5 Coffee Shops We Love

We sample a lot of foods that deserve the moniker of a #FoodieScore, but as all foodies well know, sometimes you can score with a beverage, too. To recognize some of those drinkable delights, we compiled this list of our favorite coffee shops across the South. From Oxford, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, to our own little corner of North Carolina – here are five places you can satisfy your coffee fix.

Bottletree Bakery

The Bowl of Soul at Bottletree Bakery

BOTTLETREE BAKERY, Oxford, Mississippi—Just off one of our favorite town squares in all of America, there’s more than a bakery awaiting you here. Chances are good you’ll be drawn to the shop’s treat counter first, with its pies and pastries and other confections. But you don’t want to overlook the coffee, especially our favorite, the Bowl of Soul espresso! The spot is also one of the best to get a quick bite to eat in this Southern town that’s home to Ole Miss.

Collins Quarter

Matcha at Collins Quarter

THE COLLINS QUARTER, Savannah, Georgia—There’s a reason you feel like you’ve stepped into a street café in a foreign country when you enter. It’s because the name, the atmosphere and some of the menu items get their inspiration from Australian influences. Right in the heart of a downtown district that oozes with Southern charm and history, this favorite spot offers an assortment of coffees with global flair, along with a full menu and a delicious brunch on the weekends.

Broad River

Latte at Broad River (Photo Credit: @broad_river on Instagram

BROAD RIVER, Boiling Springs, North Carolina—When folks in this small college town refer to “the coffee shop,” this is exactly what they’re referencing. Whether you’re seeking one of a plethora of hot or cold brews, the best cup of hot tea to cure a cold or a tasty pastry for breakfast or a midday treat, you’ll find it all here. And if you’re not in a hurry, there’s plenty of room to relax on a couch or take a table for studying or working.

Frothy Monkey

White Monkey at Frothy Monkey

FROTHY MONKEY, Nashville, Tennessee—You won’t find a ton of room inside this former house, but the packed space is surely an indicator of the popularity of this shop in the city’s 12 South district. In addition to a variety of delicious locally roasted coffees, the place serves up breakfast, brunch, dinner and sweet treats, as well as beer and wine for those so inclined. We love it perhaps most of all for its funky name and the funky little space to match, along with the tasty White Monkey drink!

Camino

Chai Latte at Camino Bakery (Photo Credit: @caminobakery on Instagram)

CAMINO BAKERY, Winston-Salem, North Carolina—We first tried this hip, modern coffee shop after a show at the nearby Hanesbrands Theatre. Its delicious offerings – from well-crafted lattes to baked goods to a variety of wines – make it a perfect stop for any trip through Winston-Salem. We both love its variety of options, the college-town vibe and the beautifully-designed atmosphere.

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Foodie Travels: Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn, Wilmington, N.C.

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We live in the age of digital marketing, a place and time in which companies sneakily obtain our personal information and then use it to lure us into buying their products or services. Even many of the old-fashioned billboards we pass on highways have been converted to digital boards that rotate, attempting to appeal to our culture’s tendency to move on quickly to the next newest and greatest thing.

So it might surprise some people that, for one, bumper stickers still exist, and two, they can still be a valuable tool for attracting customers such as me and my wife Molly to a restaurant. That was the case during a recent late-summer weekend getaway to the North Carolina coast. Over the course of two days, we noted a number of “Eat at Flaming Amy’s” bumper stickers on the backs of vehicles driving through the Wilmington, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach communities. We’d already visited other restaurants on our list for the weekend and still had a dinner destination to be determined, so we decided to listen to the bumpers calling, like colorful little subliminal messages, and visit the Flaming Amy’s website menu to learn more.

At that point, you might say we entered phase two of the marketing process. The bumper stickers caught our attention enough to seek more information. When we did that and learned of all of the delicious American-Mexican treats awaiting us, we quickly decided Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn was definitely the place to have dinner, meaning the restaurant’s whole tactic worked.

The Flaming Amy’s website touts the brand as hot, fast, cheap and easy. Let’s put that four-promise list to a quick test based on our visit. The meal only set us back about $20 for the two of us, which included two GIANT, specialized burritos, house-made tortilla chips and an included salsa bar with at least a dozen choices, two refillable drinks, and really no need for a tip because we paid at the counter and then visited the drink counter and salsa bar to serve ourselves. So cheap and easy checked out well. The burritos were steaming hot and clearly freshly rolled for us when they came out of the kitchen in less than 10 minutes, so hot and fast check out, too. Four promises were made, and all were kept, meaning the bumper sticker scheme felt more like a godsend than a gimmick.

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But Flaming Amy’s goes well beyond its simple promises. The restaurant’s burritos are packed with a TON (OK, so not literally a ton, but what might qualify in a human’s ability to eat a serving of food as a culinary ton) of fresh ingredients. I ordered a “Wok on the Beach,” a cleverly named concoction of shrimp, rice, broccoli and carrots that are like taking a Japanese stir-fry and using it to fill a massive tortilla. The burrito came with a side of chips, and I enjoyed dipping those in about nine different kinds of salsa from a salsa bar with even more choices than that. (Molly and I could only carry so many little cups back to the table without making excessive trips.) This place might consider adding the word “plentiful” to its list of promises. And “hip” would be another great choice, as Flaming Amy’s offers a very relaxing atmosphere that’s great for a dinner with the family or a meet-up with friends. We knew we were in for a treat when we reached the front door and it was colorfully covered (and that’s an understatement) with stickers.

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Before heading out those doors, I revisited the ordering counter to pick up my own Flaming Amy’s bumper sticker. While I don’t like attaching stickers to clutter our car’s bumper, I’m still proudly displaying the sticker in the form of this #FoodieScore recommendation, aren’t I? And you don’t have to pass me on the highway to see this advertisement. If you share it, it has the potential to reach an infinite number of people!

To summarize, and to unlock the next level in this great restaurant’s highly successful marketing plan by sharing my experience with other foodies, I’ll close with four more words: Eat at Flaming Amy’s.

Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn, 4002 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, N.C. (location also at 1140-A North Lake Park Boulevard, Carolina Beach, N.C.)

You can also check out Flaming Amy’s Burrito Bowl, with two locations in Wilmington, N.C.

Celebrating a #FoodieScore milestone

#FoodieScore celebration

Dear #FoodieScore Friends,

These words mark the 100th post here on #FoodieScore. Thank you for supporting us each and every day with your visits, your shares, your comments and your suggestions. You have allowed us to experience more great food than we ever imagined when we started this space.

#FoodieScore began more than two years ago with the sole idea of helping us organize favorite recipes we tried in our home kitchen. We cook often and just wanted a way to remember delicious simple dishes that we discovered. We had no idea so many people would be so kind by reading and sharing with other eaters. Several posts in particular seem to have deeply connected with fellow foodies, most of all our Mississippi Slug Burger, which astounds us when we see its thousands of views continue to climb.

The kind people in the state of Mississippi are a great example of the incredibly generous support we’ve received throughout these past couple years. When we began sharing restaurants in addition to recipes—and when we launched the #FoodieScore social media family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—the folks in the Town of Holly Springs helped spread the word about our Foodie Travels series by sharing a piece on a visit to Phillips Grocery. We delight in every bite we enjoy, but it thrills us even more when we see others reminiscing about delicious food from the past or discovering a great meal for the first time.

To be honest, we are both humbled and proud to welcome those who come to #FoodieScore for recipe and restaurant suggestions. We take great pride in supporting the #EatLocal and #ShopLocal movements through our approach, which focuses more on sharing great food instead of critiquing anything less than stellar. But in an age of gimmicky marketing tactics everywhere we look, we are even prouder that you, dear friends, are what keep our food adventures alive and well. All our support has come from what marketing moguls might call “organic” generation, meaning we’ve done no paid advertising or sneaky shopping of personal information to get our #FoodieScore posts in front of your eyes. It’s all been old-fashioned foodie-friend support, and as we roll into the future, we will continue to share simple recipes and great restaurant finds with you, thankful that you share our joy in food so much you’ll continue to help spread the love.

And speaking of that future, we have a great plate of new features cooking up in the #FoodieScore kitchen that we’ll serve up soon. We spent a lot of time traveling America this summer, and that means we have some top-notch restaurant suggestions on the way. Our experiences also mean we’ll have quite a packed Best We Ate in 2017 coming out by year’s end. (Check out Best We Ate in 2016 here for a preview.) And just as we began, with recipes, we continue to cook up lots of tasty dishes with simple ingredients and directions, and you are on our mind with each bite. So keep joining us for dinner!…and breakfast…and lunch…and dessert.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our Foodie Travels map for ideas on where to eat when you’re on the road, or at home. You might have also noticed that we recently reorganized our archives into distinct Travels, sorted by state, and Recipes, sorted by dish type, sections to help you (and us!) more quickly search among all the great food!

So, thank you again from the bottom of our stomachs (and hearts). Your kindness to join us on this journey makes each #FoodieScore experience more flavorful.

Your Friends,

Matthew & Molly Tessnear

 

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Foodie Travels: Chico’s Tacos, El Paso, Texas

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The United States-Mexico border is just a couple of miles down the road. You see hills jammed full of colorful houses in Mexico’s neighboring Ciudad Juarez on your drive to dinner. After arriving in the small, packed parking lot off Alameda Avenue in El Paso, Texas, you walk into an equally packed, nondescript building and walk to the counter, where orders are being taken—in Spanish. This is Chico’s Tacos.

The far-western Texas town of El Paso is America’s 20th largest city with more than a half million people. Ask any of the locals (and anyone who’s made their home in El Paso in the past) where you should eat; Chico’s Tacos, open since 1953, is always the answer.

We first heard about Chico’s Tacos from celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez on one of our favorite food shows, “Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Sanchez hooked us from the beginning of the episode by saying, “It’s always a good time to eat a taco. There’s never a bad time to eat a taco.” Amen, Aaron! Molly and I have a mantra about such food: #MexicanEveryDay. Sanchez goes on to share the delightfully simple pleasure of eating Chico’s Tacos, and those words—delightfully simple—are exactly how my wife, Molly, described the experience after our first-ever visit.

As Sanchez explains, the Chico’s Tacos are not the prettiest, most photogenic tacos you’ve ever seen. In fact, by today’s standards, they don’t look much like tacos at all. To the processed-food society we live in, they look more like what we’d call taquitos. But they are light, crispy and covered in a very thin tomato-chile sauce that fills a little cardboard food boat. Then all of that is covered in basic, finely shredded American cheese. It is indeed simple, yet so satisfying and authentically El Paso. And two people can dine (we had a double order of tacos, a bean burrito and two drinks) for about $10. For the non-taco-inclined, it appeared many of the locals were also fond of the Chico’s cheeseburger.

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I took Spanish classes for five years in high school and college, so I’m proud to say I knew what was said at the order counter and when our number was called. I was even able to answer a question from an employee about whether we wanted packets of “dulce,” or sweetener.

It was obvious we were one of few visitors in Chico’s at the time, as most folks appeared to be dining as part of a regular routine. In a time when so much emphasis is put on the struggles between different people in our country, it was nice to experience being visitors in this great place. El Paso is a city with many bilingual English and Spanish speakers, and some patrons even live or do business across the border in Mexico. Walking into Chico’s was a chance for us to experience life in the everyday world of another culture, still within the borders of our own country, though close to another.

Chico’s Tacos is essential El Paso dining. You’ll find fancier, pricier, more Instagram-ready food. You won’t, however, get a more realistic, local food experience.

Chico’s Tacos, 4230 Alameda Ave., El Paso, Texas (Other locations in town as well)

Simple, Versatile Slaw

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I ate many church suppers growing up in the Methodist church. We attended hot dog suppers and poor man’s suppers (usually beans and bread with no meat), often as fundraisers for various ministries. One common food that often found its way onto the menu was slaw. It was a sweet, crunchy slaw, usually made by some of the Methodist Women, and it’s that flavor memory that sticks with me as what the best slaw should taste like today.

In modern kitchens and restaurants, slaws can be some of the more versatile accompaniments to a variety of meals. My wife, Molly, loves slaw with her pinto beans. I love slaw on top of hot dogs and other sandwiches. We both love the crunch and flavor of slaws on creative tacos. I’ve even found that a tasty slaw can serve as a delicious dip with your favorite crackers or chips.

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Pork Chop Sandwich with Homemade Slaw

In the #FoodieScore kitchen, we’ve concocted slaws with several different base vegetables, most commonly either cabbages or carrots. After some experimenting, we believe we’ve arrived at a recipe we agree has the best flavor with the most applications, and it’s the closest I’ve come to replicating that delicious Methodist supper slaw of my youth.

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Hot Dog with Homemade Slaw and Chili

While we don’t suggest this particular slaw as much for tacos—a slaw for tacos usually works better with longer strips of vegetable to leverage more crunch and flavor against your meat and tortilla—this recipe provides a nice texture and sweetness for your pinto and hot dog style uses. And we love that it’s something you can whip up very quickly, though we suggest letting it sit in the fridge for a few hours to cool and maximally blend the flavors.

Ingredients

½ head of cabbage (2-3 pound cabbage)

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup Duke’s mayonnaise

Directions

  1. Use a food processor to finely chop your cabbage. You don’t want it minced to the point where your slaw will be mushy once it sits, but you’re not looking for long strips here either.
  2. Add the cabbage to a mixing bowl and blend together well with your sugar and your mayo.
  3. Cover in a pop-top container and sit in your fridge for a few hours. While you can add the slaw directly to your food, I’ve found I prefer it chilled. And the more days it sits, the better the flavors blend, even after mixing.