Jason Bissey’s Top 10 Things to Eat in Durham NC

While, as a former chef, I am often asked for restaurant recommendations, I find that I end up offering a selection of actual Things to Eat rather than the establishments themselves.  So, here’s a list of some of my favorite meals in the Bull City.  It was tough to limit, but I’m pretty happy with it besides the absence of one or two items I will reliably get excited about going to Raleigh or Chapel Hill for.  But whatever; OUR HOUSE!

Anyway:

10.  Phở at Saigon Grill

I’m actually pretty new to this place up on Roxboro, and haven’t had much on the menu, but the phở is proper.  You can get it with any combination of round, meatball, tripe, and tendon that suits your fancy.  Nice rich broth, a generous portion, and plenty of cilantro, limes, chilis and shit served on the side.  Awesome in the winter.

9.  Tomo’s omakase at Thai Cafe

Ok, so I was gonna keep this a secret, but the old sushi chef from Kurama on 15-501 has resurfaced.  He is Tomo.  He is the real deal, no matter what you may think of Kurama or Thai Cafe.  Like, he actually has a cadre of Japanese businessmen who will follow him WHEREVER HE GOES to eat his food.  Now, if you like sushi in general, usually sticking with rolls and maybe a couple tuna nigiri, you certainly won’t be disappointed at Thai Cafe.  You’ll probably end up going back to Sushi Love or whatever for their 2-for-1 deal, though.  The deal with Tomo is that he is a Japanese food geek, and for him raw fish and sushi rice are just the tip of the freakin’ iceberg.  So, go brush up on some etiquette (check out the great comments) like a good white person and just tell him you want the good stuff.  If you’re feeling froggy you can say you want “omakase,” but I wouldn’t blame you for feeling a little douchey for doing so.  Just let the man feed you.

8.  OnlyBurger farmer’s market special with veggie burger, egg, and bacon

I like burgers, but honestly I’ve kinda given up on them.  When OB launched, I was pretty excited because I know the owners and they have a good pedigree, chef-wise, and I thought they’d be cranking out some seriously amazing product.  Sadly, for the most part their food is pretty average.  Still, putting two fried green tomatoes, pimiento cheese, an egg, and bacon on a burger is a no-lose kind of situation.  At that point, would you really care if you’re eating beef or beans and soy?  I don’t.  See also the veggie burger with bacon at Bull McCabe’s.

7.  Kevin’s blueberry muffins at Rue Cler

This is Kev.  He is my friend and the charman of the Durham County Democratic Party.  His muffins are just WRONG!  Get there early.

6.  Rue Cler’s poulet rôti

rue.jpg

So I am a little biased, as I opened this restaurant as the chef in 2006, and the poulet rôti was one of my flagship plates.  Still, it’s the best roast chicken I know of in the Triangle for three reasons: it’s an intact half chicken with all the bones, it’s pan roasted with my special kung-fu, and it’s made from scratch to order without any pre-cooking.  It might take a half hour longer to get your food, but it’s worth it.  Perfectly simple.

5.  John’s pastrami sandwich at Bull McCabe’s

John Spicer is the chef at Bulls.  He is grumpy, intolerant, looks like a serial killer, and one of the best cooks in Durham.  He makes his own pastrami and it is delicious.  Eat your pickle or he may hurt you.

4.  Substitute goat cheese for mozzarella on a Pop’s Backdoor Pizza

(that’s Dave.  He owns Elodie Farms where delicious goats and their delicious cheese comes from)

‘Nuff said.  I don’t want to hear anything about other pizza joints; you’re delusional.  Pop’s Backdoor is the best pizza in Durham and for chrissakes they deliver beer and wine.

3.  My hummus.

I’m generally a pretty humble guy.  I was born and raised in a land where corn is plentiful and talking about oneself is a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions.  But man do I make some fucking great hummus.  It’s ridiculous.  Seriously.  Yes, you can have the recipe.

2.  Toast’s egg panino / Toast’s salad

When people ask me my favorite restaurant in the Triangle, I usually tell them it’s Toast.  Sure, it’s just a sandwich shop.  SANDWICHES FREAKIN’ RULE, OK?  And Billy and Kelly have hit the sandwich nail on its proverbial head.  Also they are possibly the cutest and nicest people ever.  OK, so the egg panino.  It’s loosely scrambled local eggs folded with taleggio cheese and chives.  It is perfect and crunchy and gooey.  Get it with Toast’s inexplicably ethereal salad and you’re in lunch heaven.  God, I’m hungry.

1.  Oysters and steak tartare at Vin Rouge

Ah, Vin Rouge.  Most of the best meals of my life have been sitting at their bar.  They have served racks of wild boar for my birthday and spit roasted whole lambs for my wedding reception.  I have likely eaten over a pound of foie gras from their kitchen.  Being good friends with Matt, the chef/owner, certainly helps with the quality of my food, but my favorite two things on the menu are freely available to all.  They are also raw.  I’m still not sure who makes a better tartare, Matt or I, but things tend to be more enjoyable when you’re not the one who prepared them.  As for the oysters, there is little to say.  Get some Champagne or a mineral-y Loire valley wine and go to town.  Heaven.  Raw heaven.

Bon appétit, y’all.

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December 28, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Crowdsourcing.

One Comment

  1. bea replied:

    I tried the Pop’s Pizza with goat cheese the other night and it was REALLY Good. I would like your hummus recipe and maybe you can just go with Rich and me to Thai cafe and say whatever needs to be said. :)

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