One dish. Sometimes that’s all it takes for us to return to a particular restaurant. We crave the flavor, texture, aroma, the mere sight of that one special thing. Here are some favorites.
A twist on fries
How could I live this long without having tried Greek fries? To top it off, Fayetteville is known for its Greek-owned restaurants serving authentic dishes, and so I repeat, “How?”
My partner in all things creative, photographer Cindy Burnham, was bound and determined to set me straight. One weeknight, Burnham and her husband, video producer Rick Allen, headed to Caffé OPA with me to get our fill of those fries.
Just as she had promised, there sat before us a mountain of golden fried goodness in the form of thick-cut potatoes, topped with feta and kefalotyri cheeses, Greek spices and a drizzle of honey — along with a side of tzatziki sauce for dipping.
I’m not usually a fan of mixing the salty with the sweet, so I was a bit skeptical. But these Greek fries were positively addictive — and well-priced at $8.99.
In all fairness, we shared two gyro platters and baklava, too. All delicious and worthy of a return trip. We hear that they also boast quite the breakfast, lunch and coffee business.
Caffé OPA is in western Cumberland County, where restaurants and shops are popping up quickly. Find Caffé OPA at 9527 Cliffdale Road. 910-500-9099
Bliss on a cold winter’s day
In the January issue, I wrote about Gabriella’s, the downtown Dunn eatery that’s gaining popularity for its excellent Peruvian, Italian and American dishes.
I felt remiss not trying its authentic soups and stews, so I returned to remedy that. And I have been dreaming about a special dish ever since.
The Chupe de Camarones, a shrimp-rich chowder, offers an earthy flavor that just gets better with every spoonful. Warm and nurturing, the soup also features Peruvian corn, potatoes, fava beans, squash, sweet peas, poached eggs and Huacatay (native black mint), topped with strips of Mexican cheese and with rice on the side ($18.99).
Gabriella’s is at 325 E. Broad St., Dunn. 910-304-1368
Collard sandwich, anyone?
Henley’s Vintage Kitchen on Murchison Road is a must-stop for soul food, from fried chicken to barbecue ribs. But it’s the collard sandwich that deserves a special spot in the Finger-Lickin’ Good Hall of Fame.
The greens, flavored with smoked turkey, are flanked by corn fritters and topped with fatback. Served with fries, the order comes to about $8. You can’t beat that. Now, dig in.
Henley’s is at 1911-A Murchison Road. 910-745-9816
What’s in those magic beans?
Chickpeas in a tomato-based sauce — with just the right amounts of spices, neither too hot nor too mild — are meant to be a side dish at Afghan Kabob. Toss in some authentic Afghan rice, though, for the perfect meal.
Whatever you order — from falafel to kabobs — the moderately priced restaurant always delivers with freshness and excellent customer service. And I must have heard a dozen people say they go there for the beans and rice or just the beans. It’s that good.
Afghan Kabob is at 3401 Raeford Road. 910-491-2837
Eggrolls for sharing — or not
I’m not generally a fan of eggrolls (can take or leave them) until tasting the chef’s ribeye eggrolls at Manning’s Restaurant in downtown Clayton.
Thinly shaved ribeye steak melds with caramelized onions and a blend of cheeses in golden brown crispiness served with field greens and a spicy avocado ranch for dipping ($12). The portion is large enough to share as an appetizer, but no one could blame you for keeping it to yourself.
If you’ve never been to downtown Clayton, the charm factor alone is worth the hour drive from Fayetteville. Tip: When visiting Manning’s at 406 E. Main St., if the weather permits, request a table on the rooftop patio. 919-585-7005
A slice of birthday pie
The 42nd Street Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill in downtown Raleigh is one of the South’s landmark restaurants with humble beginnings in 1931 as a grocery store. Its specialties include oysters and draft beer.
The seafood is excellent — that’s a given. But I would be a happy camper with just the apple pie, a slice of heaven on a plate. Warmed ever-so-slightly and topped with rum sauce, make mine a la mode. One year, it was actually my “birthday cake,” candle and all. And I savored every last crumb ($8.45, or $11.95 with ice cream).
The restaurant is at 508 W. Jones St. in the capital city. 919-831-2811
(Reminder: Check hours on each restaurant’s Facebook page or website. COVID and labor shortages have affected hours of operation for many businesses.)