Our Five Faves

Brian Shrader's fave romantic restaurants

Posted February 8, 2012 6:30 a.m. EST
Updated February 8, 2012 9:36 a.m. EST

Brian Shrader

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, we decided to ask some of the folks in the newsroom their picks for romantic or date places. Here are Traffic reporter Brian Shrader's picks: 

They asked me to write a list of my five favorite romantic restaurants to spotlight for Valentine’s Day.

My advice: Forget Valentine’s Day! If you really love ‘em, then every day is Valentine’s Day! Right? Well, that attitude doesn’t sell as many greeting cards or boxes of chocolate, so I don’t think it’s going very far. So, shun Valentine’s Day and celebrate the real holiday on February 14 -- my birthday! As you make plans about where you’re going to take me for my birthday dinner, let me make some subtle suggestions:

Battistellas (Raleigh) - This City Market restaurant specializes in New Orleans cuisine. Many of the ingredients are locally (or at least regionally) sourced. The atmosphere and service are great. The Warm Pimento Cheese appetizer is delicious. Battistella’s also has a great shrimp and grits dish.

Red Dragon (Raleigh) - Elizabeth Gardner got me hooked on Red Dragon. It’s a fairly small restaurant at the corner of Fairview and Oberlin. The food is delicious, plentiful and reasonably priced. I love the teriyaki sticks appetizer (excellent presentation with the Sterno pot!). You’ll recognize all of your favorite Chinese dishes here, but many are prepared with a twist. I love their unique sesame chicken entrée and it’s zingy sauce. I do wish they would get larger glasses. The staff is efficient, but they work too hard to keep those small glasses filled.

Neomonde (Morrisville, Raleigh) - You have to work to find this place (at the east end of Beryl Road), but it’s worth it! I’ve been enjoying their wonderful Lebanese and Mediterranean food for years. You will not find better hummus or baba ghannouj. Swing by there for lunch and grab a half-sandwich. It’s huge and cheap! I also think Neomonde has the finest chicken salad in town (if you like the kind with raisins).

Udupi (Cary) - This is another one that Elizabeth Gardner told me about (why isn’t she writing this?)! It’s delicious southern Indian food. It’s a great option for vegetarians. I always get the chana masala. It’s perfectly seasoned. I also recommend the dosais -- huge rice crepes full of delicious vegetables. The dishes are generous and reasonably priced.

And my favorite: Parker's BBQ (Wilson) - If you’re new to the Triangle, welcome! Now, get out of town and explore our beautiful state! Head about an hour east to Wilson and eat at Parker’s BBQ. This is the real deal. Eastern North Carolina BBQ is REAL BBQ. The other stuff can be good, but good eastern North Carolina BBQ is on a different plane. Parker’s has the full complement: Delicious chopped pork, sprinkled with a little vinegar, perfect sweetened mustard-based cole slaw, outstanding hush puppies (try the corn sticks!) and the best Brunswick stew you’ll find. But it’s more than a memorable meal (bring the whole crowd and go all-you-can-eat family style!). The atmosphere is unbeatable. With its wood-paneled walls, utilitarian furniture, paper-hatted servers and friendly crowd, this is a little safe-house where the old North Carolina is alive and well.

These all are fine places for romantic Valentine’s Day dinners. Nothing says love like pork shoulder and banana pudding. If your date isn’t happy with this list, then it’s time to dump them and move on. You don’t want to be shackled to someone with such poor taste.

So, happy birthday to me! You pick where we’re going. Pick me up at 6. I go to bed early.