You might say that three of the area's newest restaurants have, um, beefed up the local dining scene.
Texas-style beef barbecue is the specialty at The Prime Smokehouse (1885 Aversboro Road; 779-6716; www.primesmokehouse.com) in Garner. Ed Wiley, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Yalem, grew up watching his father, renowned jazz saxophonist (and native Texan) Ed Wiley Jr., feed fellow musicians at late-night jam sessions from a barbecue pit dug into his backyard.
Now the son is building on that tradition by offering brisket, ribs, sausage links and chicken, slow-smoked over hickory and served with choice of two sides (options include collard greens seasoned with smoked turkey, baked beans, mac and cheese, and orange-ginger yams) and bread (buttermilk biscuits or cornbread). Those who manage to save room for dessert (by, for instance, opting for lighter fare such as the Bone and a Bowl, which pairs a single rib and a bowl of chili made with smoked brisket) choose from fruit cobbler, banana pudding and sweet potato pie, all homemade.
The Wileys are developing a schedule of live music -- jazz and blues, naturally, in keeping with the vintage vinyl albums and posters of Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and other legends on the walls. Throw in a dozen beer choices and a modest wine selection, and Prime Smokehouse has the makings of a prime after-hours destination.
"Prime" takes on an altogether different meaning at Fleming's (4325 Glenwood Ave.; 571-6200; www.flemingssteakhouse.com), which opened late last month in Crabtree Valley Mall. The restaurant is the first Triangle location of a national chain of deluxe steakhouses specializing in USDA beef, broiled at 1,600 degrees and seasoned simply with salt, pepper, a bit of butter and chopped parsley. The chain is also noted for the "Fleming's 100," a wine list named for the number of listings, all available by the glass.
In Chapel Hill, another national chain has staked its claim on the restaurant space in the Sheraton. A sports-themed grill with a menu of premium Angus beef steaks and other all-American favorites, Shula's 347 (1 Europa Drive; 969-2157; www.donshula.com/rest.php?s=347) represents the middle tier between the company's top-of-the-line Shula's America's Steak House chain and its Shula's 2 sports pubs.
As NFL fans might have guessed, it's named for Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.