A tip of the toque

CorrespondentNovember 15, 2006 

If all goes according to schedule, popular chef and legendary local character Harvey Yancy will make his long-awaited return tonight with the opening of Yancy's! at 319 Fayetteville St. in downtown Raleigh. The restaurant will be open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. and will revive the mix of Cajun/Creole fare and nightly jazz and blues that were hallmarks of Yancy's original eponymous restaurant in City Market, which closed nearly four years ago.

But the new Yancy's! promises to be bigger and better in every way than the old one, earning its exclamation point with designer-furnished dining rooms, gleaming showcase kitchen, dramatic backlit onyx bar, dance floor and state-of-the-art sound system. The menu raises the ante, too, with a broad selection of Cajun/Creole, Lowcountry and Southern dishes -- which can be ordered a la carte in the evening or liberally sampled at a $7.95 lunch buffet.

Harvey Yancy plans to offer nightly live music -- mostly jazz and blues -- every night once the restaurant is up and running. He is booking local and national talents, and has scheduled choirs for a gospel brunch on Sundays.

Yancy's! joins The Big Easy, another Cajun/Creole restaurant that opened just a few weeks ago, a block away on the other side of Fayetteville Street.

Harvey Yancy isn't the only chef in Raleigh to beef up an already star-studded resume. Ashley Christensen -- who recently has been splitting her time between Enoteca Vin, where she earned national recognition, and developing restaurant concepts for downtown developer Greg Hatem (notably, Nana's Chophouse and The Raleigh Times Bar) -- has decided to simplify her life. As of this weekend, she'll be devoting her full attention to Vin.

Christensen has big changes in mind for the restaurant, which had gotten an "excellent-but-expensive" reputation. This Saturday, Christensen will introduce a bistro-style menu with the goal of keeping all prices under $20 without sacrificing the ingredient-focused quality for which the chef is famous. Knowing Christensen's talents and speaking professionally, all I can say is "Woohoo!"

In North Raleigh, Casalinga chef-owner Carlo Cappiello has been awarded the prestigious title of Maitre Rotisseur (Master Chef) by the Chaine des Rotisseurs, a worldwide gastronomic association whose history dates to 1248. The award historically has been associated more with fine dining establishments than with modest Italian eateries such as Casalinga. This reinforces the notion that -- as I've told everyone since the restaurant opened in 1995 -- this is not your run-of-the-mill pizza-pasta joint. Here's a toast to chef Carlo.

Greg's Hot List: Java Joints

Looking for a jolt to get you through those cold, dark November mornings? Wherever you are in the Triangle, you're in luck. Starbucks may rule the nation, but independent coffee houses are doing just fine here in our neck of the woods, thank you. Here are a few of my favorite locally owned spots to get your caffeine fix.

3 Cups, 431 W. Franklin St., in West End Courtyard (behind Penang), Chapel Hill; coffee for the purist, brewed exclusively with French press pots.

Blue Rain Cafe, 2125 Ten Ten Rd., Apex; killer pastries and gourmet sandwiches.

Cafe Driade, 1221-A E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill; semi-woodsy location, live jazz, award-winning baristas.

Cup a Joe, 3100 Hillsborough St., Raleigh; house-roasted beans, funky atmosphere.

Helios Coffee Company, 413 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh; patio, trendy Glenwood South location

Java Jive, 919 N. Harrison Ave., Cary, and 2425 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary; local awards for best coffee (Larry's Beans) and customer service.

La Vita Dolce, 610-101C Market St., in Southern Village, Chapel Hill; 20 flavors of house-made gelato.

New World Music Cafe, 4112 Pleasant Valley Road, in Village at Townridge Shopping Center, Raleigh; homemade soups, wraps and pastries.

Open Eye Cafe, 101 S. Greensboro St., Carrboro; neighborhood cafe ambience with local art and live music.

The Third Place, 1811 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh; people watching, patio.

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