Restaurant News & Reviews

A pub and hub for grub

By any measure, the recent opening of Trálí (10370-109 Moncreiffe Road; 544-4141; in North Raleigh's Brierdale Shopping Center was a big success. "We opened on a Friday, and we were busy all weekend," says manager Mike Sanderson. "On Monday (a notoriously slow night in the business), we served 800 dinners."

Granted, it doesn't hurt that Trálí is an Irish pub and the Monday in question was St. Patrick's Day. But Sanderson is excited about the restaurant's long-term prospects, and he ought to know what he's talking about. He comes to the Triangle from New Jersey, where he managed the landmark Kelly's Tavern in Neptune City for 37 years. Sanderson cites the experience of the restaurant's owners as key signs pointing to potential success.

Chef/partner Thomas Buckley, who hails from Trálí's namesake town in Ireland (where it's also spelled Tralee), has created a menu that covers all the bases, from classic shepherd's pie and beer-battered fish and chips to New World fare such as jerk chicken Caesar salad. At lunchtime, a buffet and carving station caters to people in a hurry. Partner Ray Murphy, who hails from Galway, runs the front of the house and tends a bar that dispenses an international selection of 18 draft beers. Trálí is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

In Pittsboro, the grand opening of the General Store Café (39 West St.; 542-2432; promises to be a big hit, too, at least in part because the restaurant has a loyal customer base. The Café has in fact been a popular local gathering place for years, and the four-day celebration is to commemorate a major overhaul and expansion. The new restaurant will be three times the size of the old one and will include a large performance stage, dance floor and the new Black Bird Bar.

The four-day celebration begins Thursday with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m., after which dinner will be served in the newly decorated dining room and bar. Customers may order from the regular menu or choose from a weekly changing list of specials such as Lowcountry shrimp and grits, wild mushroom- and vegetable-stuffed peppers, and citrus-marinated pork tenderloin with pineapple-avocado salsa. An emphasis on local and organic produce, which was the guiding principle at the Café long before it became cool, is still the rule.

JazzBeau will play live jazz from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. The festivities and live music will continue through the weekend.