More offbeat eateries

N&O Restaurant Critic and Food WriterSeptember 5, 2006 

Last week in this space, I told you about several new restaurants with offbeat styles and off-the-beaten-path locations. I was just getting warmed up.

Gaks, which opened in April at 3048 Medlin Drive in Raleigh, qualifies on two counts. First, there's the name, which has to win the all-time reward for least romantic moniker attached to a doily-draped English-style tearoom and cafe. Then there's the location, in an out-of-the-way little shopping center in the largely residential area off Dixie Trail.

As for the name of the establishment, it might help to know that it represents the initials of the four family members who run Gaks: 13-year-old Gustave; his father, Andrew; older sister Karrica; and mother Sally Finch. Gustave came up with the name (presumably that's why his initial comes first), but it's the delightfully charming Sally Finch who does most of the cooking. She will proudly tell you that she makes most everything from scratch, from breakfast pastries to the egg salad, tuna salad, Waldorf chicken salad and pineapple upside-down cake that highlight the lunch and high tea offerings.

Gaks is open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. As an introductory special, free coffee is being offered 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesday. Now, that's my kind of offbeat.

At the other end of the cultural spectrum is Locked and Loaded Grill, which is slated to open this Sept. 8 in the former Schlotzsky's building at 1125 U.S. 70 in Garner. Jason Bell, who owns the restaurant with his wife Whitney and best friend Ron Crist, describes Locked and Loaded as "a sports bar with a little burnt rubber," which translates to 10 big screen TVs and a hotrods-and-chrome-bikes motif.

Open daily from 11 a.m. "until your Mama calls you home," the restaurant aims for a family-friendly atmosphere during the lunch and early dinner hours, serving burgers, dogs, subs and an assortment of pub fare ranging from onion rings to buffalo wings. As the night wears on, the music will be cranked up for the 18-and-over crowd. I'm guessing it'll be loud enough that you won't be able to hear the cell phone ring when Mama calls you home.

In Durham, Vit Goal Tofu Restaurant is serving up change of pace, Korean-style, at 2107 Allendown Drive (just off N.C. 55, in a new building at the southern end of Triangle Square shopping center). The house specialty is tofu soup -- nine variations ranging from mixed seafood to kimchee beef to vegetable dumpling to plain tofu soup -- served in the traditional heated stone bowl to keep the soup hot until the last bite. The menu also offers a handful of noodle dishes, as well as traditional barbecued beef and beef ribs. Vit Goal is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Greg's Hot List: Food for Latin lovers

In a salsa mood? Check out these area eateries, which explore the world of Latin flavors, from Central Amerian and South America to Spain.

Chamas, 905 W. Main St., in Brightleaf Square, Durham; Brazilian steakhouse.

El Cuscatleco, 4212 Garrett Road, Durham; Salvadoran, Mexican cuisine.

El Mandado, 4000-164 Atlantic Avenue, Raleigh; Salvadoran, Mexican cuisine.

Fiesta, 4212 Wake Forest Road, Raleigh; Latin American, Caribbean cuisine.

Havana Jax Cafe, 109-10 Capcom Ave., Wake Forest; Cuban cuisine.

Los Paisanos, 4853 N.C. 55, in Triangle Square, Durham; Puerto Rican, Venezuelan cuisine.

Mi Pequeno Honduras, 2201 N. Roxboro Road, Durham; Honduran cuisine.

New Oakwood Cafe, 300 E. Edenton St., Raleigh; Argentine, Cuban cuisine.

Rio Churrascaria, 9650-145 Strickland Road, in Harvest Oaks Shopping Center, Raleigh and 107 Edinburgh South Drive, in MacGregor Village, Cary; Brazilian steakhouse.

Sarah's Empanadas, Greenwood Commons, 5410 N.C. 55, Durham; South American empanadas (lunch only).

Tasca Brava, 6325-73 Falls of the Neuse Road, in Sutton Square, Raleigh; South American, Spanish (mostly tapas).

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