Gregoria’s Kitchen
2818 Chapel Hill Road
Rockwood/Lakewood, Durham
$11—$21
Dinner only

Gregoria’s Kitchen is a Cuban restaurant in a historic home/restaurant just south of where Chapel Hill Road crosses 15-501. There is not much parking in back so park at the Yates Baptist Church across the street or use their complimentary valet. First and foremost, Gregoria’s has a wonderful atmosphere.

The manager greeted us warmly, and an electronic harp player provided lively background music. Loads of happy patrons relaxed in welcoming red- and gold-toned rooms on the restaurant’s bottom floor. Without a reservation on a busy Friday night, we were seated upstairs at the hallway tables, which are less attractive.

The manager, however, shared that the rest of the rooms in the top floor were undergoing renovation and would be open for dining in about a week or two if all goes well. So likely, it’ll all have the same cozy feel of the downstairs soon.

For soda drinkers, they serve imported cokes in 8 oz. bottles. I tried the house cocktail called the Hemingway ($8), made with grapefruit juice, light rum, and dark rum infused with the house grenadine.

I’m not sure what infusing the dark rum contributes to the drink, but it was a nice blend of flavors, almost too sweet with the grenadine but the rum still came through.

Bread and butter were delicious.

The baguette was soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside, and the butter was blended with roasted red peppers and cilantro. It tasted smoky and spicy, too, like smoked chili pepper was involved, but I can’t vouch for that. Regardless, it’s a tangy, addicting spread.

We started with an appetizer of platano maduro rellano ($6.50), which was the star of the meal.

The mashed sweet plantains are reformed around a ground beef filling then topped with crema and chicharrones crumbles. The sweetness of the plantains combines wonderfully with the beef’s savoriness, and the dish had just the right amount of kick. I would have liked more of the chicharrones so I could actually taste them, but I was quite happy regardless.

Next, we split a vaca frita plate ($14.95).

Per the website, it’s braised flank steak sautéed with caramelized onions and chimichurri sauce. That extra ramekin of chimichurri sauce was unneeded — the flavors of lime, onion, and garlic were pronounced already. The meat was tender, and the caramelized onion bits delicious, but it was a tad too strong on the lime for me. I don’t say that often! The rice was perfect for soaking up those lively flavors. There were three small tostones disks beneath the pile of vaca frita as well and black beans on the side.

Dessert was the only disappointing part of the meal.

That’s a slice of their tres leches cake ($6.50), and it was teeny. The texture was just right, on the edge of breaking down completely from the soaking of cake in milk, and the layer of vanilla custard at the bottom provided a great contrast for the cake. But it was too small to be satisfying. At twice the size, I’d have loved it.

Gregoria’s Kitchen is somewhere between a date night location and an enjoyable evening out with friends. Prices were perhaps too high, but I would certainly be willing to pay them again to explore more of their menu. I would love to hear if anyone’s had their croquettes or paella.


Gregoria's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Reviewed 16 Nov 12.

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