Favorites: John Batchelor’s inaugural column
My favorite restaurant depends on my mood, how much my wife will let me spend, and wherever I’ve been recently. Herewith, the places where I am most likely to go, depending on whatever whim is in place at the moment. (No ranking in the order of placement is intended or implied.)
First, let’s acknowledge that two of the Triad’s best restaurants are not in Greensboro. Blue Water Grille in High Point serves exceptional seafood. Small plates in addition to more conventional appetizers and entrées add value. If you’re not into seafood, the Braised Lamb Shank with molé sauce is worth a drive. St. Jacques at the Burke Manor Inn in Gibsonville (yes, Gibsonville!) is the only provider of classical French cuisine in the area, and they do it very well, indeed.
If I had to name a single “best” it would be The Undercurrent, a function not only of creative, stellar cuisine but also of value, growing out of multiple small portion plates that are still large enough even for my appetite. Rainbow Trout with House-Cured Bacon and Lemon-Artichoke Relish; Rack of Lamb in a Madeira reduction; and Seared Sea Scallops with Pancetta and Salsify Cream sauce rank among my first choices here. But three other places could win the “best” designation on any given night.
I think Mark’s puts together the best vegetable assemblies in the Triad. Several main courses are available in small as well as large plate portions. My favorites are Salmon, Buttermilk Free Range Chicken, Grilled Shrimp with Lobster and Mascarpone-Stuffed Ravioli, and Grilled Veal Chop.
The website for The Marisol boasts, “since 1997, we’ve been considered one of the best restaurants in the state.” It isn’t braggin’ when it’s true. If you are looking for ingredients of truly exceptional quality, price no object, this is the place. The menu frequently changes with seasonal emphasis.
1618 Seafood Grille, as the name implies, emphasizes seafood. Seafood Trio, for example, provides portions of Sea Bass, Scallops, and Mahi, with Portobello Mushroom, Pineapple Chutney, and Adobo sauce. Landlocked alternatives are available, as well. The Pan-Seared Chicken Pinwheel is stuffed with spinach and sundried tomato, plus blackened artichoke and crab-stuffed crispy zucchini.
B. Christopher’s is my top-ranked steakhouse. Be sure to add fried onion crisps, shoestring French fries, corn crème brûlée, sautéed spinach and/or asparagus with béarnaise sauce to whatever main course you order.
I have had so many exceptional meals at two area Italian restaurants, and I could not rate one over the other. Osteria makes fresh pasta–the Strozzapreti with creamy meat sauce, and Maltagliati-Boar Ragu with Porcini Mushrooms are outstanding. My favorite seafood includes Bronzino Marechiara in a tomato-garlic sauce with clams and shrimp. The Veal Chop with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Reduction is richly flavored. At Salvino, I am hard-pressed to stray from Gamberi al Soave and Scallops al Soave– sautéed in lemon, butter and white wine, served with spinach. If an off-menu veal special is available, make sure somebody at the table orders it.
I always look forward to Blue Denim. Start with Crawfish Beignets or Crispy Okra, then move on to any of the traditional Louisiana-style entrées.
Michelle’s Kitchen and Table in Burlington impresses me with Southern style preparations. Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles are a good place to start, as well as Shrimp and Grits made with pimiento cheese.
As you would expect from their names, Café Pasta and Grille and its sister restaurant, Pastabilities, serve very good pastas. Both flavor and value are emphasized in these establishments. Pastabilities sticks closer to family-style Italian dishes, whereas Café Pasta and Grille ventures somewhat beyond, such as my personal favorite entrée, Almond Crusted Salmon.
Imperial Koi is my choice for Asian, and sushi, especially. My favorite dish here is Dragon’s Nest– avocado stuffed with sesame tuna. For a non-Asian choice, get Risotto with Pan-Seared Scallops and Mushrooms.
Green Valley Grill and Printworks Bistro are the restaurants in two of the Triad’s luxury hotels. For a gorgeous setting as well as sophisticated cuisine, these can’t be beat, and are nationally recognized for brunch.
In a more casual setting, Reel Seafood Grill lists the day’s catch on a chalkboard. They also serve a good hamburger.
Rody’s Tavern is a sports bar, but unlike so many in the genre, they actually prepare everything from scratch. Outstanding onion rings, French fries, good burgers, fried shrimp and fish.
I think Crafted is the most original restaurant concept in the area. Two locations prepare tacos and other extremely casual finger food from fresh, quality ingredients, in highly creative ways.
Southern Lights Bistro offers breadth in its menu conception, from composed to create-your-own salads, to exceptional soups, burgers, and sandwiches, to more formal entrees, such as Bistro Steak with Mashed Potatoes, Tuscan Meat Loaf, or Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Neese’s Sausage Macaroni and Cheese.
Southern-style preparations influence the food at Southern Roots in Jamestown, with particular emphasis on local, fresh vegetables- such as Fried Green Tomato Stack with Applewood Bacon Jam. Over the years, however, preparations have branched out to include international notions. Shrimp are fried or grilled, Thai style. Fried Oysters get a Sriracha aioli.
If I am strictly in a sandwich mood, I gravitate to Melt for paninis. I also get the brussels sprouts, and the Pulled Pork Nachos are a winner, too.
As you might gather from this list, I’m really into food. Or to be more precise, lots of food is into me.
John Batchelor has been writing about eating and drinking since 1981. Over a thousand of his articles have been published. He is also author of two travel/cookbooks: Chefs of the Coast: Restaurants and Recipes from the North Carolina Coast, and Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or see his blog, johnbatchelordiningandtravel.blogspot.com