A monthly roundup of ethnic eats, counter service chow and other tasty bargains.
Backyard BBQ Pit
5122 N.C. 55, Durham
In a nutshell: One of the few remaining barbecue joints that still cooks the traditional way over hickory and oak, this Research Triangle Park favorite serves a variety of smoky meats and homestyle Southern fare, cafeteria style. Skip the brisket, which can be dry even under its unconventional gravy glaze. Ribs are OK if you like ’em sweet, but the Carolina-style barbecued pork is the money pick. And don’t worry about the long line at lunchtime. It moves fast.
Mesa Fresca Diner
775 Center St., Apex
In a nutshell: This colorful eatery adjoining a gas station/convenience store offers fast, friendly counter service and a quirky menu of Mexican and American fare, including breakfast served all day. Authentic taqueria-style tacos and tamales (listed on a separate menu over the counter, under the heading “Family Style Take-Out”) are a better bet than the Tex-Mex offerings. Keep an eye peeled for daily entree specials and desserts such as homemade tres leches.
1284 Buck Jones Road, Raleigh
In a nutshell: The streamlined menu at this unassuming newcomer gives top billing to its namesake beef noodle soup, and deservedly so. But pho is by no means the only attraction. Vermicelli salads are a worthy alternative, as is the crab noodle soup, bun rieu. If you’re just looking for a light bite, then banh mi – Vietnamese baguette sandwiches with filling options ranging from roast pork to Vietnamese ham and liver paté – won’t let you down.
Upper Crust Pie & Bakery
8450-106 Honeycutt Road, Raleigh
In a nutshell: No matter the time of day, this charming spot in Lafayette Village has got you covered. Breakfast? How about a Greek omelet or a breakfast burrito? Lunch? Tempting sandwich options include the Village (roast beef with homemade cranberry chutney) and the Neuse (grilled triple cheese, one of them being homemade pimento). The dinner menu offers more than a dozen options from chipotle shrimp flatbread to meatloaf with tomato gravy, all around $10. Just be aware that you’ll have to walk past a mouthwatering assortment of pies and pastries to place your order. Trust me, resistance is futile.