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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Greenville (NC) Eats: Acasia's Tipsy Teapot

Tipsy Teapot is like the Amazon of the real world. It's a cafe, it's a bookstore, a jazz club, part-time organic grocery store, meeting venue, once-a-month Sunday brunch locale, and just a really cool, chill place to be at any time of the day. Oh, and you can have some tea too.

First and foremost though, Tipsy is a cafe filled with a variety of organic sandwiches, wraps, and various treats alongside their collection of tea. Some places would just serve you a glass of tea, but not Tipsy. Expect to have a nice, long seat while they provide you a full kettle set of your choice - the orange spice mate being a personal favorite. People on the go during a hot Greenville day can also select from some iced teas, particularly the black currant, a sweet, fruity, and refreshing tea perfect there or on the go.

Menu-wise most of their food leans towards the sandwich variety. Vegetarians will feel right at home with the large list of fruit and vegetable choices, including a delicious vegetarian lasagna. On my visits there thus far, I've tried the veggie sandwich - stuffed with all kinds of sprouts and various things - and the Havarti pear, an open faced sandwich topped with walnuts and fresh herbs. The rich, salty havarti cheese paired nicely, making for a pretty satisfying meal. Tipsy's sides include a variety of choices such as fresh fruit or bean salad. Definitely spring for the salad which easily tops the other choices by miles with it's fresh, flavorful mix of various starchy beans. Perhaps best of all thus far has been the veggie lasagna, a gooey pile of roasted vegetables and enough cheese to keep you satisfied for weeks on end.

For people looking for a brunch spot on say, oh, the second Sunday of each month should definitely check out Tipsy Teapot. A spread featuring a large array of good eats including made-to-order crepes, fresh nonstop black currant tea and coffee, and select organic casseroles, Tipsy without a doubt gives you a bang for your buck.

No Reservations, The Shakedown on Tipsy Teapot
Atmosphere: Casual cool with a dose of hippy.
Cost: A little high, but for quality ingredients fair, $7-10
Try: Sunday Brunch, and the Veggie Lasagna
Don't: Get be afraid of bean salad, Tipsy's gets major credit for the bold and bright flavor in this side.

The Final Verdict
While the food may not be tremendously exciting for some, Tipsy still provides a host of sandwiches and teas to keep most happy. The prices are a little steep - in the $7-10 range - but still holds up to most places in the downtown area regardless. Anyone simply looking for a place to relax, do some reading, and enjoy some tea will find the cafe a beautiful place to be.

Acasia's Tipsy Teapot on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Greenville (NC) Eats: Boli's 5th Street Pizzeria

I can't claim being a pizza aficionado by any means, especially since I grew up on trashy carry out pizza from Dominos, Pizza Hut, or some even more tragic places. Having eaten at popular establishments in the South, like Mellow Mushroom or the ever-popular Danos in Columbia, South Carolina, I've had a taste of what decent pizza might be, but I'll admit that I'm still simply not the biggest pie fan in the world.

Hoping this journey would change my mind, the usual group of omnivores rolled into Boli's, a local student stop for pizza in the ECU area. A modest bar and restaurant on fifth street, it admittedly looks a little wonky going in with the wood carved seating arrangements in every possible way. We quickly shrugged it off as we grabbed a booth and hit the beer list.

If you are looking for some sexy beer to go with your pizza, this might not be the place for you. A handful of random imports chilled high atop the bar while the locals were drowning in the usual college fare. Boli's menu has everything you'd expect from the average pizza joint, from calzones to pasta and of course pizza. Some unusual options were on the list though, including several meat and seafood combination pies, a greek pizza, and my eventual pick - the "Three Amigos", a crazy southwest mix of chili, jalapenos, and the usual works. I also tacked on an appetizer order of the "Crazy Greek Pizza Bread", basically the greek pizza in the bread shape form. Its garlic butter spread along with crumbling feta, melted cheese, and fresh tomato got approval from the table. It was a little oily, but not enough to bother anyone by any means. The salty feta and richness of the pizza dough worked well.

The pizza, however, deserves a long discussion. First off was the crust; though somewhat crispy, it lacked that crackle and pop I love from a thin crust pizza. The base of the pizza was a bit of a near disaster for me, falling apart before I could even pick it up. I liked that the pizza wasn't super oily like a chain pizza, but it definitely wasn't keeping things together. The toppings were an interesting marriage of flavors. The chili wasn't the best, but it still held together with the toppings and somewhat held its own. I would be willing to try it again, though I think the "Crazy Greek" deserves more attention for its balance between the tomatoes and feta.

Across the table were a few more pies and a calzone, which came out disappointingly small, particularly for it's $8 price tag. Everything turned out to be a bit more costly then we preferred to be honest, with most of us hitting the $14-18 dollar range even with just water. There were certainly leftovers though, so at the very least we got a second helping of everything for the next day.

No Reservations, The Shakedown on Boli's
Atmosphere: Lots of wood coming out of every angle possible with a
bar somewhere in there. It's casual man.
Cost: For a small pizza, on the expensive side
considering the portion. Starts at $10
Try: The Crazy Greek Bread.
Do: Try to convince a couple of friends to tag along and split a large.
It'll save you a ton.
Best Pizza in Greeenville, NC: We shall see...

The Final Verdict
Boli's didn't change my life, but it wasn't the complete washout that it could have been. If you are in the ECU area and are pining for pizza, Boli's is alright, especially for its fairly convenient location in the middle of downtown. They didn't have anything that stood out, but they didn't particularly do anything criminal enough to make me throw out the penalty flags. Stick to what they're known for and you'll do just fine.

Boli's 5th Street Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 15, 2010

Columbia Eats: Tea

It's pretty terrific to see all the ethnic food that's been creeping into the capital city. One can easily dismiss how much ethnic food Columbia has, but it really isn't that bad all things considered. From the always growing number of restaurants littering Decker Blvd. to the new trendy locations opening around the University, the town's slowly become a hotspot for ethnic eats.

Tea is the newest contender in town with their Vietnamese Banh Mi. Those who have hovered over Immaculate Consumption's counters may have had a taste of this delicious sandwich, but for most who are unfamiliar it, banh mi is a densely packed sub consisting of several possible meats from honey grilled pork to cold cuts of the Asian variety. A fresh, warm piece of Vietnamese baguette smeared with a pate and butter spread, and garnished with pickled carrots and daikon - essentially a radish - cilantro, and a few pieces of jalepeno - banh mi is a tantalizing trip full of fresh and savory flavors from the East and West.

Getting right to the heart of things, I tried out their number one sandwich - the house adventurer - a combination of several sandwiches meats including grilled pork and cold cuts compounded one. What came to the table was a bit unexpected; the baguette was hundreds of feet bigger then a traditional Vietnamese baguette. While there was a lot going on in the sandwich, the size of the bread definitely was a bit of a letdown. The rest of the banh mi itself was a dizzying, but strangely satisfying array of flavors. The pork was not as satisfying as I've had in other banh mi sandwiches, in fact being far too thinly cut, but it still worked. The pickled vegetables were dangerously sweet, but fortunately with the fresh cilantro played its role well enough.

Along with my sandwich came a bag of shrimp chips and a bubble tea. The shrimp chips may be a bit of an acquired taste for most, but for this long time fan it was a nice trip down memory lane. Savory, and with a light shrimpy aftertaste, they made for a nice snack while waiting for the banh mi. The bubble tea, on the otherhand, was kinda terrible compared to Fruiti Cup in the Five Points area. Try your hand at their huge tea selection instead if you're looking for something nice to wash down the sandwich.

No Reservations, The Shakedown on Tea
Atmosphere: Small, kinda contemporary. Very little seating.
Cost: Kind of expensive for a banh mi.
Approx. $6-7.
Try: House Adventurer. Get the whole picture in one bite.

The Final Verdict
This is not the best banh mi sandwich in the world. Let's just throw that right out there. For a fresh and fun option outside of the burgers and other forms of carbs littered throughout Columbia though, Tea is a great option to try out.

The seating is disappointing, however, enough to accommodate only a handful of people. The service was also outrageous; our party of four - essentially the only people there at the time - somehow took nearly a whole half hour to get our orders of the 'House Adventurer'. Pretty ridiculous considering that banh mi is one of the easiest sandwiches to put together in a short amount of time. The baguette was also a bit of a crime that is dying to be solved. Perhaps the biggest appointment may have been the "cash only" sign chilling out on the frontdoor. To not take credit in 2010... blasphemy!

As disappointing as all this news may be, I still have high hopes for Tea. A few simple fixes could easily make Tea into a long time fixture of the Columbia area much like Pho Viet and others have become. The cafe has all the charm and appeal of being a great lunch fixture in the capital city, it just needs a little more love to make it all come together.

Tea on Urbanspoon