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Beasley's Chicken + fish; Spanky's clears the cellar; Whole Foods fires up Engine 2 Diet

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Ashley Christensen has your Friday plans: a fish fry. Last week, Beasley's Chicken + Honey (www.ac-restaurants.com) expanded its menu of fried chicken and an assortment of vegetable sides to include Friday fish.

"A fish fry is a big Southern thing, typical on Fridays," Christensen says. But Beasley's fry will be anything but ordinary. Like many of the restaurant's sides—baked beans with sorghum or braised red cabbage with red wine and currants—the fish at Beasley's will be a gussied up version of the traditional offerings found at fish camps and church suppers.

Christensen says the particular fish featured will change each week. But for $9.50, each Friday plate will include a six-ounce portion of fish dredged in buttermilk and flour (cornmeal for those seeking a gluten-free option) that is deep-fried, accompanied by fries and roasted tomato malt vinegar slaw.

Beasley's fish fry signals a shift toward more options at the chicken-centric restaurant. Christensen says to expect specials each day of the week before long as a way to "expand beyond chicken to make it more of a Southern blue plate feature." The Friday fish fry, she says, "seems like a natural launch for that."

In Chapel Hill, Spanky's Restaurant & Bar (www.spankysrestaurant.com) is making room for new offerings, too. Beginning at 5 p.m. on Jan. 20, the restaurant will host a cellar-clearing event in collaboration with NC Brewing (www.ncbrewing.org). Gavin Toth, bar manager at Spanky's, says the event will feature 12 North Carolina draft beers.

"I've been hanging on to some fun things we want to share with the public," Toth says. "I want to make room so I can do some events like this in the new year."

Among the rare beers to be featured is a brew from Haw River Farmhouse Ales, an operation out of Saxapahaw that hasn't quite opened for business yet.

The cellar clearing is open to the public and is "for beer geeks and regular folks alike," says Toth. Cost is the purchase of the featured beers.

If you already filled the holiday season with the likes of too many beers and fried foods, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com) invites you to take part in a 28-day healthy eating challenge.

The grocery's stores are encouraging customers and employees to follow Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Diet, a plan (and book) that focuses on plant-based meals.

Each store in the Triangle will offer different meetings to support those committed to the diet. Casey Lynch, healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods in North Raleigh (354-0350), will offer two orientations for those who have registered to help them "decide if it is something they want to do."

Throughout the challenge, Lynch will offer weekly meet-ups to give participants a chance to talk with each other and provide support. Lynch will also lead "demonstrations and a brief nutritional lesson."

Register for the North Raleigh store's program before Jan. 15; the challenge begins there Jan. 23.

To sign up for or confirm other stores' challenge dates, contact your local Whole Foods customer service desk. Lynch also recommends that participants purchase Esselstyn's book, which includes recipes for the challenge and is available at Whole Foods stores for $24.99.

Know of a restaurant happening or food event? Email food@indyweek.com.

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