Restaurant News & Reviews

New cafes in Chapel Hill

If you've been to Timberlyne Shopping Center recently and seen the new sign for Dream Catcher Cafe, you may have guessed that the restaurant specializes in Native American or Southwestern cuisine. You certainly wouldn't be the first. And you couldn't be much further from the truth.

Owners Charlene Allred and Kathleen Bowerman describe their restaurant's cuisine as "French country," which translates to dishes such as moules a la Basquaise (mussels in white wine with shallots and peppers), coquille Saint-Jacques a la nage (seared scallops in a seafood bouillon), daube de boeuf a la Gascogne (beef braised in red wine), and poulet aux fines herbes (herb-roasted chicken). A dedicated vegetarian section of the menu offers options such as choux vert farci (cabbage stuffed with dried fruit, mushrooms and rice). Organic ingredients are used whenever possible.

I haven't yet had the chance to sample the wares, but given that the chef is Annie Pambaguian, a native of Paris who for a too brief period several years ago gave her distinctive French accent to the Italian menu at Vespa in Cary, I'm betting the food is first-rate. The setting is charming and cozy, with seats for only about three dozen and another 10 or so at the bar.

Oh, and the restaurant's name? Allred and Bowerman chose it in honor of a dream catcher given to an old friend. You'll find it hanging in the restaurant.

Also in Chapel Hill, Boleros Cafe on Franklin Street holds a surprise of a different sort. Once you're seated in the restaurant, which opened recently in the old El Rodeo spot, you're brought a basket of chips and salsa. So, it's Mexican, right? Wrong. Bolero bills its specialty as "Cuban and Latin American Flavors," though the focus is overwhelmingly Cuban. The menu gives broad coverage to the island's cuisine, both traditional favorites such as ropa vieja, picadillo, empanadas, Cuban sandwiches, black bean soup and ham croquetas, and contemporary riffs such as coconut shrimp bisque and plantain-crusted grouper with jicama slaw. Other Latin American flavors are represented by a smattering of dishes ranging from churrasco steak with chimichurri to Bahamian chicken and shrimp to paella.

Granted, you'll find a quesadilla here and a chimichanga there sprinkled among the extensive listings, but -- chips and salsa or no -- Boleros is decidedly not a Mexican restaurant. Of course, if you've spent any time in Wilmington, where the original Boleros Cafe is located, that's probably not a surprise after all. Turns out the Chapel Hill location is the second.

Greg's Hot List: Irish Pubs

'Tis that time of year again. St. Patrick's Day is just over a week away. Since March 17 falls on a Saturday this year, you can bet a pot o' gold that many of these Irish pubs will be staging all-day celebrations.

Connolly's, Cornerstone Shopping Center, 1979 High House Road, Cary; 465-4458.

The Hibernian, 311 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh; 1144 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary; 833-2258 (Raleigh); 467-9000 (Cary).

James Joyce Pub & Restaurant, 912 W. Main St., Durham; 683-3022.

Napper Tandy's, 126 N. West St., Raleigh; 833-5535.

O'Dwyer's Irish Sports Pub, 3325 Rogers Rd., in the Shoppes at Heritage, Wake Forest; 562-8368.

O'Malley's Tavern, Oak Park Shopping Center, 5228 Holly Ridge Drive, Raleigh; 787-1234.

Tir na nOg, 218 S. Blount St., Raleigh; 833-7795.

W.B. Yeats, 306-G W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill; 960-8335.