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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Greenville (NC) Eats: Christy's Euro Pub

So, everyone needs a local hangout, and I guess Christy's Euro Pub has become mine. In a town full of bars, this may be the best, both bang for your buck and, well, in general for anyone in the Greenville area. It's definitely more for the older crowd looking for actual food, drinks and a reserved group compared to the insanity that breaks out each evening in the downtown area. If you are looking for a place to get wasted and score, you probably already know where to go and can stop reading now, but for anyone looking to have some good food, relax with friends, and a cold beer, this is exactly where you want to be.

Food-wise, there's really two things you want to know. The first is this:

Four dollar specials, a student's best friend seven days a week. A few of these look standard-y, but all are most-definitely full-bodied, filling meals that you'll likely be satisfied with any day of the week. My favorite is the Sunday special, the spicy turkey reuben on marble rye with thousand island dressing and a mild kraut. I'd easily pay a little more for it any day. The gyro is my least favorite. I don't know if it's the lamb or what, but I just feel it's missing a little something. Locals still seem to enjoy it though, so maybe it's just me. They also have their garbage spaghetti, piled with an assortment of stuff as the name implies as an everyday special. A good deal for those days where the wallet is a bit on the light side.

And the second thing. Christy's main menu is pretty well stacked with everyone's favorites, most of which are pretty satisfying, but the one thing that I've come to enjoy is their rotating special's menu. Best when St. Patrick's day rolls around, but also good during their various international kicks, Christy's features a pretty eclectic lists of specials on occasion that sometimes can amaze. On the surface, it's not the kind of place you'd think you'd find Moroccan sandwiches and salads or random Mediterranean fare, but they can definitely surprise with some interesting choices throughout the year, making the pub a worthwhile place to frequent. Even if you don't order from the special's menu for an entree, consider some of the special's for a side if you'd like a change of pace from the usual order of fries (which are homemade, not the greatest, but on some days unusually satisfying). Those who just want to stick to the comfort picks though should find what they need to cut their cravings here. The thick, juicy burgers in particular tend to hit home, the oozing cardiac burger (bacon, fried egg burger) and the smokehouse (bacon, onion ring, barbecue sauce) being two of my favorites, especially after a rough day out.

No Reservations, the Shakedown on Christy's
Atmosphere: The most local bar in town, a good hangout.
Costs: $4-8,9. Can't be beat. Half price appetizers in
the evenings on most days I believe. Drink specials for days.
Try: Smokehouse burger and the spicy turkey
Never fear: Vegetarian options are limited, but
there if you are willing to be flexible.

Though I have some small complaints (flies can be a bother on those hot, sticky days in the patio, fries can be better some days, etc.), Euro Pub is still the place to go bar-wise and where I tend to merrily be for a good chunk of the year. They treat their customers well and punch out some good, occasionally great food out of the kitchen on a daily basis, and is one of a very, very small handful of places in town that I consider to be an ideal place to chill and hangout after a hard day in the classroom. Sometimes atmosphere goes a long way when it comes to a restaurant. Fortunately enough, Christy's got atmosphere and good eats to go with it.

Christy's Euro Pub on Urbanspoon

On the Prowl: The Umbrella Market in Greenville, NC

The Umbrella Market is about as convenient as farmer's markets get for Greenville time and location wise. Not only can you find some good local produce for the right price, but you can also shop around for some interesting antiques and bake goods while downing a refreshing fresh squeezed lemonade, some iced jasmine tea down the street, or a cold beer from the Duck-Rabbit Brewery.

Location: Downtown Greenville, NC
Hours: 5-8 PM every Wednesday through September

Produce Round-Up
The selection at the Umbrella Market is actually pretty decent for what it's worth. If you are shopping for some kitchen essentials for your weekly cooking, you should still be able to pick up some what you need for a good cost. Here's the round-up:

Tomatoes - Daily
Peppers - Daily
Yellow/Green Zucchini - Daily
Sweet Potatoes - Occasional
Grape Tomatoes - Daily
Corn - Occasional/Daily
Blueberries - Daily
Blackberries - Occasional
Grapes - Occasional
Green/Yellow Bell Peppers - Daily
Melons (watermelon and cantaloupe mostly) - Occasional/Daily
Basil - Rare
Local Jam(s) - Daily
Eggplant - Daily
Onions - Occasional/Daily

Along with the produce, there is also a seafood vendor that regularly comes in with fish and shellfish at around $7-9 a pound. The Nooherooka Natural truck also makes regular appearances with grass-fed (looks like ground mostly) beef for sale. Produce wise, you'll usually find some good deals here and there. One of the best I got was a couple of humongous bell peppers - green and yellow - for a dollar. A little better then the $3-4 I might be forced to pay at the store! Most vendors are willing to bargain if you are into that, but most of their deals are generally sound as is.

The Umbrella Market is pretty ideal for students stuck in the vicinity for Summer or early Fall classes, along with the professors and locals in the area that are generally too busy to hit up other markets in and out of town at those extra early hours. If you are in it for the produce, you definitely want to try to hit the 5-6 PM time before what you likely want is gone. Aside from produce shopping, there's a lot of fun little shopping to do along with a few tables for kids as well if you've got them. This past week featured an art table for kids to get creative. You can also usually find some food to chow on as well, with Sup Dogs doing their usual thing and a few bakers providing extra eats on the side. On occasions, there are also some special vendors that provide a unique item or two. A couple weeks back a pasta vendor made her way through town featuring artisan pasta from afar. Kinda neat.

Down the street you'll also find Sojourner and Tipsy Teapot getting into the act with a few stands of their own. Sojourner generally features a small sale out front which includes a variety of tea if you are looking for something a little more exotic. Tipsy for now only seems to have a small, though somewhat exotic clothing vendor, but it at least is certainly a nice place to stop and get out of the heat momentarily. Definitely hope to see more vendors in there in the future to add to the Umbrella Market scene, because there's plenty of space to fill. Overall though, the Umbrella Market is a nice, convenient time to pick up some much needed produce and have a little fun in the sun.

You can find out all the details about the market at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Winston-Salem Eats: Mooney's Mediterranean Cafe

A random road trip brought me to the city of Winston-Salem this past week, presenting a fairly large host of options to choose from in the downtown area. While there were some great choices in town I would have surely loved to take on, being the falafel lover I am Mooney's Mediterranean Cafe was the easy choice for my travel companion and I after some urbanspoon debating the night before.

Getting straight to the food, we ordered Mooney's falafel sandwich with a side of steak fries and a shawarma with a side of fettoush, Mooney's house salad. The falafel sandwich takes a bit of a spin from the traditional version you're likely to see, opting for a heavy herb accent from the parsley and cilantro. The texture was crispy and slightly crumbly, a little different the norm as far as falafels go. While it doesn't pack the punch of some falafel's I've had, the herb-y falafel still managed to satisfy. The pita was just the way I like it, a little warm, soft, and slightly chewy - a great companion for any sandwich avail. The hummus was lighter then some I've had - which I like - and tangy, a good fit in the falafel sandwich, giving the dish brightness with the hint of lemon and providing a nice base for the falafels. A cilantro/parsley sauce also gave the dish a extra pop that I rather enjoyed. The fries were fantastic with the falafel, likely twice-fried and lightly seasoned to perfection. There are few things more comforting then a well-cooked fry. Alongside the falafel sandwich the steak fries made for a lovely and filling pairing for well under $10.

The shawarma came in a bright, lemony sauce which complemented well with the nicely marinated shawrma (beef). Again, the pita shines, providing a nice vessel for the star of the sandwich. The only complaint one may have is that it gets a little messy with all the juices in this pita. Definitely devour this efficiently before your sandwich falls apart. The fettoush was a bit of a disappointment. It is another dish hit with a lemony, herb dressing, but for the most part it reads as a pretty average side as far as it goes. I would just call it a house salad if anything. If that is all you're looking for though, then you'll likely enjoy it with their zingy dressing. The fries, however, are definitely the way to go with any pita sandwich here in my opinion if you don't mind the calories.

No Reservations, the word on Mooney's
Atmosphere: Casual cafe, very friendly
and helpful service.
Costs: Great lunch options from as low as $5 to $10.
Recommendation: Anything in their pita looks satisfying. Stir away
from the giant cookies on the side though. Unpleasant.

Easily findable off the freeway and filled with plenty of parking in the vicinity, Mooney's is definitely an attractive option for anyone passing by town for lunch. Locals were flooding into the restaurant well after the usual lunch hour, which is always a good sign for any dining establishment. Those a bit hesitant about trying something new will even find some interesting burger choices, so there's really no excuse not to give the place a look if you are in the area. If that's not enough to convince you, the baklava ice cream might do the trick. ;)

Mooney's Mediterranean Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 4, 2011

Columbia Eats: Brunch at 116 Espresso and Wine Bar

State St. is quickly becoming my favorite spot to be in Columbia, South Carolina. With Cafe Strudel, Terra, and Tea on the side for a little ethnic flare, it's become an area that I'm happy to indulge in as long as my wallet allows. For some odd reason, however, I've some how passed up the 116 each and every time I've ventured into the area. What a mistake. This low key Wine and Espresso restaurant may be one of Cola's best bites, and one of the most affordable at that.

I visited the 116 for brunch this past Sunday. Unfortunately work kept me from trying out their mimosas and other morning pick-me ups. A tragedy. Fortunately, the surprisingly well-priced menu of brunch items was there to give me the much needed adrenaline boost. Usual fair like steak and eggs, shrimp and grits, stuffed french toast, and omelets were on the menu - all equally fantastic in their own right - but it didn't take me long to pick out the odd, but exciting man out on this menu, a stack of sweet potato pancakes - a steal for $6.

"Light, but heavy" may be the worse possible way to describe these cakes, but they absolutely were in the best way possible. Soft to touch, creamy, melt in your mouth to bite, and surprisingly filling considering its size, it's an order that won't make you regret not having a little meat on the side. It had just the right amount of crispness on the exterior and the fluffiness in the interior that you love about a great pancake. A generous slab of butter and maple syrup only made things better while a side of fruit kept the palate clean for the next bite. Easily one of the best brunch items I've had in awhile.

My partner-in-crime for the day decided to stick to the Southern classic and grabbed an order of shrimp and grits. The shrimp were grilled and well seasoned, but peeled, leaving me wishing there was a little more to gnaw on. The grits were cheesy with a hint of tabasco. Not creamy like you'd expect from low country grits, but rather baked, providing a bit of a cakey cheese grit, almost like a biscuit. This may sound like a bad thing, but I promise it is not. Though satisfying in its own right, if you are a fan of ultra creamy low country grits, this may not be the thing for you.

No Reservations, the lowdown on 116
Atmosphere: Relaxed, casual. Less charming then it's neighbor Cafe Strudel,
but still pleasant for meeting friends.
Cost: Great brunch prices, between $5-10.
Try: Sweet potato pancakes for sure. Stuffed french toast
also looks great, and really how often does this go wrong? (Don't answer that!)

Don't be weary about the "Wine Bar" aspect of the restaurant's namesake. This is first and foremost definitely a restaurant pushing out great food. Definitely recommended for brunch, especially to students looking for a quality, light-on-the-wallet weekend outing. It's a nice, busy place that brings in locals of all ages, and is surely a fair, atmospheric place for a romantic dinner. I'll definitely be interested in coming back for dinner one day and checking out their tapas menu.

Oh yeah, they have a tapas menu. Oh yes, they have a tapas menu.

116 Espresso and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon