Restaurant News & Reviews

Think far outside the bun

Tired of the same old bagel-for-breakfast, burger-for-lunch routine? How about crêpes for a change of pace, made to order and available with your choice of fillings ranging from Black Forest ham with gruyere and caramelized onions to lemon curd to Nutella with seasonal fruit?

Until now, the only way to sample the sweet and savory wares of artisanal crêpe maker Jody Argote was to attend an event catered by Parlez-Vous Crêpe (906-2305; Beginning March 15, you'll be able to order Argote's crêpes from her vending cart, which will be parked on Saturdays at Johnny's (901 W. Main St.; 593-5551), a distinctive new twist on the old neighborhood grocery store in Carrboro.

But you won't have to wait to treat yourself to the Guglhupf breads and pastries, Larry's Beans coffee, artisanal cheeses and other locally produced foods that are already on the shelves at Johnny's. Grab a box lunch or assemble your own picnic -- a baguette and some Chapel Hill Creamery cheese, say, and some pickled okra. Maybe even throw in some chips and salsa from the adjoining Johnny's Tienda. Enjoy your meal on one of the tables outside if the weather is nice, or take it home.

While you're at it, pick up some produce from one of the 30 or more local farmers whose wares partners Brian Plaster and Jan Halle hope to be selling once the spring crops come in.

"The Carrboro Farmers Market is great," says Plaster, "but for every available space there are 10 farmers who'd like to be selling their stuff there. Johnny's is the place for those farmers."

For now, Johnny's is open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The partners plan on extending the hours in March, when the shop is slated to begin selling beer and wine.

In Durham, there's another new way to break out of your Reuben-and-wrap rut. How does an assortment of Italian tea sandwiches strike your fancy? Shrimp and sunchoke salad with watercress, say, and egg salad with capers and chives -- oh, and bresaola with arugula, Meyer lemon oil and Grana Padano is a must.

The tea sandwiches are called tramezzini, and they're just one of the variations on an Italian sandwich theme at Toast (345 W. Main St.; 683-2183; the area's first paninoteca. The restaurant is the first for Durham native Billy Cotter, whose star-studded resume includes work in the kitchens of Magnolia Grill and Lantern, and wife Kelli, an experienced server at Magnolia Grill. It's open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Panini are offered with your choice of more than a dozen fillings, including truffled egg, spicy tuna, and several salami and cheese combinations. Add homemade soup or salad to any of these, or to open-faced variations bruschetta (grilled) and crostini (toasted) for $2, and for little more than the cost of a Big Mac combo, you've got a sure cure for the jaded palate blues. And for those suffering from Egg McMuffin ennui, Toast serves breakfast sandwiches and a daily changing frittata from 7 to 11 a.m.

On a sad note, The Grape has closed after a year and a half in Cameron Village. The combination restaurant/wine bar/retail wine shop was the only Triangle area franchise of an Atlanta-based chain with a novel system of categorizing wines by a color-coded system according to their flavor profiles.