Don't let the name fool you. The Corner Tavern & Grill (1301 N.W. Maynard Road; 460-7151; www.cornertg.com) sounds like just another pub, and a cursory look at the menu would seem to confirm that assessment.
Look a little closer, though, and you'll see abundant evidence of higher aspirations. Hand-battered haddock in the fish and chips, for instance, and beef tenderloin in the shepherd's pie. Burgers are patted fresh daily using a whopping 10 ounces of Angus beef, served on a pretzel roll with sweet potato fries on the side. Soups are made from scratch, corned beef is house-cured, steaks and chops are cut in house, and, well, you get the idea.
"I eat out a lot, and I got tired of eating bad food," says John Richards, an erstwhile landscaper who teamed up with CPA Katherine Ward to open their first restaurant on July 1 in Cary. The partners hired chef Clarence Mitchell, formerly of Peak City Grill, to head up the kitchen staff.
For all its culinary ambition, though, The Corner's neighborhood tavern vibe lives up to its name. The owners have given the former Vines Bistro space in Maynard Crossing shopping center a more casual look, extending the bar by 30 feet and installing nine plasma-screen TVs. There's an inviting patio, too, and a kids' menu. The Corner is open 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.
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In North Raleigh, Café Buongiorno's (3707-125 Falls River Ave.; 896-7459) is a different kind of neighborhood eatery: New York Italian café and pastry shop. The restaurant's owners are Gaspar "Gary" Buongiorno, who operates bakeries in his native New York and Florida, and John Rini, a fellow New Yorker and longtime fan of Buongiorno's pastries.
Rini isn't the only fan, either, judging by the eager faces I recently spotted peering into a deli case full of dozens of cakes and pastries, from cannoli to pignoli cookies to New York-style cheesecake. Some were buying cookies to take home or just stopping in for a gelato, while others lingered at one of the shop's café tables, savoring their confection along with an espresso drink made with Italian-roasted beans, naturally.
Café Buongiorno's also serves an assortment of panini, as well as breakfast sandwiches on croissant or bagel. Wines are offered by the glass, and bottles (mostly Italian) are so reasonably priced you'll be tempted to take home a bottle or two.
The surprising beer selection includes a handful of German brews you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the Triangle.
Homesick New Yorkers will appreciate the hours, too: 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6:30 a.m. to midnight Fridays; 7 a.m. to midnight Saturdays; and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
On a sad note, George's Garage in Durham has closed after 15 years. According to an announcement on the restaurant's Web site, owner Giorgios Bakatsias already has "a bold new restaurant concept on the drawing board." I'll keep you posted.