Wednesday, January 26, 2011
"How come you only go to dives? Why don't you go a little more upscale?"
Ouch. That hit me where I live, or at least like to hang out.
I typically don't go to high end restaurants because I know how much fakery can be baked in any one particular restaurant. I worked in food service for a very long time and know. Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of contentious chefs who pour their considerable talents into every plate that leaves their kitchen. And there are some in this market – the good people at Kitchen in Chapel Hill come to mind – who do genius-level work (a review of Kitchen is forthcoming).
But having worked in the business for years, I'm uncomfortable having people wait on me. I know that sounds silly, but it's true. And if I see that the wait staff is in The Weeds, I have to fight back the urge to bus their tables. It makes Her Imperial Majesty crazy. But we do have a solution: we sit at the bar.
Long before it was fashionable, we sat at the bar. We once did a $150 lunch at the Gramercy Tavern for her birthday. We left some 3,000 calories later, quite sated.
So when Her Imperial Majesty's latest birthday came around, she wanted to go to Heron's, at The Umstead. Knowing that sitting in the dining room required a jacket, and knowing that I would freak if I had to adhere to a dress code, we, true to form, sat at the bar.
The place is perfectly appointed as one might expect a 5 star hotel to be. The service was prompt and friendly. And everything that left the kitchen looked marvelous and I'm sure was quite tasty. But if there is one reason to go to Herons and The Umstead Bar, it can be summed up to two words: the fries.
I've probably eaten some 5,000 orders of French fries in my 50 years on this planet. Most were a mediocre accompaniment to a slightly less mediocre sandwich. The fries at Heron's are the best I've eaten anywhere.
Tossed with truffle oil, salt, Parmesan cheese and flat leaf parsley, these have a crunch, a flavor and an aroma that was described by the missus as "otherworldly". They were so good, we were licking the plate.
Sure the Kobe Beef Burger was expertly prepared and Caesar Salad was crisp and bright, but the fries blew away everything. I've never had a side dish that so upstaged the main course. It was just astonishing.
So go. Get anything on menu. It will be great. But remember: you do want fries with that.
Herons / The Umstead bar
100 Woodland Pond Drive
Cary, North Carolina 27513
Cuisine: High end cuisine with locally sourced ingredient
Atmosphere: Coat and tie crowd
Noise level: funereal quiet
Breakfast: Monday through Friday 6:30am – 10:00am
Saturday 6:30am – 10:30am
Brunch: Sunday 6:30am – 2:30pm
Lunch: Monday through Saturday 11:30am – 2:00pm
Dinner: Monday through Saturday 5:30pm – 10:00pm
Reservations: Good idea.
Other: They take all manner of plastic.
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