Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Don't listen to those nay sayers: A story of the ill informed, Aiken, SC, and some pretty good food

Let me just begin this one with this. Don't ever just listen to what somebodies says, always do your own investigations. Sometimes..........heck, a whole lot of times, people simply don't know what they're talking about. I've been living in Augusta, Ga for little more than a year now. Living in a place can be like a relationship sometimes....an unfaithful relationship. After a while a man just starts getting wondering eye's. I had eating in a lot places in Augusta and I must admit my eye's as well as my taste buds, have started to look else where. I've been checking out all my options. I've taken quick trips to Evans, N. Augusta, and near by small towns. I've taken day trips to Columbia, Charleston, Atlanta and Savannah. But there was one option I let some random person talk me into over looking. An option that ain't too bad on my pockets. It takes gas money to get to my options, and just like a relationship, some of them can be pricey. 

Downtown Aiken, SC. Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Augusta. For a whole year I did not step one foot in this place. Yesterday I decided to change that and I'm glad I did. As always, my partner in crime, the misses accompanied me for the trip. We explored around for a while, there were a lot of nice little areas, but it was getting about that time. I am a food explorer it was time to discover what I had came for. The both of us had a hankering for something sweet, and this place looked like to the perfect place to stop by. 


Desserves specialty bakery & more. There is nothing like that waft of pure deliciousness that hits your nose when you open a door to place that is doing something very right. There were a lot of great options to choose from, but I already knew what I wanted. The red velvet cupcakes had been basically screaming my name. 

This best sums up my experience when taking my first bite. 
                                       <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gSvaf7frnxc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The both of us went to war with those cupcakes and after completely destroying them we decided it was time for the main course. Didn't take us long at all to find where to get it either. We found our destination right beside Desserves.

The New Moon Cafe. The inside and outside had nice vibe to it. On top of that everything is made with fresh local ingredients. Fresh local produce, local meats, and bread baked in the store. We looked over the menus and decided to go with the "The Dr. John". Cajun roast turkey with sharp cheddar, muenster, tomato, and fresh spinach leaves. 

My meal was delicious, you can really tell the difference between carved turkey and preprocessed slices. The turkey on this sandwich was the real deal. the muenster set it off. I don't know what they sprinkled on the tomato but I could have ate it by itself. It was a meal that satisfies you, with out making you feel like you have to run 8 miles immediately afterward to burn it all off. My only bone to pick is that I feel that the drink should have been included and not extra. That being said I definitely would go back. Next time I'll try some of their desserts. 

 The misses, myself, and my stomach thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Aiken. If you ever in the Aiken, SC/Augusta, GA(learned after my visit that Augusta has a new moon cafe as well) area, and your looking for a light but satisfying meal. I definitely recommend you stopping by The New Moon Cafe, and for those of you with a sweet tooth, Desserves has what you need.

Make sure to subscribe to TheDowntowner for more great downtown eats. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Life Times Of The Broke & Hungry: A Students Quest From Ramen To One Of The Best Burgers In "The Boro"

Before I start this off I would just like to give a big shout out and thank you to the good people at Top Ramen, Maruchan, Sapporo Ichiban, and my personal favorite Nong Shim. Seriously these brands of ramen were life savers and without them a good chunk of my college experience would have been a world of pain....hunger pains. College can be a whole lot of things, a life changing experience, mind opening, culturally enlightening as well as the brokest, hungriest time of your life. College is also a place of food discovery. 

Statue of the Greensboro Four Outside the Dudley Building On North Carolina A&T Campus

Greensboro, North Carolina, home to my Alma Malta North Carolina A&T State University(Aggie Pride). I gained extensive experience in being hungry 101. I swear I probably cooked noodles in every way imaginable once my commuter meal plan ran out. But being hungry was an excellent motivator, that motivation led to a scholarship and grant, and that scholarship and grant led to an absolute game changer in the way I was eating. I started eating out every chance I could to the point to where the places I was eating at knew my name and what I wanted to eat before I could even order.

In my food discovery benge I ate a lot of places and I even witness a lot of great places to grab a bite to eat come and go, sigh. Goodbye Menjes, tuesday and thursday 50 cent wings were the best, goodbye Center City Cafe and Gourmet City Market, your burgers were the absolute truth, Goodbye  Downtown Caribbean Cafe, brown stew chicken, jerk wings, oxtail, and curry goat could not be beat especially since it was only 5 dollars for a plate. But there was one place in my downtown Greensboro food voyages that stood the test of time.

Fincastles Diner. I had tried a lot of places around downtown and realize that I had never stop in to check it out. They gave me my menu which consist of burgers, salads, po'boys and sandwiches as well as good ole fashion shakes and ice cream. I went with the fincastle burger: 100% fresh rolled angus beef patty, pimento cheese, grilled onions, lettuce and tomato, with fincastle sauce on grilled sourdough. For my side I went with the sweet potato fries. There were finally done cooking my meal and everything looked great. You ever just know something is going to be good before you bite into it? It's like my spidey senses kicked in when they place my plate in front of me. But instead sensing danger I was sensing a plate a food I was getting ready to wreck. 

Before even go further let me just say if you ever get a fincastle burger or any of their burgers that includes the fincastle sauce, you definitely are going to want a whole bottle of that sauce. That sauce set the whole burger off. The pimento cheese only further elevate the taste of the burger. The burger patty itself was well seasoned and as mentioned above was ground fresh that day, along with fresh veggies.....I know your probably reading this like you can't really mess up veggies but believe me I have had plenty of places that tried to place some old browning lettuce on my burger. All in all my burger and not to mention my sweet potato fries were delicious. I even got another burger that day.......shouldn't have though, not gonna lie, the second burger was simple pure greed.  

I left that day happy to find a new spot, and today I'm even happier that it's still there.....seriously I could have went on and on about some of my favorite spots in downtown Greensboro that has bit the dust. If you ever in the area whether it be a concert, or visiting for "The Greatest Homecoming On Earth" Fincastles Diner is definitely a place I recommend stopping by. 

Make sure to subscribe for more Downtown good eats and if you live in the area drop a comment of your favorite fincastle dinner menu item or leave a suggestion of one of your favorite places to eat in "TheBoro"

Fincastles Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bangin Fish Tacos in Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, North Carolina. The Queen City, Home to Carowinds[https://www.carowinds.com/], the US. National Whitewater Center[http://usnwc.org/] the Charlotte Bobcats(soon to be Hornets...again), the Carolina Panthers, NASCAR, last years Democratic National Convention and some pretty good food too. The misses and I were in town visiting family and figured this was to perfect time to go on another restaurant treasure hunt. Her sister, home from college can be a real house body but we convinced her to come along for the ride. 

So we're driving on University and there's nothing but chains. Nothing special about that, I can eat there at home. We took a left on Tryon St., again nothing but chains. Nothing against them but I was looking for a place unique. I don't know why but I decided to take a random left turn on 36th St. I'm glad I did because shortly afterward  I knew I had found our destination. 

The lucky winner of our green backs today? NoDa, Charlotte’s historic arts and entertainment district. There were plenty of unique shops, restaurants, live music avenues, plus I'm a artsy guy and NoDa was giving me good vibes. There were a lot of options in the area but we finally decided on a place. 

Cabo Fish Taco. It was packed but it didn't take us long to find some seats. Neither one of us had ever had a fish taco but the place was packed so they had to be good. I decided to get the BBQ Mahi Tacos, the misses went with the Honey Wasabi Wahoo Burrito, and miss play it safe went with the South West Chicken wrap....-__-.  They gave us a big bowl of salsa and chips why we waited for our meal. Moments later the main attraction had arrived. 

The moment of truth had arrived, I took my first bite. It was delicious. The fish its self was cooked and seasoned to perfection, the tomatoes, cilantro white sauce, and avocado gave it a freshness, the barbecue sauce and slaw added a one, two, flavor knock out combo. I completely smashed my plate. You ever find your self eating so fast that you have to look around and make sure nobodies looking at the barbaric way you are eating? That was me that day. The ladies cleaned their plates also, so I can guestimate they enjoyed their meals as well. Our meal was the type of meal that leaves you satisfied with out feeling all bloated afterward. 

We left that day with a brand new food/chill spot. Cabo Fish Taco definitely earned our letters of recommendation. If you are ever in the Charlotte area, head on over to NoDa and give it a try.

For more information on Cabo Fish Taco Check Out: http://cabofishtaco.com/index.html

You can also check out Diners Drive-Ins and Dives feature On Them  Below:

Cabo Fish Taco Baja Seagrill on Urbanspoon TheDowntowner North Carolina restaurants

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Authentic Eastern Carolina BBQ In Downtown Raleigh, NC

A little back story about yours truly. I try not to watch too much TV but when I do, I'm probably watching Travel Channel's Man v Food. Both for Inspiration of new places to eat as well as admiration of wanting that job so damn bad. As much as I love food, believe it or not I have recently loss 35 lbs, and if Travel Channel came to me today, I would happily gain it all back and then some traveling around, eating for free, and getting paid to do it. So one faithful day I was watching yet another episode of Man v Food when coincidentally the restaurant being featured just so happened to be in my home state of North Carolina. Raleigh, North Carolina to be exact. The name of the restaurant: The Pit Authentic BBQ. A restaurant who prides it self on keeping the tradition of serving authentic whole-hog pit cooked BBQ.

The Pit Authentic BBQ on Travel Channel's Man v Food

With southern classics like mac n cheese, collard greens, cornbread, black eyed peas, baked beans, fried chicken, coupled with contemporary twist with the addition of some of the best ribs my eyes had ever seen. I knew then I had obtained a brand new mission and that mission was going to be accomplished. That Saturday the misses and I headed down there from Fayetteville, NC, about  an hours drive. We were told by locals that if we were going to eat there we better hurry up because lines could be long. Just our luck when we finally arrived not only was there no line, the Pitmaster himself Ed Mitchell(No longer at The Pit, currently he's opening a restaurant in Durham, NC called Cue) greeted us at the door. 

We took our seats and a waiter promptly gave us our menu's. In truth I didn't even need one, I already knew what I wanted before entering the door...at least for my first visit. The chopped barbecue dinner, with collard greens, mac n cheese and cornbread. It had been on my mind since watching the episode. Sure I've had all of those before but this was all local produce, and the pigs used to produce the BBQ are all raised in North Carolina using free range farming practices. This was official.

Our food had arrived and I took my first bite. You ever go to a place that people hype up only to find out it's not worth the hype? This was not one of those places. My first bite of that chopped barbecue was absolutely delicious. It was tender, succulent, seasoned to perfection, and the sauce had just the right combination of sweet and spicy. If I had it my way I would have took a whole pan of the mac n cheese back home with me, it was the truth. The collard greens were on par with what my grandmother makes, and she makes a mean batch of collard greens. A little hint, don't eat too much of the cornbread, it can literally fill you up before your meal arrives. We left The Pit that day already planning our return. We have now been there quite a few times and it is not a fluke. Great service and great food every time. If you are ever in the Raleigh area do yourself a favor and go check out The Pit Authentic Barbecue. If you live in the surrounding areas and have never been, I really don't know what to say to you other then you are missing out big time.
One Extremely Happy Customer

For More information on The Pit check out: http://www.thepit-raleigh.com/  

Make sure to subscribe to TheDowntowner for more articles on Raleigh and other great cities and their downtown food offerings.

The Pit on Urbanspoon TheDowntowner North Carolina restaurants

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Charleston, South Carolina: Beauty, History, Ghost, And Some Damn Good Food

I have to say some of my best day trips, that often have led into a whole weekend stays, have been completely random and unplanned. My trip to a beautiful city named Charleston was no exception. One day me and the misses were driving around bored when I said, "hey lets go to Charleston". And just like that off we went, armed with enough cash for gas money and a modest bite to eat, we didn't pack a single thing. If I could do it all over again I would have at least charged the GPS fully ahead of time.The last hour of our trip was me completely winging it. We arrived around noon. The first thing that came to mind was, "wow this is a really nice looking city" the second was "Damn there are a lot of tourist, where the hell am I going to park". 15 minutes later we found a place to park and began our exploration. Right off the bat you can't help but to notice the architecture and the all the pastel colored buildings. Come to find out, Charleston or Charles Towne, as it was first called, was established in 1670 by Anthony Ashley Cooper on the west bank of the Ashley River, Charles Towne Landing, a few miles northwest of the present downtown. Charleston was captured in the Civil War without much property damage, so the historic part of town has buildings that are hundreds of years old. 

We had explored the riverwalk, the battery, and the historic mansions, skipped the graveyards(just isn't my thing) and the ghost tours, we were getting hungry and had another tour in mind. It was time to eat, all the good smells coming from the surrounding restaurants let me know with out ever eating there, that where ever I stopped I was going to enjoy my meal. Less then a minute of walking around King Street we made our decision. 

Bull Street Gourmet & Market. An upscale eatery offering simple, yet elegant, deli sandwiches, soups, salads and breakfast bites, as well as a variety of homemade prepared foods, deli meats and cheeses, produce and boutique wines and beer. The newest branch, Bull Street Gourmet & Market, opened in August 2011 on lower King Street and offers an expanded menu, a grocery and wine selection, extensive catering services and a line of Bull Street label products[http://bullstreetgourmetandmarket.com/]. The prices were reasonable, most salads and sandwiches will run you $8 or so. The salads our huge, fresh, and delicious with a real nice meat to veggie ratio. The sandwiches are great also. I went with the chicken salad sandwich, my only gripe with it is that a guy like me can really eat and I felt like I should have had two of them because one just wasn't enough.
Bull Street Gourmet Chicken Salad $8.00 
Grilled Shrimp Panzanella $10.00
All in all our meals were great, so much so that we literally had to talk each other out of getting something else. For fifteen minutes we debated, "we should be straight on gas if we get another one". Having a 3 hour drive home we let logic win that debate. It is a place I definitely will return to and recommend to all who have never been. 

For more information on Charleston and it's many food destinations check out: http://www.charlestonly.com/ 

If you have been to Bull Street Gourmet & Market and or have recommendations for other great downtown Charleston food destinations feel free to leave a few suggestions in the comment box. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Almost World Famous Chicken & Waffles In Durham, NC

There is a lot that can be said about Durham, North Carolina also known as the bull city. It has been called creative, eclectic, hip, innovative, highly educated, entrepreneurial, and few not so good names as well. Recently Southern Living called Durham "The South's Tastiest Town". I literally kick my self sometimes.....alright, alright that's a lie, but I feel like kicking myself when I think about how late I was on figuring out about Durham and its food scene. From 2004 to 2009 I was a student at North Carolina A&T State University(Aggie Pride!!!) located in Greensboro, North Carolina. Just 45 minutes away but it wasn't until last year that I told my self, "hey I wonder what's in Durham. So off I went on another adventure. The misses and I arrived downtown, found a place to park, and immediately started randomly exploring when suddenly it appeared.

Dame's Chicken & Waffles, we decided to check it out. It must have been destiny, we randomly came across it in under 5 minutes of walking around and when we got inside we didn't have to wait at all to be seated, we were told that we were lucky because there's usually lines out the door. Our service was good and our food was even better. It was my first time so I went with the Carolina Cockerel: Dame's personal favorite, Three chicken wings, a blueberry waffle, with a peach & apricot shmear. What the hell is a shmear you ask? Dame’s soon to be, Almost World Famous “Shmears” are made of sweet crème butters that have been delicately whipped with the freshest natural ingredients available. My first bite was like Neo breaking out of the matrix. I had truly been asleep and had finally been awakened to the great taste of city I had been sleeping on for years.

My meal was a complete work of art and tasted just as good as it looked. Southern fried chicken cooked to crispy, juicy, out right tasty perfection set on top of what has to be one of the best waffles I've ever had. Oh yes the main attraction is very good but don't sleep on their sides. Their mac n cheese could stand out on it's own as a meal. To all who may be reading this, if you have never been to Durham and you find yourself in the area, do your self a favor and head downtown, make yourself a reservation (I really did get lucky lines can be really long) and taste one of the many great food destinations in downtown Durham. For those living in the area feel free to leave some comments about your experience at Dame's as well as food destination recommendations for my next trip. 

For more information on Dame's Chicken & Waffles check out: http://www.dameschickenwaffles.com/
Dame's Chicken & Waffles on Urbanspoon TheDowntowner North Carolina restaurants

About The Downtowner

Hello I'm Derrick, when it comes to food and me one could call it a true love affair. It is not just a like for me but true, pure, honest to goodness love. A love I am willing to travel across both land and sea, via car, boat, train, bike, good old fashion left foot and right foot, through sunshine, rain, hail, snow, sleet, or storm. And in the case of this blog, a love I am willing to share. It has been my experience that you can tell the vibrancy of a city via it's downtown. In my random adventures traveling to different cities and their downtown's I have found that what makes or breaks that vibrancy is whether or not that downtown has a good food scene. Not enough clubs eh I can't dance anyway, not enough bars, I don't really drink that much, nothing good to eat, get me the hell out of this place. This blog is like a travel guide of different cities and their downtown's and the tastiest places to stop by while you are in the area. If you feel the same way about food, welcome to my blog, lets head downtown and eat.