This month's tour of bargain dining destinations takes us from old-fashioned country buffet to contemporary café with a Latin twist.
Dame's Chicken & Waffles
317 W. Main St., Durham
Cuisine: fried chicken and waffles
In a nutshell: Start with the best fried chicken in town. Add a scratch-made Belgian waffle, choosing among several variations on the theme. Put them on the same plate, and you've got a delightful update of a classic soul food combination.
Try: Light Brown Leghorns (four drumsticks and a classic waffle with chocolate hazelnut crème and caramel sauce), Quilted Buttercup (chicken cutlet sandwiched between sweet potato waffles, topped with maple crème and candied pecans.
2121-125 T.W. Alexander Drive, Morrisville
In a nutshell: Single-origin coffees, and a modest but varied selection of sandwiches and wraps with a Latin American accent, make this little shop a lunchtime favorite with the RTP crowd.
Try: Homemade chicken soup with cilantro and avocado, chicken chipotle wrap, South American-style baked empanadas (chicken or beef, available only on Wednesdays and Fridays), cardamom coffee.
Meadow Village Restaurant
7400 N.C. 50 South, Benson
In a nutshell: A buffet rivaling the biggest Southern family reunion spread you can imagine is well worth the 40-minute drive from Raleigh. Get there early, or you may find yourself waiting another 40 minutes for a table.
Try: Chicken and pastry, fried chicken, fried flounder (yes, the turnover is that fast), collard greens, chicken salad, green beans, field peas, butter beans, biscuits - you get the idea. Just be sure to leave room for a sampling from the eye-popping display of homemade desserts, from banana pudding to signature chocolate pie.
223 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh
Cuisine: coffeehouse, sandwiches
In a nutshell: David Fowle, whose coffees at Café Udine won a loyal following (not to mention a few awards) before closing in 2002, is back. This time around, he's pairing his caffeinated offering with a menu of locavore fare between two slices of bread.
Try: Eastern North Carolina pork banh mi, house-roasted turkey with avocado mousse, Top Hogs bacon and hoop cheese on La Farm bread (white or honey whole wheat), braised Coastal Cattle beef brisket on baguette.