This month we sample a variety of affordable fare, from Carolina barbecue to Venezuelan arepas to omelets and gourmet sandwiches. For dessert, how about a cup of sipping chocolate or ground-to-order coffee?
The Cary Café
212 Grande Heights Drive, Cary
In a nutshell: Friendly service and a charming little dining room with fresh flowers on the tables and café curtains in the windows suggest that this is a cut above the typical strip mall sandwich shop. Breakfast omelets, homemade soups and well-filled sandwiches (including a signature chunky chicken salad) live up to that promise.
420 W. Geer St., Durham
In a nutshell: The husband-and-wife team behind mobile vendor bikeCOFFEE opened their brick-and-mortar location in January, and they’re making the most of the comparatively roomy digs. Building on the ground-to-order coffees that won them a following, they’re expanding the offering to include single origin teas, wines by the glass, and - you don’t want to miss this one - gourmet sipping chocolates.
Johnson Family Barbecue
5021-A Wake Forest Road, Durham
In a nutshell: The hardwood smoker in a screened-in shelter next door to Johnson Family Barbecue sets high expectations that this off-the-beaten-path newcomer is worth seeking out. The chopped pork -- moist and subtly smoky, available on a sandwich or a plate with two home-cooked sides, does not disappoint. Make Brunswick stew one of those sides, and treat yourself to homemade banana pudding for dessert.
4025-107 Lake Boone Trail, Raleigh
In a nutshell: Venezuelan arepas get an update at this counter service eatery, where inventive filling combinations range from tilapia with baked plantains, caramelized onions and cilantro sauce to braised pork with black-eyed peas and pico de gallo. You can create your combos if you like, or even jettison the arepa entirely and opt for a low carb bowl or salad.