Sunday, September 8, 2013

Roadtrippin' Through NC & VA - Part 2

Sandwhich - Chapel Hill, NC
This past weekend, BFTB and I headed up to Raleigh to meet up with my little brother, Alex, and his friends for the NC State vs. Richmond football game (which the Wolfpack fortunately won despite four nerve-wracking quarters). Our inner fatties came out big time and BFTB and I decided to time our trip so that we would drive through Chapel Hill at 11 AM, when our favorite lunch spot, Sandwhich, opens for business. UNC had a noon football game, so I was worried about a crowd, but we didn't have any trouble reaching the restaurant and grabbing a parking spot. We also called our orders in ahead of time, so our food was ready and waiting when we arrived.

Sandwhich's Outrageous BLT (aka- the
best sandwich I have ever eaten)

While I know a lot of people that contend that Merritt's Store & Grill makes the best BLT in the state, BFTB and I are both convinced that there is no sandwich in existence that is better than the Outrageous BLT at Sandwhich. Despite the fact that I'm pretty sure both of us could eat one everyday for the rest of our lives, we decided that we should probably branch out and at least try something else for once, so we shared a Free-Range Turkey sandwich with added apples (house-roasted turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and spicy sauce on sourdough) and threw in an Outrageous BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato with avocado, roasted jalapeño, and garlic mayo on sourdough) for good measure. 

Per usual, the Outrageous BLT was un-freaking-believably good. I don't know what voodoo Sandwhich does in their kitchen, but I'm pretty certain that, if it came to it, I would commit some heinous crimes in order to get this sandwich. The bacon is thick and salty, but the veggies are the best parts. The juicy, thick slices of tomato are accompanied by dark, leafy lettuce and the most savory roasted jalapeño I have ever consumed. Rich and smoky in flavor, the jalapeño's heat hits in waves, giving each bite a different dimension of deliciousness. The garlic mayo is also tasty and I can't imagine the sandwich without it (and this is coming from somebody who can't stand the thought of plain, out-of-the-jar mayo... it's squishy, jiggly, coagulated texture seriously haunts my dreams).

Free-Range Turkey Sandwich

The Free-Range Turkey Sandwich was also good, but had no chance in comparison to the BLT. I prefer my deli meats to be sliced on the thinner side, but BFTB liked that the turkey was thick and seemed to have been freshly carved. The meat tasted a little dry, but the tomatoes, lettuce, and apples (I highly recommend making this addition) provided some juiciness. I really enjoyed the spicy sauce (which I'm sure is also mayo-based). It packed a lot of peppery heat and gave the whole sandwich some smoky, rich flavor. If I have one complaint, Sandwhich's soft bread, despite the fact that it's grilled on the inside, doesn't do a great job of containing all the sloppy ingredients. Both BFTB (who was driving) and I ended up with a mess in our laps.

Hand-sliced chips
Although we didn't get them on this occasion, I've had Sandwich's hand-sliced chips before, and I'm a big fan. Served in a little wax paper bag, the chips are dotted with flecks of herbs and salt. They're crunchy like a kettle chip and are savory without being overly greasy. I also really like the quick pickles that accompany each sandwich. The thick slices are sweet, tangy, crunchy, and fresh all at the same time. I honestly can't think of a better sandwich that I have ever eaten than the Outrageous BLT and I really wish there was a place in Charlotte that could offer something close to comparable. All in all, Sandwhich has an innovative menu and produces some delicious sandwiches with a focus on fresh, high quality ingredients. While the Outrageous BLT alone would probably get a 10/10 (my first perfect score ever!), the Free-Range Turkey Sandwich brings the restaurant down to a 9.5/10. Regardless, the restaurant is awesome and definitely worth the drive to Chapel Hill.

Char-Grill - Raleigh, NC

After the football game (and a long day of tailgating) on Saturday, we all needed a little bit of late night revival so Alex, BFTB, and I headed to Hillsborough Street to grab some burgers at the original Char-Grill. We walked up and grabbed some menu cards to fill out and slid them through the little shoot to place our orders. Alex ordered a 1/2 lb. Hamburger Steak while BFTB and I both opted to get the smaller 1/4 lb. Hamburger Steak Jr. Each of our burgers came with a side of fries and I threw in a chocolate shake for good measure.

Filling out our order cards
1/4 lb. Hamburger Steak Jr.

1/2 lb. Hamburger Steak

Although the parking lot was packed with people, we didn't have to wait long before our food was ready. We grabbed our bags and hopped in the car. In all seriousness, one of the best things about Char-Grill is their ice. They stuff each cup with what BFTB calls "turtle ice" -the tiny ice pellets ice pellets that are perfect for chewing. Char-Grill's pieces are a bit bigger than typical turtle ice, so Alex decided they should be called "Galapagos ice." I excitedly chomped away on my turtle/Galapagos ice until we got back to the house and unloaded our haul.

French fries
I completely devoured my burger, but in all honesty, it wasn't as good as I remembered. The meat was dried out and the ingredients were messily scattered in between the oblong bun. Compared to the high quality veggies we'd been served at Sandwhich, the Char-Grill veggies seemed like something I'd find in the NC State cafeteria. I am probably judging a burger joint that stays open until 3 AM by a little too high of a standard, but I think Cook Out would have been tastier on the burger front. My fries, on the other hand, were absolutely scrumptious. Char-Grill's fries are cut a little thicker than a typical fast food fry, but each bite is crispy, perfectly salty, and tasty even without adding any ketchup (a phenomenal feat for this lycopene-lover). Out of everything, the lamest part of my meal was my milkshake. It was incredibly thick, a good thing in my book, but it tasted like a cup of straight Hershey's syrup. When I want sweets, I usually want chocolate, but the shake was too strong and not anything I'll ever feel the need to order again. In sum, we were happy with Char-Grill as our late-night, post-tailgate meal, but I doubt I'll want Char-Grill when alcohol isn't involved... unless I have a hankering for turtle ice. For a late-night joint, Char-Grill gets a 6/10.

Rise - Durham, NC

On the way home from Raleigh, I remembered that a co-worker had recently recommended that I check out Rise on my next visit to the Triangle. We drove over and weren't stoked to see that the restaurant had a line out the front door, but we decided it was worth the wait and joined the other hungry people waiting in line for biscuits and donuts. 

Rise's menu board

Rise's donut case... if only I liked donuts!

There's very few foods that I don't like in this world and unfortunately donuts fall into that category, so there wasn't anything in the sweets case that called my name, but I can imagine that a donut-lover would be in heaven. Some of the options included a Reese's Cup-flavored donut, a maple bacon bar, and all kinds of other glazed and cream-filled varieties that would make a dentist cringe. 

BFTB pouring himself some coffee (back) and the crazy water machine (front)

Although the line was long, it took less than 15 minutes to reach the register and place our order. I opted to get a biscuit topped with pimento cheese, tomato, sausage, and jalapeños while BFTB ordered a more basic biscuit, topped with bacon, jalapeños, and a fried egg. We also ordered a Yukon Gold Potato Hash Cake to share. To drink, BFTB had a locally-sourced coffee, which he described as "good" and comparable to Starbuck's quality, while I got a plain water. Now for an unreasonably lengthy analysis of Rise's water... The H2O situation at Rise is atypical, in that you have to pay for tap water. I guess the $.50 cost goes to defray the cost of their fancy Natura machine, which dispenses water in plain, chilled, and sparkling varieties. I could imagine some people having a problem with this, but I think I don't have that much of a problem paying a reasonable price for water as long as I get a bigger cup to drink it out of. Rise had medium-sized cups, which is better than the typical shot glass-sized cup I usually get at most quick-serve restaurants -just because I want water doesn't mean I'm not thirsty, world! It was probably all in my head, but I think the filtered water was especially tasty, even though I couldn't find any ice to get it to my preferred polar temperature.

Biscuit with pimento cheese, tomatoes, hand pattied sausage, and jalapeños

Bacon, fried egg, and jalapeño biscuit

Yukon Gold Potato Hash Cake

Anyway, by the time I finished inspecting the water machine and BFTB had poured himself a cup of coffee, our food was ready and we took it outside. The biscuits themselves were fluffy, buttery, and absolutely delicious. BFTB's bacon was thick, meaty, and as ungreasy as a piece of bacon could be. I'm not a fan of hard-cooked eggs, so BFTB's egg kind of grossed me out and made the sandwich seem a bit dry, but I think it would have been delicious if he'd decided to order it runny. The jalapeños were great, however. I had them on my sandwich too, and I'm convinced they were pickled, but BFTB thinks they were raw slices. Whatever form they were in, the jalapeños were a great complement to both of our sandwiches. While BFTB's sandwich was good, mine was great. The pimento cheese was creamier and sweeter than I'm used to, but it was absolutely perfect on top of the phenomenal, hand pattied sausage. The jalapeños provided great heat, especially in combination with the mildly spicy sausage, and the tomatoes kept the sandwich from tasting too dry or salty. I'll have a hard time not ordering the same biscuit whenever I next return to Rise. The hash cake was truly delightful and seemed like a better, more flavorful version of Bojangles' Bo Rounds (and that's meant to be a compliment). All in all, we both really enjoyed Rise and it was well worth the wait. Rise has a pre-order option that I will have to try out if I do any morning tailgating this football season. For breakfast sandwiches, Rise gets a very strong 9/10.

Sandwhich on Urbanspoon Char-Grill on Urbanspoon Rise on Urbanspoon

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