Epicurean:

Pub meets bistro

N&O Restaurant Critic & Food WriterMay 17, 2006 

Don't let the blue collar name fool you. The food at Milltown, which opened recently at 307 E. Main St. in Carrboro, is anything but pedestrian. Not that it's fancy, mind you. In fact, the menu's eclectic offering might best be described as contemporary American pub meets traditional French bistro -- ranging from beer-battered fish tacos to steak frites to mussels done your choice of four ways.

If that combination sounds familiar, it's because Milltown is owned by a partnership headed up by Josh Wittman and Rhys Botica, who cut their culinary teeth at Federal. That's not to say that Milltown is a clone of Federal. Even though both kitchens clearly share a similar style and bistro-like emphasis on simple fare, skillfully prepared from scratch and served without pretentiousness, there's very little overlap in actual menu listings.

Nor is anyone likely to confuse Milltown's dining room and bar for the, um, spartan setting of Federal. Wittman, Botica and company have clearly gone to some expense, giving the 1950s era building a thorough makeover while preserving its retro character with antique beer signs, porcelain Art Deco soda fountain stools and a 1930s vintage mahogany bar from the Midwest (at which Al Capone is rumored to have tipped a few).

Milltown's owners would probably prefer their new restaurant to be taken on its own terms anyway. That shouldn't be a problem, considering that it's the only restaurant I know of where you can get three classic variations on the French fry theme -- Belgian frites with garlic mayonnaise, Quebec-style poutine smothered in cheese curds and gravy, and English chips with curry sauce.

Closed, and not closed

The Hillsborough Street location of The Q Shack has closed for good. Owner Tom Meyer had recently changed the name of the restaurant to Raleigh Joe's, supplementing the barbecue offering with pizzas and subs. That experiment lasted only a couple of weeks, the victim of a partner dispute. The North Hills location of The Q Shack is still going strong, as is The Original Q Shack in Durham.

Est! Est! Est! and Cuba, adjacent restaurants which shared a kitchen (and an owner) on Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh, have both closed. Owner Nick Rossicci is redirecting his efforts into Raising Ale, which he plans to open in the old Darryl's location at the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Oberlin Road.

In Cary, Blue Note LP has played its last tune. In its place will be Oishii LP, which will offer an East-meets-West menu of Japanese and Contemporary fare. Stay tuned for more details.

La Rosa Linda, on the other hand, is NOT closed. I recently reported that the east Raleigh restaurant had closed, based on a tip from a reader and the fact that the phone number had been disconnected. Turns out La Rosa Linda had closed only temporarily and had changed phone numbers. The new number is 212-2656.

Greg's Hot List: Downtown Raleigh

Planning on going to Artsplosure this weekend? Just be sure not to fill up on ice cream and elephant ears. You'll want to save room for an actual meal at one of these restaurants, all of which are within walking distance of Moore Square, otherwise known as Artsplosure Ground Zero.

The Borough, 317 W. Market St., Raleigh; bar, sandwiches.

Caffe Luna, 136 E. Hargett St., Raleigh; Italian cuisine.

The Duck & Dumpling, 222 S. Blount St., Raleigh; Asian cuisine.

Five Star, 511 W. Hargett St., Raleigh; Chinese cuisine.

Mo's Diner, 306 East Hargett St., Raleigh; contemporary cuisine.

Nana's Chophouse, 328 W. Davie St., Raleigh; steakhouse, contemporary cuisine.

Poole's Diner, 426 S. McDowell St., Raleigh; American cuisine.

The Raleigh Times Bar, 12 E. Hargett St., Raleigh; American, bar fare.

Tir na nOg, 218 S. Blount St., Raleigh; Irish pub fare

Zydeco Downtown, 208 Wolfe St., in City Market, Raleigh; Cajun/Creole cuisine.

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