Scotch bonnets and tri-corner hats

N&O Restaurant Critic and Food WriterApril 3, 2006 

Cary's dining options just got a little spicier -- no, make that a lot spicier -- thanks to the recent opening of the town's first Jamaican restaurant. At Cool Runnings, which opened on March 8 in Harrison Pointe Shopping Center, all the sauces and seasoning blends are made from scratch. That includes the jerk seasoning made with the famously fiery Scotch bonnet chiles.

Steven Millington, who owns the restaurant with his wife Andrea and a third partner, Helen Louden, uses locally grown Scotch bonnets in his secret recipe blend to add a distinctive kick to jerk chicken, pork, rib-eye steak and appetizer chicken wings. Other options include fish escovitch, stewed oxtails and Jamaican curries (chicken, goat, fish, and shrimp with coconut rice), on a menu that is modest in length but still manages to include most of the usual suspects.

Cool Runnings is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant does a lot of takeout business, though there is a simply furnished 49-seat dining room that takes its cue from the menu. It doesn't try to impress you with size, but instead lets the big flavors on the plate impress you.

On the other side of Cary -- and the other end of the world, culinarily speaking -- is The Colonial Cafe (www.thecolonialcafe.com), which opened late last month in Carpenter Village. As the name hints, the west Cary newcomer is a theme restaurant that takes its inspiration from pre-revolutionary Williamsburg.

On a menu that translates to a mostly traditional American offering including Williamsburg pot roast, Geddy House chicken (stuffed with Virginia ham and blue cheese) and oyster-stuffed Yorktown tenderloin. Not that the aim is historic authenticity, mind you. That notion can quickly be dispelled by a quick look at the rest of the bill of fare, which includes the likes of patriot polenta, Campbell's calamari, fife & drumsticks, and Patrick Henry pasta (with a sun-dried tomato cream sauce).

Clearly, the idea is to supply a little entertainment with the food, which is served by waiters in tri-corner hats and bonnets in a dining room whose highlights include a faux fireplace, a candle on each table and colonial-style chandeliers.

Fortunately, those chandeliers are powered by Ben Franklin's invention, allowing the restaurant to remain open long after sundown -- 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Other modern features include weekend brunch and online ordering.

Greg's Hot List: More patio options

Two weeks ago in this space, for those who couldn't wait to get a jump on springtime al fresco dining, I shared a list of prime patio spots. Now that the season is officially upon us, here are a few more fair weather options.

BBQ & Ribs Co., 520 St. Mary's St., Raleigh, barbecue.

Blue Fin's Bistro, 3652 Rogers Road, in Heritage Station shopping center, Wake Forest, seafood.

Blue Note LP, 2425 Kildaire Farm Road, in Lochmere Pavilion, Cary, contemporary cuisine.

Federal, 914 W. Main St., Durham, American and contemporary cuisine.

Southern Star, 815 W. Chatham St., Cary, contemporary cuisine.

Starlu, 3211 Shannon Road, Suite 106, Durham, contemporary cuisine.

Town Hall Grill, 410 Market St., in Southern Village, Chapel Hill, American cuisine.

The Wild Orchid Grill, 7901-101 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh, contemporary cuisine.

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