NikOnder

Quick Service Restaurants (A Transplant's Perspective)

19 posts in this topic

As a Tennessean who has recently decided to move my family to the Triangle area, I have been doing quite a bit of research about the area as the date of our big move inches closer and closer. Granted, I'm no stranger to the area; my dad has worked for Siemens for well over 30 years and as long as I can remember has spent at least a couple weeks a year at the Cary campus for trainings for this and that. I have alot of fond memories of visits to the area as a teenager. He moved to Apex about 6 years ago, and my family has made at least one to two visits a year since. 

 

Anyway,exposition aside, the point of this thread is to ask: "Why is there such a limited variety of quick service/fast food type places in NC?"

 

In TN, I'm used to seeing not only Krystal, but also White Castle. Yet, as far as I can tell there is not a single quick service slider burger place in the ENTIRE state. Even South Carolina has a few of both, whats the deal?? Is there a local chain that I'm just not aware of? I found this article which makes me feel like the answer may, unfortunately, be "no": http://www.nctriangledining.com/blog/2013/05/krystal-burger-brunswick-ga-sliders-first

 

Next up:

Fazoli's. This is a quick service Italian place. They have great deals for kid's all the time. Between regularly distributed coupons and kid's eat free nights, if you are a smart shopper you can feed a family of 4 for less than 15$ and it's more or less the same quality that you would get at Olive Garden. I know, I know...it's garbage compare to the "real thing", but it's definitely appreciated by this family on a budget. Locations in NC? 1....(one)...in Fayetteville. Seriously, once I move to the Triangle I am thinking about opening a franchise because whoever does first will make an absolute killing.

 

Captain D's:

I guess I've been spoiled because for most of my 33 years I assumed this was a national chain. I only recently discovered they are based out of Nashville and harder to find in other states. This is a quick service seafood chain and, granted, you guys do have them in NC, but the closest one to Raleigh is in Durham. Again, it's certainly nothing special, but it kind of mirrors Fazoli's approach as a cheap alternative to Olive Garden, in this case a cheap alternative to Red Lobster. The food is relatively close to the same quality, but frequent kids eat free deals and coupon periodicals mean that the budget conscious family can enjoy a dinner night out for a reasonable price and rest assured there is at least one thing on the menu your picky children will actually eat. I will reiterate that this place is not fancy, but it is Ruth's Chris by comparison to Long John Silver's, the only competitor I am aware of. And from what I can tell there is only one of those restaurants in the entire Triangle and Triad regions as well.

 

Pollo Tropical:

This is the quick service, franchise answer to Chicken Rico, or Peruvian chicken, which is a staple in DC/Baltimore. Of course, it sucks compared to the real thing, but it is a welcome, cheap alternative when I am not visiting my family up there. Considering Raleigh (hell, pretty much every major city in NC) has a rail line connection to these east coast cities and Nashville has no interstate passenger rail transport, it baffles me that there are at least 2 of these in Nashville and not one in the state of NC.

 

Back Yard Burgers:

There is 1 single Back Yard Burgers location in the entire state of NC and thankfully it is located in the North side of Raleigh. That may not be entirely your fault, though, as the franchise has been downsizing and we have lost alot of them in TN over the past ten years. Thankfully, you guys have "Cook-Out" which is the superior by LIGHT YEARS. While I love the blackened chicken sandwich from Back Yard Burgers and don't know any other place that offers anything like it, this leads me to my opinion on a couple local fast food places from NC that are KILLING it:

 

Cook-Out:

This is what Back Yard Burger was trying to be: a drive thru place where you can get a burger that actually tastes like what you would have at a back yard cook-out. Freaking amazing. In the last year 2 have opened up in Nashville and are exploding in popularity.

 

Bojangles:

You don't need me to explain what this is to you. There are locations popping up right and left in TN and everybody and their uncle loves it. 

 

Schlotzskys:

This was my favorite lunch/quick dinner spot since high school and for most of college. Freaking love this place. They used to be all over the place in TN but over the course of the last 10 years have been shutting down right and left, to the point that the only one in TN I am aware of existing anymore is in Cool Springs, like 30 minutes outside of Nashville. They seriously used to be everywhere. Anyway, I about crapped myself when I discovered there were not one, not two, but THREE in the Raleigh area. It may not seem like anything special to you guys, but I am thrilled to know a place I loved that has almost completely exited TN is still doing well here. 

 

So, TN is opening NC fast food restaurants all over the place, when do you guys think some of these other chains will ever make a presence in NC (if ever)? Is there any explanation why it seems like some places show up to a significant degree  in neighboring states but not NC?

Also, please fill me in on the local alternatives to anything I may not be aware of!

Edited by NikOnder

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Smithfields, Cookout, and Bojangles are the quintessential NC fast food joints.  I'll be honest, fast food italian or seafood does not sound appealing to me.

 

Char-Grill is the hot dog and burger place, the one on Hillsborough street is the original and best.  Snoopy's is pretty good too (I only get hot dogs there, but they have burgers and bbq too).

 

Hit up the Mami Noras on Wake Forest Rd for your Peruvian chicken fix.

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Smithfields, Cookout, and Bojangles are the quintessential NC fast food joints.  I'll be honest, fast food italian or seafood does not sound appealing to me.

 

I agree inasmuch as I'd rather have the "real" experience of a nicer restaurant. They are great for me, though, as family-friendly and budget concious places since we recently had our second child and my wife is not working now. In a sea of burgers and fried chicken, it's just nice to have options. 

 

Hit up the Mami Noras on Wake Forest Rd for your Peruvian chicken fix.

 

Hot Damn, I'm glad I asked. I will be checking this out when I get up there

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I second Mami Noras. Essentially all they do is chicken but oh man its good. 

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I second Mami Noras. Essentially all they do is chicken but oh man its good. 

 

I love Peruvian food and have never tried this place. I'll make sure to hit them up.

 

Being somewhat of a food snob, I've got to say that since I've lived in CA, the fast food in NC is no longer as appealing as it once was.

 

You haven't lived until you tried places like In-N-Out, Del Taco, Zachary's Pizza, and even Fat Burger. These are definitely worth trying if you're ever on the west coast.

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I love Peruvian food and have never tried this place. I'll make sure to hit them up.

 

Being somewhat of a food snob, I've got to say that since I've lived in CA, the fast food in NC is no longer as appealing as it once was.

 

You haven't lived until you tried places like In-N-Out, Del Taco, Zachary's Pizza, and even Fat Burger. These are definitely worth trying if you're ever on the west coast.

I am an uneducated food snob sort of too. It seems like traditional NC fast food and grab-n-go stuff is still very much 'traditional' North Carolina in style with some other east coast chains making an appearance. The fact that a locally grown, but very different place like Happy and Hale is killing it on the plaza I think is a testament to the pent up demand for other types of food. I had Portuguese chicken in DC last weekend and it was awesome, so would love that as a good second international chicken option here. Also, where are all the fast ramen places? An empanada counter would be a killer thing for when you can't even set your briefcase down. A Belgian waffle counter that does like 75% of its business to-go. As an aside, have downtown real estate prices reached a point where these fast options get priced out below all but huge volume levels? I don't know the answer, but despite all the nice restaurants downtown, downtown still feels like it's missing a lot to complete the puzzle. 

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I am an uneducated food snob sort of too. It seems like traditional NC fast food and grab-n-go stuff is still very much 'traditional' North Carolina in style with some other east coast chains making an appearance. The fact that a locally grown, but very different place like Happy and Hale is killing it on the plaza I think is a testament to the pent up demand for other types of food.

 

When I was growing up in rural eastern NC, the most ethnic food around at the time was pizza. I would say that Raleigh has come a long ways, but still has a long way to go in terms of cultural cuisine.

Edited by RALNATIVE

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I second Mami Noras. Essentially all they do is chicken but oh man its good. 

 

I'll third that.  Mami Noras is awesomely delicious.

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Re Peruvian, it isn't a fast service place (more of a special occasion  place) but Machu Picchu in the shopping center where Falls of Neuse and Old Wake Forest split is really good also...

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^wow, my wife and I will really enjoy checking that out. That definitely appears to be a different beast from the quick serve chicken rico joints which I often pine for. I look forward to visiting when we get moved up there.

 

I'm glad I posted this thread, I was hoping by doing so that locals could clue me in to places just like these. 

 

To take the conversation in a new direction: I have seen some posters on here lament the variety of ethnic food available in the Triangle. However, considering the large amount of immigration to the area, I find it hard to believe that there aren't at least a few good places to be found.  In fact, as a first generation Turkish-American, I will say that the best Turkish food I have had at a restaurant in the U.S. is a place in Cary called Bosphorous. Although I'm a little bummed because my dad tells me that the owner is apparently moving back to Turkey so it will probably be closing soon, if it hasn't already. 

 

My wife and I consider ourselves "foodies", or at least did before we had children. But we still enjoy variety and trying new things whenever opportunites arise and as such would love to hear your input on places to check out. Mediterranean/middle-eastern are obvious choices, but we eat alot of that stuff at home, too. There is a large population of Laotian transplants in the Nashville area, so we have been spoiled on good Thai/Laotian food and would appreciate recommendations for places to try. Also, good Japanese/sushi and Chinese places that AREN'T a buffet. Overall, Indian cuisine is probably our favorite, though. We like Ethiopian once in a while, too. If there's a place you like enough to feel compelled to post about, go for it. It's all good info for me!

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There are a ton of Indian places and I've been to like 6 or 8 of them, but only Royal India sticks out my mind….best lunch buffet by far, but its out on Crapital Blvd (Capital Blvd actually)

Abysinnia in Mission Valley is god Ethiopian though it seems to take forever to get your food.

There is an African/Nigerian place in Morrisville I like but can't remember the name. 

 

I think the general lament is most of the ethnic places aren't downtown. There is Blue Mango on the Indian front (on Glenwood), two excellent mexican places (Centro and Jose & Sons…also a standard El Rodeo if you don't mind a tasty gut wrecker $6 place), three sushi places, a fusion indian/korean place (Garland), that place next to Oxford that I won't go in because I don't any shirts shiny enough, and I think only two Italian places now which isn't really ethnic in American in 2015. Oh and for German J Betskis in Seaboard downtown as well…..sure I am missing a thing or two, but the rest of downtown in generally an offshoot of American something or other. 

Edit: Also Thaiphoon on Glenwood is excellent, Pho Pho Pho is brand new on Glenwood (generally not as awesome as my friends had hoped) and Five Star, asian fusion in the warehouse district is an oldy but still great by me. 

Edited by Jones_
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^wow, my wife and I will really enjoy checking that out. That definitely appears to be a different beast from the quick serve chicken rico joints which I often pine for. I look forward to visiting when we get moved up there.

 

I'm glad I posted this thread, I was hoping by doing so that locals could clue me in to places just like these. 

 

To take the conversation in a new direction: I have seen some posters on here lament the variety of ethnic food available in the Triangle. However, considering the large amount of immigration to the area, I find it hard to believe that there aren't at least a few good places to be found.  In fact, as a first generation Turkish-American, I will say that the best Turkish food I have had at a restaurant in the U.S. is a place in Cary called Bosphorous. Although I'm a little bummed because my dad tells me that the owner is apparently moving back to Turkey so it will probably be closing soon, if it hasn't already. 

 

My wife and I consider ourselves "foodies", or at least did before we had children. But we still enjoy variety and trying new things whenever opportunites arise and as such would love to hear your input on places to check out. Mediterranean/middle-eastern are obvious choices, but we eat alot of that stuff at home, too. There is a large population of Laotian transplants in the Nashville area, so we have been spoiled on good Thai/Laotian food and would appreciate recommendations for places to try. Also, good Japanese/sushi and Chinese places that AREN'T a buffet. Overall, Indian cuisine is probably our favorite, though. We like Ethiopian once in a while, too. If there's a place you like enough to feel compelled to post about, go for it. It's all good info for me!

 

I also consider myself a foodie and love good ethnic cuisine. Downtown there is a restaurant called Sitti (http://www.sitti-raleigh.com/), an authentic Lebanese restaurant. I hear good things about this place and it always seems to be packed. At Seaboard Station, J. Betski is good and 18 Seaboard (http://18restaurantgroup.com/) is very good.

 

I would also check out the Roast Grill (http://roastgrill.com/). They were actually showcased on Man vs. Food several years ago. It's owned by a Greek family and makes some of the best hot dogs around.

 

There's also a good Laotian restaurant called Bida Manda (http://bidamanda.com/) that you may want to check out.

Edited by RALNATIVE
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I also consider myself a foodie and love good ethnic cuisine. Downtown there is a restaurant called Sitti (http://www.sitti-raleigh.com/), an authentic Lebanese restaurant. I hear good things about this place and it always seems to be packed. At Seabord Station, J. Betski is good and 18 Seabord (http://18restaurantgroup.com/) is very good.

 

I would also check out the Roast Grill (http://roastgrill.com/). They were actually showcased on Man vs. Food several years ago. It's owned by a Greek family and makes some of the best hot dogs around.

 

There's also a good Laotian restaurant called Bida Manda (http://bidamanda.com/) that you may want to check out.

 

You may also want to try Babylon (http://www.babylonraleigh.com/) downtown which serves Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine.

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Has no one mentioned Neomonde yet????  As good, or better than Sitti for 2/3 the price!  Somewhat hidden behind the Waffle House on Hillsborough St near the beltline.

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I live across the way from Taverna Agora downtown and decided to walk over there last night to check it out, and the new space is very impressive. They've done a good job remodeling that eyesore between Second Empire and the Holiday Inn. Will look forward to patronizing them as often as possible.

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I am a huge fan of Char-Grill. If you like Cook Out you will likely enjoy this too. It's a 50s style burger joint, kind of like Sonic, but better. I'm not sure if their menu has ever changed since they started operation.

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Used to be a Fazoli in Durham; it didn't last long.

 

Neither Captain D's nor Long John Silver's has ever had much presence in the Triangle. I've always wondered why not. Those franchises are everywhere in coastal areas like Savannah and the Tidewater.    

 

The franchisor of Schlotzky's went bankrupt a number of years ago, and most of their stores closed thereafter. Same thing happened to Back Yard Burgers and Quiznos. Franchises rarely recover after the head office goes bust. 

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I've been in town this past week and used the opportunity to check out Mami Nora's last night. Big thanks to Green_man for clueing me in to the existence of this place. It was awesome. And, as a nice twofer, we went for dessert afterwards and I completely stumbled on an old treasure I haven't experienced since I was in high school.

 

In the mid to late 90's I was in town during one of my dad's frequent work trips and some of his work buddies took us to a frozen custard place which, to this day, remains the best ice cream/custard/cold treat I've ever had. In the years since, from time to time, my brother and I would occasionally talk about that awesome place we went to in NC, but we had long forgotten the name. Anyway, a random google search for ice cream places after dinner last night brought us to Goodberry's. I was totally stoked to unwittingly discover it was the very same place and still totally awesome. 

 

Anyway, sorry to wax poetic about ice cream, but man that was a nice little discovery for me.

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Nik, if you like Mediterranean, there are a number of inexpensive places around town.  Neomonde has already been noted; in addition to the Raleigh location, there is one in Morrisville, and another up at Strickland and Six Forks (but which isn't called "Neomonde" anymore, because the family split the restaurants up).  There is also an inexpensive place (2 locations actually) in N. Raleigh called Taza Grill.  Nothing extraordinary, just the basic stuff (falafel, hummus, gyros, kabobs, etc.)

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