Smith Street Diner (Greensboro NC)

When Glenn and I moved to Greensboro, we wasted no time finding our favorite greasy spoon. Smith Street Diner’s meat/starch/carb breakfast combos and bottomless cups of coffee were our Sunday morning savior after many a long Saturday night. We raved about it so much that friends would insist that we take them to “the giant biscuit place” when they visited.

Smith Street Diner is a popular breakfast joint located in downtown Greensboro on Battleground Avenue. The diner serves oversized biscuits, omelets, bowls of oatmeal, and other typical breakfast fare. Their home-cooked comfort food is well worth the wait.

Details:
Smith Street Diner
438 Battleground Avenue
Greensboro NC 27401
(336) 379-8666
Tuesday — Saturday, 6:30 a.m. — 8:00 p.m.
Monday & Sunday, 6:30 a.m. — 2:30 p.m.

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Iron Hen Cafe (Greensboro NC)

When Glenn and I moved to Greensboro, I didn’t expect to find so many locally owned, fine dining establishments with innovative menus. I also didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find an affordable, but exciting, place to grab lunch or a weeknight dinner. So I was very excited when the Iron Hen opened and I patronized them faithfully before packing my bags and heading to the Midwest.

I have ordered at least four different sandwiches from the lunch menu and I’m pleased to report that my favorite, the Prime Rib Sandwich, made the cut and remains on the summer menu. Try it with Sweet Potato Chips or Sauteed Okra or Red Cabbage, Walnut, and Horseradish Slaw. Just try it.

Iron Hen Cafe is a new restaurant located near Latham Park in Greensboro. They offer fresh, local fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The lunch menu includes salads and sandwiches ($7-9) and the dinner menu has meat and vegetarian entrees ($7-20). The informal cafe is popular and seating is limited, so be prepared to wait for a table.

Details:
Iron Hen Cafe
908 Cridland Road
Greensboro NC 27408
(336) 617-7105
Monday — Friday, 7:00 a.m. — 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, 8:00 a.m. — 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, 8:00 a.m. — 4:00 p.m.

Other Reviews:
News & Record
Yes Weekly

Basil’s & Co. (Greensboro NC)

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Glenn and I traveled to four different states to visit family and friends for the holidays. Of course, we had to return to Greensboro between each trip so that my boss wouldn’t forget who I was. Just as we were finally settling into the second week of 2010, Glenn had the opportunity to go back to Virginia to hike with his brother and dad. But before he took off, we had a lovely dinner at Greensboro’s newest restaurant, Basil’s & Co.

As the name suggests, Basil’s & Co. is owned by the same couple as Sweet Basil’s. After enjoying the success of their first restaurant, they decided to open a second location that would have a kitchen large enough to accommodate their catering business and a setting that would be casual and affordable enough to appeal to a savvy diner.

They may have reduced the price of the food at Basil’s & Co., but they haven’t reduced the quality. Basil’s & Co. serves the same contemporary southern cuisine as her sister restaurant, but the entrees come in small and large plates so you can eat more affordably ($10-15 and $15-28, respectively). The small plates are plenty for one person, but you won’t be taking anything home.

To start, we ordered the flatbread with smoked salmon and cream cheese. That was large enough and delicious enough to be an entire meal, but don’t worry, we didn’t stop there. For dinner, I had quail (for the first time!) over blue cheese polenta. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender without being fatty and the polenta was perfectly creamy and rich without overpowering the quail. Glenn had the mussels with fennel and sausage. The mussels were fresh and steamed to perfection, but the real show stopper was the olivey, winey, fennely, sausagey sauce poured over the top. Even the waiter knew that was the main attraction — when he came to clear our plates he asked if we would like some bread to soak up the sauce. Yes. Yes we would.

For a spontaneous, casual dinner, we wound up with quite a romantic evening. We had to sit at the bar because we didn’t have a reservation, but that worked out okay because it was half-priced martini night (I had the signature martini with basil, grapefruit juice, and citron) and live music night (a guy at the corner of the bar playing Grateful Dead and John Prine covers). We spent three hours sipping and nibbling away at our casual dinner.

Basil’s & Co. is a new restaurant located on Westover Terrace in Greensboro. They offer contemporary southern fare in a casual setting for lunch, dinner, and late night dining. Entrees come in small and large plates ($10-15 and $15-28, respectively). Wednesday is half priced wine night and Thursday is half priced martini night (regularly around $10). Reservations are recommended.

Details:
1310 Westover Terrace
Greensboro NC 27408
(336) 285-9023
Tuesday — Friday, 11:30 a.m. — 12:00 midnight
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. — 12:00 midnight

Other Reviews:
News & Record

Bianca’s (Greensboro NC)

There is a distinct possibility that I don’t actually like Italian restaurants. I’ve been to a lot of places in Greensboro that people think are fantastic — including Riva’s Trattoria — that I think are mediocre. Maybe I just don’t want to pay for pasta served with simple sauces. But when I think about Cascone’s in Kansas City and Via Carducci in Chicago, I know that can’t be true. I loved the authenticity of the food at those places — I could recognize my croutons as yesterday’s dinner rolls. That, combined with attentive service, really made me feel like I was sitting in an Italian grandmother’s kitchen.

I had high hopes for Bianca’s — it was voted Best Kept Secret, Best for First Dates, and Best Italian in the Go Triad Readers Choice Awards and it came highly recommended by foodie friends. I see the appeal, but it did not live up to the hype.

Here’s what people like about Bianca’s: it’s conveniently located near UNCG, the small dining room makes it seem intimate, the cafeteria chairs keep it from being too fancy, and you get a lot of food for a little bit of money. Every entree includes an appetizer, salad, garlic bread, a side of pasta, and dessert. That would be great, if the food were great. Some might call it comfort food — garlic bread that’s been buttered and pan fried, meat that’s been buried in a heap of red sauce and mozzarella, a heaping bowl of linguine that’s stirred into the same red sauce as everything else. I call it amateur. The mediocre food and the sub-par service make it hard for me to believe that any Italian person has ever set foot in that restaurant, much less in the kitchen.

Bianca’s Italian Eatery is located near UNCG in Greensboro on Spring Garden and Chapman. The small restaurant has limited seating and reservations are recommended, if not required. Entrees range from $10 to $16 and come with an appetizer, salad, bread, and dessert. For a more positive review of Bianca’s, read Possum Casserole.

Saffron (Greensboro NC)

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When we moved to Greensboro, Glenn and I weren’t just on a quest for tacos. We were also looking for falafel, curry, pad kee mao, sushi, bi bim bap, and all sorts of other things to satisfy our cravings. In this case, our search for one led to another. While Taste of Thai was kind of a bust, it did lead us to its neighbor Saffron.

When Glenn and I had dinner at Saffron for the first time, we expected the same cheesy atmosphere as its strip mall neighbor. We were pleasantly surprised to find art deco style tiles, rich and vibrant orange walls, white tablecloths, and candlelight. The service and the food were as upscale as the appearance — and so was the bill.

That’s why I decided to try the lunch buffet during the work week. I invited a foodie friend who, I found out later, doesn’t actually like buffets. Lucky for her (and for all of us), the meat was as tender and the vegetables as crisp as what Glenn and I ordered from the menu for dinner. Saffron may not offer as many dishes as other buffets, but none of their dishes are scummy, wilted, or dry. The buffet usually includes pokora, naan, basmati rice, tandori chicken, about two vegetarian entrees, and about two meat entrees.

Saffron Indian Cuisine is located in Greensboro on Mill Street between Westover Terrace and Battleground Avenue. The atmosphere is casual during the day and romantic at night. They offer a full dinner menu (entrees from $13 to $17) and a lunch buffet ($9).

Taco Tuesday (Greensboro NC)

DSC02795When Glenn and I moved from Chicago to Greensboro, we embarked on a quest to find the best tacos in town. That quest came to an abrupt halt after we tried El Carreton and Mexico — and not because we found what we were looking for. After eating at two restaurants where almost everything on the menu was deep fried, we didn’t hold out a lot of hope for finding a real taco. We were skeptical when our friends started recommending Taco Tuesday at Taqueria El Azteca.

It took us about six months to drag ourselves all the way out Market Street to Spring Garden, but it was well worth the trip. We were relieved to see that these tacos were neither deep fried nor covered in cheddar cheese. They were your choice of carne asada, chicken, chorizo, or pastor served with onion, cilantro, avacado, and radish on a homemade tortilla. These tacos were not just not bad, they were downright good. Not to mention, they were only a dollar!

We were heartbroken when Taqueria El Azteca closed their Spring Garden location. We tried the Quaker Village location, but it was even further away and more crowded. Eventually we found San Luis and Kiosco, so we weren’t so desperate for our old Taco Tuesday.

Recently, El Camino Real opened in the old Spring Garden El Azteca location. The restaurant looks exactly the same — including the banner announcing dollar tacos on Tuesdays — but somehow it didn’t feel the same. Maybe it was because we didn’t have to hover awkwardly in the doorway for twenty minutes before getting a seat. Maybe it was because we didn’t know the staff. Maybe the food wasn’t as fresh without so many people to eat it. Maybe we just weren’t so desperate for a good taco.

Don Ishiyaki and Ramen (Greensboro NC)

To most people, Don is probably “the place where Sushi Republic used to be” or “the place next door to Coffeeology.” Walking by, you wouldn’t expect Don to be much better than its neighbors: two convenience stores, two mediocre ethnic restaurants, and two chain sandwich shops. On the contrary, Don surpasses its neighbors in quality, atmosphere, and service.

Glenn and I moved Don to the top of our restaurant list when we found out that they served ishiyaki (or, more accurately, when we found out what ishiyaki was). Japanese ishiyaki is very similar to Korean dolsot bibimbap. Both employ a technique of cooking raw food (an egg or meat) at the table in a hot stone bowl (along with rice and vegetables). Glenn ordered the bowl with bulgogi (marinated beef) and I ordered it with spicy tuna (it was so spicy!). The waitress brought us a variety of sauces, but Glenn thought the teriyaki went best with bulgogi and I thought the sesame went best with the spicy tuna.

Did I mention we ordered an appetizer? I used to take gyozo (pork dumplings, pot stickers, whatever) for granted, but now I’ve had enough slimy or deep fried versions to know better. These were delicate and delicious.

I always complain that all the nice, sit-down Greensboro restaurants are overpriced. Don was a great date spot — small, romantically lit, excellent service — and, even though we ordered an appetizer, two entrees, and drinks, our bill was under $40. When I make my list of affordable date spots in Greensboro, Don will be at the top.

Don Ishiyaki and Ramen is located on Tate Street near UNCG. It’s a small Japanese restaurant that offers rice bowls and noodle dishes (entrees are under $10). This would be a great restaurant for dates, but not for large groups.

Details:
423 Tate St.
Greensboro NC 27403
(336) 370-9677

Other Reviews:
Eating Up Greensboro
Eat Our Blog