When Frazier's Bistro closed on Valentine's Day, Raleigh lost a culinary landmark. The restaurant had been open only 12 years, but in that time established itself as one of the area's premier dining destinations and planted the seeds for a Hillsborough Street renaissance that is bearing fruit today.
And now Frazier's is back. The new name, Frazier's Wine Bar (2418 Hillsborough St.; 828-6699; frazierswinebar.com ), signifies a more casual approach to the menu and an impressive selection of wines by the bottle and by the 2-, 4-, and 6-ounce pour. Returning fans will recognize a few of their favorite dishes among a mostly small plate offering that covers the Mediterranean spectrum from chickpea fritters to white anchovy bruschetta to gnocchi with duck confit.
In keeping with the new format, presentations are simpler than at the previous incarnation - and prices correspondingly lower, with most offerings under $10 and nothing over $15. Given the economic climate, that's a welcome change that should bode well for Frazier's encore performance, which plays nightly from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Soul food classic
A few miles away in downtown Durham - but an ocean away in culinary terms - Damien Moore has opened Dame's Chicken & Waffles (317 W. Main St.; 682-9235) in the former Blue Mountain Catering & Café spot at Five Points. In addition to the classic soul food pairing that has its roots in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s, Moore (who still operates the catering business out of a separate facility) offers several contemporary variations on the theme.
There's the Orange Speckled Chabo, for instance, which serves up a fried chicken cutlet atop a scratch-made sweet potato waffle with a "schmear of orange honey comb" and a drizzle of honey Dijon sauce. And the Carolina Cockerel, which the menu proclaims is "Dame's personal favorite:" blueberry waffle, peach-apricot crème, and a trio of whole chicken wings, with hot sauce on the side. You can sample these and other sweet-savory combinations for weekday lunch and for dinner, Wednesday through Saturday.
Back in Raleigh, you'll have to venture off the beaten path to find Southern Flavor (1100-116 N. Raleigh Blvd.; 809-8812; southernflavor-northraleighblvd.com ) in a nondescript Food Lion-anchored strip mall. It's worth the effort, though, judging by early reviews of the food at this modest counter service eatery. Foodies are raving about owner Renoard McFadden's homestyle Southern cooking, and some are already proclaiming his fried chicken the best in town.
Southern Flavor is open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday, and it's worth checking out the daily specials menu online before scheduling a visit. One of Monday's temptations is the Charleston Supper, featuring smoked neck bones and white lima beans over rice. Other specials include braised oxtails on Tuesdays, Geechee pork pot (I'll let you check the menu for that one) on Wednesdays, and fried croaker on Fridays. Whenever you go, you'll want to leave room for June McFadden's banana pudding or homemade strawberry cake.