Saturday, September 10, 2011

Impromptu Date Night

Only two short years ago, Franklin Street meant going out at 11pm, bar hopping from Top-O to La Rez to Goodfellows to East End to late night food.

Lots of great memories and lots of late nights!

Fast forward two years, and I've learned that Franklin Street is divided into two - the West end and the East end.

Before, it was all one big blur, but after last night, I'm beginning to see it much more clearly.

You see, the East part of Franklin street is "home" to bar after bar after bar...late night spot after late night spot. The typical crowd of people on the East side consists of undergrads, graduate students and people who just love to party. Oh trust me, I was one of them. But last night, I wasn't, I was a part of the West end.

What is the West end? It's a variety of well-reviewed restaurants that offer unique regional cuisines, but include fresh local ingredients. I really love the emphasis that each venue places on incorporating the finest local ingredients into their dishes. I am especially mesmerized by each restaurant's unique ambiance. From Turkish cuisine to regional American cuisine, the West end of Franklin Street has endless options to offer and explore.

I honestly don't know how I'll ever be able to leave this area. I love how much culture and variety the Triangle has to offer. It's an endless game of scavenger hunting for me!

I'm particularly looking forward to trying The Lantern. I've heard numerous positive reviews about this restaurant. It's one of America's Top 50 Restaurants by Gourmet, but I must admit I'm even more enchanted by the prestige of the chef, Andrea Reusing. She's well-renowned in the area, and even internationally since she was named one of "15 Green Chefs" on Grist's international list.

I'm thinking this would be a great Two Year Anniversary spot :)

Other great restaurants on West Franklin are:
Talullas - Turkish cuisine
Elaine's on Franklin - regional American cuisine
411 West - Italian cuisine
J. Betski's - Central and Eastern Europe cuisine
Lime & Basil - Vietnamese cuisine (more casual)

Just reading that makes reminds me of Christmas (weird I know). I want to try them all!

But the real reason for this post was to talk about my impromptu date night on the West side of Franklin Street last night!

I was exhausted after working all day and really just wanted to go to bed at 6pm. As Justin and I discussed casual places to get a quick bite, Justin mentioned Indian food, and for some reason a mini surge of excitement and energy perked me up! The funny part is that I don't even think I've really tried Indian food before last night. But I really wanted it and had a craving for some curry!

We knew there was an Indian restaurant on West Franklin Street, but not quite sure where exactly. After we parked our car, we started walking and noticed a beautifully lit up brick courtyard with several rod iron tables accompanied by people sipping on wine, chatting and enjoying dinner.

As we walked up to the venue, we noticed it was the Indian restaurant we were looking for - Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe.

You could feel the love this restaurant has for its customers and community as soon as you walk in the door. The colorful chalk board menu begins with "Welcome Beloved Community!" You could see the food being prepared right behind the ordering counter, and usually the cooks and staff look stressed, sweaty and hustling in an attempt to keep up, but this staff seemed peaceful, happy and they were actually smiling. You could tell they not only love their job, but love what the restaurant stands for - love, warmth, and hospitality.

About the Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe

We believe we grow our community by engaging intentionally in the farm to fork process and living our vision of creative resiliency.

We seek to bring our community together with love, warmth and hospitality over delicious, healthy food. We prioritize worker, environmental, and social justice; accessibility through affordability; and sustainability at every level. We pay a living wage.

The Menu

Typically, Vimala's has a standard menu with a variety of small plates and entrees, but I guess on Friday nights they reduce the menu to only one item. There was a line going out the door so Justin and I figured it must be good!

Last night's chosen entree was Onam Sadya served on a banana leaf. The menu broke the meal down into a list of about eight items that make up the Onam Sadya, which meant basically nothing to Justin and I since we're not well versed in Indian cuisine. All I knew was that it was a vegetarian dish.

We ended up keeping the menu with us as we ate and began to pick out what each item was off the menu after we tasted it, which made it pretty fun to be learning while enjoying new food.

The menu also gave you an option to have your plate vegan. I've noticed quite a few restaurants are doing this now, and even though I'm not vegan, I love the thoughtfulness of restaurants who do think to accommodate vegetarians, vegans and those who eat a gluten-free diet.


This meal was $16 per person. So much for being on a budget last night ha. Granted a $32 meal is reasonable, it's just not as reasonable when you're trying not to spend money. Darnit, maybe next weekend!

The regular menu seemed to be reasonably priced as well. Smaller dishes are about $6-8 and entrees are in the $14 range.


Very peaceful! This is probably because Justin and I sat outside next to the fountain, but overall the twinkling lights strung above the courtyard set a soothing ambiance to the evening.

However, the inside dining room is a little smaller and sensitive to conversations. Originally we were sitting inside because there weren't any tables outside, and a table of girls were getting too loud, which was a little disruptive to our conversation. But we were happy campers once we moved outside :)

I enjoyed our dinner, conversation, and time together so much, I didn't want it to end! So we didn't let it :)

Next stop - West End Wine Bar.


It was the perfect place to top off the night!

I was in the mood for a nice red wine and the bartender recommended the Montevina Merlot. Perfect.

And there you have it - a perfectly beautiful and mature night on the same street where I would have been immature only half a mile east two years ago :)


Do you like trying new foods and restaurants? Or do you prefer to stick with restaurants and food that you already know?

I used to order the safest thing on the menu and tended to rotate between two or three restaurants. Now, I use Yelp to help me discover new places and get excited to try new foods!


  1. LOVE this post and love trying new foods and restaurants! I haven't been totally brave with things like Indian food but I love Thai and anything else spicy. I definitely need to explore outside of downtown Raleigh, maybe I'll come up to Chapel Hill and try one out with you :)

    PS Phil is in town this weekend - what are you and Justin up to?

  2. @Elisabeth Oh my goodness...please do!! I miss our lunches at Sitti! Justin and I are going to the game Saturday afternoon but that's about it! What do you have planned with Phil?! Miss you two!