A monthly roundup of ethnic eats, counter service chow and other tasty bargains.
Als Burger Shack
516 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
In a nutshell: Dont let the quaint retro burger-shack look of this Franklin Street newcomer fool you. Theyre thoroughly modern about local sourcing here, from the North Carolina pasture-raised beef thats hand-patted and grilled to order to the all-pork hot dogs custom made for Als by local restaurant and charcuterie specialist The Pig. Dont miss the crinkle-cut rosemary fries. For dessert, try J Bos Sweet Burger: Maple View Farm vanilla custard sandwiched between locally baked amaretto almond cookies.
Cloos Coney Island
2233-102 Avent Ferry Road, Raleigh
In a nutshell: Last summer, while my wife and I were visiting family in Michigan, we all headed into downtown Detroit to visit two local institutions: American Coney Island, where Greek immigrant brothers are said to have begun selling the first coney dogs in 1917, and Lafayette Coney Island, its bitter next-door rival. Both were good, but neither, in my opinion, better than Raleighs own Cloos Coney Island, which opened in 1988. The owner is Detroit transplant Daniel Cloos, who ships in two kinds of chili from the Motor City and blends them. The dogs are made in Detroit, too, with a natural casing that gives them that authentically satisfying snap. Cloos sliders have their fans, too, as do their Philly cheesesteaks.
Roses Meat Market & Sweet Shop
121 N. Gregson St., Durham
In a nutshell: Talk about one-stop shopping. While youre waiting for butcher Justin Meddis to cut and trim your meat order for tonights dinner (local pasture-raised beef, pork, lamb and whole chickens), walk over to the other end of the counter and pick out dessert from the tempting assortment of miniature tarts, French macarons and other delights baked by Meddis wife, Katie, a former pastry chef at Chez Panisse. As reward for your errand-running, grab a couple of her cardamom caramels for yourself. Oh, and order lunch. If you choose to dine in, seating is on makeshift benches.
The Urban Turban
2757 NC Hwy. 55, Cary
In a nutshell: In theory, it should be easy to score a light meal at The Urban Turbans buffet, where the mostly Mediterranean spread includes a variety of healthy fare from tabbouleh, hummus and minted cucumber salad on the cold station to hot soups, falafel, and a distinctive raisin-studded stew of cabbage and onions. Youll have to resist the exhortations of Asad Abbasi, the restaurants affable and ever-present owner, who will encourage you to try the tandoori chicken. But once youve sampled extensively, ending by taking Abbasi up on his recommendation to try the rice pudding for dessert, youll leave feeling decidedly more satisfied than svelte.