter over the limited, perhaps even non-existent, gluten-free options on the Applebee’s menu. In 2003. ↩
The Burger is Back
It might have started long ago elsewhere, but in Raleigh and the rest of the Triangle, the burger is back. Fast-growing national chains like Five Guys and BurgerFi have made their way into the market and now local hot spots are sprouting up – each with their own spin: Tribeca Tavern, a moderately up-scale establishment that grinds their own beef and features their own brews (along with others, including a decent selection of NC brews); Bull City Burger – a walk-up and order establishment serving locally sourced, grass-fed beef, sporting an in-house brewery and unique wine bar situated in a revitalized downtown Durham; Chuck’s – part of Ashley Christensen’s three-headed restaurant experiment in downtown Raleigh; Only Burger, a burger stand that started (and still exists) as a food truck; and the subject of this review, Charlotte-based Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar (nee Big Daddy’s) – a specialty burger shop with full bar, end-capping a new structure in the Seaboard Station area of downtown Raleigh.
At first glance, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar (111 Seaboard Ave, Raleigh; $10-$13) seems like a retread of a familiar concept – a bar that serves burgers. Novel idea, right? But the name and ambiance imply something different – almost as if the founders wanted to flip that concept on its head. Start with a great burger, add myriad options and serve some drinks along with it. The menu, as one member of my dinner party commented, seems to require the time to consume at least one beer to sort out. We witnessed this first hand when another fellow diner ordered a side salad – the options seemingly sprouting at every turn from his lettuce base (two choices), two “toppings”, a fruit, a meat, and a dressing! The burger options were similarly mesmerizing, offering near endless combinations of toppings and even patty meat mixtures.
Beef lovers eagerly anticipating the ruling on the quality of the hamburgers will be disappointed – I opted for a black bean burger, my current obsession when visiting spots that offer one. Though it is also possible to create your own, the menu standard Cantina (with the addition of jalapeños) was enough to satisfy my black bean hankering. As I alluded to earlier, I’ve tried a fair number of black bean burgers in the area and this one certainly found a place near the top. I rarely take an opportunity to jump on the growing sweet potato fries bandwagon, but I strayed from the norm here again. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with my choice, though I will admit that the Bad Daddy’s version of sweet potatoes served french style didn’t stray too far from what I’ve had elsewhere.
And that’s ultimately where I ended up in my overall impression of Bad Daddy’s. The burger’s are great1 – maybe not any better than the best burgers we’ve had in the area, but certainly not discernibly worse. However, the options that Bad Daddy’s provide are so impressive, it’s hard to imagine any burger lover wouldn’t be able to build the burger of their dreams.
- According to my cohorts. Among my meat eating dinner party, the average score for the burgers was 7/10 ↩