City Kitchen, an "American brasserie" in Chapel Hill, is a restaurant that draws influence from around the world while still remaining cozy and relaxed. WRAL Out & About went on a tour of the restaurant, which was an extremely delicious and informational visit of one of the city's best spots to eat or to just hang out for a few drinks.
The Location: Just northeast of UNC off 15-501. Tucked into a shopping center with Southern Season and Weathervane, City Kitchen is surrounded by other culinary destinations. Although the restaurant front looks out onto the parking lot, it felt cozy with an abundance of greenery placed just outside the door.
Inside City Kitchen, guests are greeted with high ceilings, warm lighting and a welcoming setup. Comfortable stools line the bar, and eclectic wall decorations, including modern art and quotations about food, encourage guests to have a look around.
The Event: City Kitchen invited WRAL Out & About to an exclusive event with the owner, Giorgios Bakatsias, which included sampling the food, touring the restaurant and discussing Bakatsias' inspiration for City Kitchen. The restaurant, which was decorated by local artists and draws inspiration from different parts of the world, is meant to be open to interpretation.
Bakatsias said he wanted guests to be able to "select their own experience," which is why the menu features a wide variety of food, from sushi to flatbreads, and why different areas of the restaurant have different moods. For example, you could eat the Lemon Linguine outside in the garden area one night, and on another visit, enjoy the CK Burger inside on the second floor balcony.
Bakatsias wanted a restaurant with lots of energy, with a distinct buzz about it, while at the same time allowing people to linger at the table and spend time with friends; City Kitchen fits that description perfectly.
Bakatsias came to the Triangle area in 1979 and opened his first restaurant at the age of 20. He said the key to making good food into great food are fresh ingredients. City Kitchen grows many of its own vegetables and herbs.
The Food: Caitlin City Kitchen: An inside look
Drink: I tried the Carolina Iced Tea, made with Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine, mint leaves, mint syrup, fresh lemon juice and a splash of Coke. I could definitely taste the alcohol, but the mint and lemon toned it down.
Appetizer: My favorite appetizer by far was the simple yet delicious bread and hummus.The bread is made fresh at the restaurant, and the hummus had a very light consistency, almost like it was whipped.
Entree: The perfect sweet-salty combination present in the CK Burger was perfectly balanced. Served with glazed tomato jam, bacon-onion marmalade and sharp cheddar, it certainly sounds like an odd burger, but it worked.
Dessert: Being a notorious sweet tooth, it was extremely difficult for me to pick just one dessert, but I finally decided on the Warm Milk Chocolate Cake, which was served with vanilla ice cream and berries. The cake wasn't too rich, so I could've eaten the whole thing if I didn't have to share. A classic dessert and combination, but delicious nonetheless.
The Food: Tara
Drink: The Peach Mango Mojito was delightful. The peach and mint added an exceptonally fresh and sweet combination. I had one more creative cocktail, the Bee's Knees, which was a splash of lemon juice, honey and bourbon. It was also a surprisingly refreshing summer cocktail.
Appetizer: I'm not usually an oyster person but I'm so glad I tried them. There was an amazing light flavor added to the freshness of the Blue Point oysters that made them one of my favorite tastes of the night. The salad was incredible and I could definitely taste the freshness of the garden grown vegetables.
Entree: The salmon encrusted with basil and herbs was perfectly seasoned and the herb topping held in the moisture so well that the salmon fell apart with the slightest touch of my fork. The other entree that stood out to me was the seafood risotto. Jumbo bay scallops, crab and shrimp were all sitting in this lovely cream sauce that infiltrated the perfectly cooked al dente risotto.
Dessert: The vanilla bean cheesecake and the key lime pie really knocked my socks off. The cheesecake was so light and delicious that there would not have been a single feeling of guilt after finishing a slice. The key lime pie was also very good and I'm assuming this is because of the fresh ingredients.
The Service: The waitstaff was attentive and polite, and the bartenders checked back regularly to see if we needed anything else. Everyone was very friendly.
The Price: City Kitchen has menus for dinner, lunch and brunch, so there are dishes to fit every budget. On the dinner menu appetizers are $15 and under, entrees are $26 and under, and desserts are $6.
The Verdict: The food was delicious and the ambiance was relaxing and inviting. You could tell that Bakatsias really cares about City Kitchen and is passionate about the food it produces. (Inside tip: Bakatsias recommends ordering fish at City Kitchen. Try the Braised Salmon or River Trout.) We will definitely be returning to try more of the menu!