Brace yourselves, Durham and Chapel Hill, you "foodiest small towns" you. Make some room: The big capital is pulling up a chair at your table.
Downtown Raleigh's favorite barbecue joint, The Pit (328 W. Davie St., 890-4500, thepit-raleigh.com), was named one of the Top 50 New Restaurants in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure Magazine. One of Bobby Flay's favorite contenders, The Pit's Ed Mitchell was touted as "North Carolina's legendary pit master" in the magazine's May issue for his specialty chopped whole hog. Always the jovial jokester, Mitchell gives the place its small-town warmth even though it shares a Top 50 spot with big guys from Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
A veteran of the Glenwood South scene, Cafe Helios (413 Glenwood Ave., 838-5177, cafehelios.com) welcomes a little bit of local sweetness to its menu. Kim Hammer, the brains and brawn behind a one-woman, home-based bakery in south Raleigh, will serve up bittycakes (bittycakes.com) at Helios starting May 1. These cupcakes, as bitty as they may seem, are rooted in grand ideas. Hammer's philosophy and use of local and organic ingredients, plus the lure of her baked goods, convinced Helios' owner to give Hammer prime real estate in the cafe's herb garden (just a block away) for her specialty ingredients, including lemon basil, lavender and rosemary. Using seasonal ingredients from local suppliers and eggs from an urban chicken coop just off Oberlin (also just blocks away), expect an array of delicious treats to slowly join the menu. What can you count on for May 1? Hammer hinted at two flavors of cupcakes (summertime calls for strawberry buttercream icing and peach spice cake), rosemary cranberry and double chocolate toffee biscotti, and "whoopie pies"—nostalgic homemade treats reminiscent of our favorite creme-filled chocolate cookie.
If a cupcake and a latté don't fulfill your epicurean hedonism, head further down Glenwood to the new location of Péché de Chocolat boutique and chocolate lounge (16 Glenwood Ave., 754-1112, pechechocolat.com). Péché de Chocolat, which means "sin of chocolate," relocated from City Market in March. Tucked away into a setting reminiscent of a French countryside cafe, Péché offers a helpful wine pairing menu to complement the experience of an imported truffle. The brand of chocolate with the same moniker is imported from Europe and the Middle East, hand-wrapped and packed, and is exclusively sold in the U.S. at the Raleigh location. Check them out this Friday: five bucks for a wine tasting every First Friday evening. Ooh, la la.
They say the early bird gets the worm. So why wait until Cinco de Mayo? To test out Raleigh's tequila offerings prior to the borrachera ensuing on the fifth, check out this Thursday's tequila dinner at Dos Taquitos Centro (106 S. Wilmington St., 835-3593, dostaquitoscentro.com). Starting at 6:30 p.m., the restaurant will serve a $49-per-person, four-course dinner with tequila pairings. Reservations recommended.
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