Caffe Greco, just around the corner from Chinatown, is a North Beach institution operating since 1988. It’s a classic Italian coffee shop, offering both the warm service and the quality, simplistic espresso drinks I expect from such spots. Brass rails, cherry wood chairs, and fake marble tables appeal to me in a way that only Italian cafes in US metropolitan areas can. The wall decorations could be more imaginative than vintage Italian food advertisements, but I suppose that’s part of what makes it classic.
Order at the counter, and make sure you have cash. If it’s a nice day, make use of their sidewalk patio while you enjoy your food and/or drink. All Caffe Greco’s espresso is made with Illy Caffe coffee. I opted for a house specialty, the café freddo Sambuca. I must give props to one of Caffe Greco’s long-term employees for making sure I knew what the drink was before he made it as Sambuca can be overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re getting into.
It’s an iced espresso with Sambuca and a dose of foamed milk. The glass might seem small, but the licorice brio of the Sambuca encourages lingering over equally small sips. For an iced coffee, the foam impressed–it can be a challenge to do well in chilled drinks.
The barista followed us outside to chat with my friend and reminisce about the days they used to provide Italian newspapers to their customers before the store that sold them closed. While they talked, my friend sipped her café greco, a cappuccino made closer to the American style with plenty of milk.
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East Coast Chinese Food Express
202 NC Hwy 54
Inside the Kroger, South Durham
11 am to 3 pm, 4 pm to 10 pm
$7 — $12
I’ve heard many good things about East Coast Chinese Food Express. They’ve been located inside the Kroger by the Highway 54 and Fayetteville intersection for quite some time. It’s a small café, mainly for to-go orders, but there are a few tables if you want to sit and eat in the grocery store. Everyone else ordering was a regular and on friendly terms with the owner at the register. Food is cooked to order, so it’ll take 10 to 20 minutes depending on how crowded it is. There are menus everywhere, so figuring out your options can seem a tad overwhelming. Make sure you take a look at them in addition to the printed English menu.
Slushies and bubble teas are available. Additionally, there is a Chinese menu with traditional Chinese dishes versus Americanized ones, and that’s what our readers have highly recommended—ask the woman at the register for it. I don’t speak or read Chinese, however, so I stuck with the regular menu full of Hunan, Szechuan, Cantonese, and Japanese preparations. And I can tell you that it blew my other options in South Durham out of the water.
The boneless spare ribs are definitely the best I’ve had. It’s a generous portion, and the pork is cut in thick slices. The sauce’s flavor is fantastic, and there’s plenty of it, so spoon that goodness over extra rice.
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Starrlight Meadery Traditional Off-Dry
Mr. Gourmez’s first, and only, thought on this honey wine from Starrlight Meadery in Pittsboro, was “popsicles.” I would disagree. It smelled like green apples and tasted, unsurprisingly, of honey and flowers. This is a dry mead, so it wasn’t nearly as sweet as I’d expect from a regular mead, but that honey smoothness shone through without being cloying. The green apple was definitely the prominent note with vanilla and butterscotch in supporting roles.
Even with too much green apple in my wine of late, I found this a simple and refreshing change from grape wines. Will drink again, and merrily.
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