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Date Night is a great time to explore the local restaurant scene

Date Night is a great time to explore the local restaurant scene
June 30
13:05 2021

By Algenon Cash

I love a great date night!

I’m a romantic at heart and my amorous side perks up when I’m carefully planning small details and playing host to my date. The fact I relish date night is perhaps the reason I’ve never been married.

So when a close friend decided to make a special birthday visit from Atlanta, I just had to pull out all the stops. My initial reaction was to cook and plan a quiet evening at home. But then it dawned on me: let’s use this as an opportunity to take her on a culinary adventure, sampling the local restaurant offerings. 

I had considered choosing just one restaurant to visit for this special date, but it was impossible to single out just one or even two among the many great dining establishments in Winston-Salem. I decided to visit several restaurants, taking the smorgasbord approach to dining. 

Planning our evening’s itinerary made my mouth salivate in anticipation.

We started the evening at Willow’s Bistro at 300 South Liberty Street, located in the historic railroad building between downtown and Old Salem. I noticed a couple seats available at the bar, the best seats in the house because they give you a front row seat to a tiny kitchen where the magic is being made. Executive Chef Niki Farrington paused to come over and personally greet us, even though it was going to be a busy evening for the kitchen staff. Farrington has a strong local following, is a pro when it comes to whipping up creative dishes, and loves to “pickle” everything.

My date and I agreed that it would be important to “pace” ourselves and since this was our first stop, we decided to order small plates. Flash fried calamari kicked off the night with house pickled peppers, Niki’s Pickles purple onion, and aioli. The calamari was fried crisp and a perfect size for sharing. Then we noticed the hickory smoked pork ribs, and that was the end of our pact mandating small plates. They were delicious! There are so many tempting dishes on Willow’s menu that we nearly abandoned the rest of the evening’s food tour.

I’m a personal fan of Chef Tim Grandinetti, so a stop at Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen and Bar at 450 N. Spring Street had to be the next stop on our tour. If you’re a Southerner, then you probably love shrimp and grits – but you also most likely adore pimento cheese. Grandinetti gave us a unique spin on the popular dish – firecracker shrimp with pimento cheese grits with Dr. Brownstone’s Hot! Honey Sriracha Elixir. Chef Grandinetti, who is the new president of the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation, brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and relationships to the culinary scene. He confirmed his wildly popular Dr. Brownstone’s Sweet Summer Luv Luv Festival is returning Aug.11-14 and will feature four whole days of amazing cuisine. 

After sampling the cuisine at Spring House, our next stop was 6th and Vine at 209 W. 6th Street in the heart of the Arts District downtown. Kathleen Barnes, the owner, recently brought in Executive Chef Ebony Warfield to lead her kitchen. Barnes could not have found a better and more talented person to lead the next phase for her restaurant. Warfield’s fingerprints can be found inside kitchens all over the city – A Noble Grille, Sweet Potatoes, The Katharine, and Sir Winston. Warfield also served in the army where she learned to cook by providing thousands of hungry soldiers with hot meals.

I was excited to introduce my friend to Chef Warfield’s white wine mushroom chicken with roasted fingerling potatoes and mixed veggies. We split the plate and I seriously considered ordering a second one to take home for another meal. 

My date assured me that her culinary adventure was a birthday she wouldn’t soon forget. And I enjoyed sharing her special day with her.

In Winston-Salem and the Triad, we are incredibly blessed to have a treasure trove of culinary talent in the region and they all offer such a wide array of savory, flavorful, and innovative menus. I encourage you to explore and engage with the many locally-owned restaurants that are in your own backyard. 

You don’t have to wait for a special date night to sample the culinary delights they offer. But I will say, from personal experience, it sure makes it better. There is nothing like sharing a meal with friends or family. To me, food is love.

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and director of Triad Food & Beverage Coalition. Cash is also the host of Eat Drink Triad, which is available on Apple, Spotify, and Pandora. Reach him at acash@nullwhartongladden.com.

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