What with all the competition in the sports pub market these days, it's no longer enough to hang a few flat-screen TVs on the wall, tap a couple of kegs and throw some wings in the fryer.
A growing number of sports pubs bill themselves as family-friendly, and a few have upped the culinary ante with ambitious offerings ranging from Kobe beef burgers to duck confit flautas.
Backyard Bistro (1235 Hurricane Alley Way, Raleigh; 851-6203; www.backyardbistro.com) is raising the stakes further still with, well, steaks. Not just any steaks, mind you, but 18-ounce bone-in rib-eyes and 16-ounce New York strips aged a minimum of six weeks by the celebrated Angus Barn.
Even the half-pound burgers are ground fresh daily by the Angus Barn's master butchers.
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And steaks aren't even the house specialty at Backyard Bistro, which opened last month in the former Damon's Grill spot near the RBC Center in West Raleigh. That honor goes to meaty St. Louis style ribs, which are dry-rubbed and smoked for hours, then finished with the house barbecue sauce.
Joe Lumbrazo, who owns the restaurant with partner Lance Wheeler, proudly notes that virtually everything is made from scratch, from the beer-battered fish and chips to the French dip sandwich made with house-smoked prime rib.
That comes as no surprise: Lumbrazo has worked as a corporate chef, catering to country clubs for about 15 years.
Meanwhile in Durham, Sansui Sushi Bar & Grill (4325 N.C. 55; 361-8078) has opened in the building occupied for several years by China One. Owner Tommy Wen and his cousin Mike Yeh have racked up more than 20 years of experience as sushi chefs, and their raw fish offering reflects that experience.
"We get most of our fish flown in fresh from Hawaii," Wen notes of a selection that ranges from tuna to Tasmanian salmon and expands on weekends to include rarities such as Hawaiian ono.
Even more of a rarity in the Triangle than ono is the 24-hour diner, the number of which grew by one late last month with George's Diner (3536 Hillsborough Road; 251-9600; www.georgesdinernc.com) in Durham. The restaurant is owned by George Papanikolaou, who previously operated a hot dog stand in downtown Raleigh, and his wife, Rula. The vibe is retro '50s, right down to the tunes on the jukebox, and the menu covers a broad spectrum from breakfast served all day to classic diner fare such as fried seafood and Greek and Italian specialties -- or as Rula Papanikolaou aptly puts it, "a little bit of everything."
One final note: In a recent column, I referred to Apex Beverage Co. as "the first full-fledged wine shop in Apex." That honor goes to Winestyles (2000 Creekside Landing Drive; 961-4305; www.winestyles.net), which opened nearly two years ago in Beaver Creek Crossing South. My apologies for the oversight.