Some people might consider Adam Smith naive for opening Restaurant Eden (3211-106 Shannon Road, Durham; 401-5395; www.restaurantedenonline.com) in the space where the estimable Starlu failed. It's the young chef's first restaurant, after all, and the location -- on the ground floor of an office building (entrance on the back side, no less) -- is hardly Night Life Central. But Smith grew up in an apartment complex nearby, so he's familiar with the area. And he knows his way around a restaurant kitchen, having worked in a number of them -- including George's Garage and the North Hills Firebirds, where he was executive chef for six years -- since he was 14.
Smith plans to attract customers with his fresh takes on traditional American fare and American regional classics, served in an inviting contemporary setting. He aims to keep them coming back with solid execution and value pricing, with all but a handful of entrees in the $8 to $16 range. Highlights of the regional tour include Carolina crab fondue, chile-rubbed pork loin with caramelized apples and North Carolina sweet potatoes, New Orleans style chicken gumbo, pan-seared trout with toasted almond butter, and the chef's distinctive horseradish-spiked take on shrimp and grits. Comfort food classics such as chicken pot pie and baked macaroni and cheese transcend regional boundaries. Same goes for strawberry shortcake and Godiva chocolate torte, desserts that ought to make anyone feel at home. Restaurant Eden is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Meanwhile in Raleigh, 7 C's Café (404-171 E. Six Forks Road; 807-0122; www.7cscafe.com) serves up a gastronomic tour of the world between slices of bread. The sandwich shop's menu is divided into three categories, with something for every conceivable mood and sense of culinary adventure. Those seeking the comfort of the familiar will find it under the heading of The Classic, where options include well-filled versions of grilled cheese, club, homemade chicken salad, patty melt and BLT. Favorites from Around the Country takes the show on the road, from Philly cheesesteak to New Orleans muffuletta to New England style cod sandwich to Texas fajita wrap. More serious cases of gastronomic wanderlust find what they're seeking by going Around the Globe: your choice of burger or grilled chicken, done in any of 10 international styles ranging from Indian (seasoned with curry powder, topped with peppers and onions, with coconut mayo) to Greek (garlic, oregano, feta, olives and cucumber yogurt sauce).
Still don't see what you want? Just ask, and if they have the ingredients they'll make it for you, according to managing partner Scott Catalano. That kind of flexibility is one of the reasons that he and partners Darryl Cook and Chris Watson gave up their Bear Rock Café franchise and transformed it into an independent operation. You can sail the 7 C's Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.