A monthly roundup of ethnic eats, counter service chow and other tasty bargains.
100 Dickens Road, Fuquay-Varina
In a nutshell: House-baked bagels and bialys, available with anything from pastrami and egg to smoked white fish salad, are enough to explain the popularity of this Fuquay spot. Then you add the “Plus” – a bonanza of omelets, salads, burgers and sandwiches on house-baked breads, plus a pastry display case filled with sweet temptations from Danish pastry to sfogliatelle to Chinese almond cookies. No wonder there’s a steady stream of customers from 6 a.m. opening to 8 p.m. closing, seven days a week.
2945-122 S. Miami Blvd., Durham
In a nutshell: The latest in a growing number of mobile vendors whose success spawned a brick-and-mortar location, Baguettaboutit specializes in European-inspired sandwiches featuring a miniature French baguette “spiked” to accommodate a locally made sausage (you’ll understand it once you see it). Sandwiches, whose whimsical names incorporate the restaurant’s U-shaped baguette logo, range from U Talking To Me? (hot Italian sausage, basil-tomato vinaigrette) to U Betcha (bratwurst, beer mustard). If you’re looking for something a little more offbeat, try the United Nations (chicken chipotle sausage and chimichurri).
Brooklyn Boy’s Pizzeria
1260 NW Maynard Road, Cary
In a nutshell: This counter service eatery bills itself as “home of the Big Boy,” a 28-inch behemoth that will feed a small army for $29.99 (plus $4.50 per topping). At the other end of the spectrum, the daily special – two slices of New York style pizza with one topping and a fountain drink – will fill a single drill sergeant up for $4.99. There’s a Sicilian-style pizza, too, as well as the usual pizzeria selection of calzones, stromboli and baked pasta dishes. But who are you kidding? You want a couple of slices, their tops glistening with pepperoni grease.
Grand Asia Cafe
1253 Buck Jones Road, in South Hills Mall, Cary
In a nutshell: Tucked into a corner of Grand Asia Market, this hidden treasure offers a cafeteria-style selection of well over a dozen hot entrees and vegetable dishes from the market’s produce section. It’s mostly authentic Chinese fare (served in “box meal” combinations of three selections plus rice for a bargain $6.50), though you’ll find a few familiar Chinese-American dishes among the mix. Alternatively, you can place a menu order – anything from kung pao shrimp to shredded pork and preserved vegetable noodle soup – with the cashier. Don’t miss the steamed buns (at the cashier end of the line). And as long as you’re there, you may as well pick up one of those mahogany-skinned roast ducks hanging behind the glass to take home.
4524 Old Wake Forest Road, Raleigh (dine in or takeout); 3505 Capital Blvd., Raleigh (takeout only)
919-872-6012 (Old Wake Forest Road); 919-954-1215 (Capital Blvd.)
In a nutshell: Taqueria-style tacos, generously filled with your choice of nine traditional meats, and an even larger selection of tortas. One of the best salsa bars around for garnishing to your heart’s (and belly’s) desire. More than a dozen burrito variations, and that’s not counting the breakfast burritos that are part of a breakfast menu served all day. Tostadas, fajitas, enchiladas, combination platters round out the extensive offering. I’m partial to the tacos, tortas and burritos (especially the green chile), but I haven’t hit a dud yet in the decade since this little shop opened behind the Red Lobster on Old Wake Forest Road (note: a second location on Capital Boulevard is takeout only). Who says you have to drive to Durham to find a good taqueria?