Making Memories Relax and leave the cooking to the pros

Good Eats, December 2021

By Janet Gibson

Your family or friends are in town for the holidays and, quite frankly, you’d rather not be in the kitchen or face the massive clean-up. Relax. There are delicious options for dine-in or takeout. Plus, some establishments are so decked out, you’re sure to feel the holiday cheer. Just remember, many eateries are closed on Christmas to give their work families a chance to celebrate and rest, too. So, make sure to call ahead or check restaurant websites and Facebook pages. Also, supply chain and labor shortages have affected many establishments – so be kind and accept that several menu items may be more expensive than your last visit. Here are some possibilities to eat, drink and be merry in December.

A SPECIAL NIGHT OUT Since 1963, Chris’s Steak & Seafood House has been a top choice for special occasions. You know you’ve arrived when you see owner Greg Kalevas floating like a butterfly through the nearly 300-seat dining rooms and bar, a favorite of local VIPs. With his jovial Greek accent and wide smile, he checks on folks, chats up the latest town happenings and, then just as quickly, retreats back to his sizzling charcoal grill to turn out fine steaks. All of the high-quality beef has been hand-cut and trimmed in-house. Best sellers include the seven- or nine-ounce filet mignon and the ample ribeyes. Perfectly seasoned rack of lamb and Greek-style lamb pops also get the thumbs-up from regulars. Among the fresh seafood options are salmon, grouper, flounder, scallops, shrimp and lobster. Children’s dinner choices are available. Several entrées are in the $24 to $38 range and include a side item of rice pilaf, potato or other vegetable. There’s also a variety of salads and desserts. Chris’s is open for dinner and closed on Mondays. The current festive décor is courtesy of Greg’s wife, Effie, who makes the place sparkle and shine. 2620 Raeford Road, Fayetteville, 910-485-4242.

Luigi’s Italian Chophouse and Bar, a Fayetteville landmark, is especially beautiful over the holidays with multiple Christmas trees, romantic blazing fireplaces and loads of holiday cheer. The steaks here are among the best, notably the tender filet mignon and the ribeye Marsala. You’ll also find traditional pasta dishes, including spaghetti with their famous red sauce and the popular lasagna. The eggplant parmigiana is also excellent. The seafood is fresh and well[1]prepared. If it’s offered, try the Chilean seabass, which becomes more blissful with every bite. An award-winning wine list and seasonal cocktails enhance the feel-good vibe. Several entrées fall between $22 to $42. Luigi’s is open during select times for lunch and dinner and until 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Reservations are highly suggested. 528 N. McPherson Church Road, Fayetteville, 910-864-1810.

TURKEY TAKEOUT! Basil Hasapis and his team at The Fried Turkey Sandwich Shop will offer holiday staples from their catering menu throughout December (closed on the 25th and 26th), with pickup at their locations in the Bordeaux Shopping Center and off Bingham Drive. For the bargain price of $5.25, enjoy the small turkey platter with three ounces of fried turkey breast over stuffing and served with either gravy or cranberry sauce. A larger version is $9. A pound of fried turkey, which feeds three to four, is $16. Cornbread stuffing is available by the pan ($25), gravy and cranberry sauce by the pint ($4 each), and the $2 sweet potato squares are memorable for dessert. It’s not on the holiday takeout menu, but if you can snag some of their addictive fried okra, you’ll rejoice at first bite. To learn more, call 910-425-2755 or visit friedturkeyshop.com

A CHINESE CHRISTMAS Let’s cut straight to the chase, shall we? Yes, it’s true, Mr. K Authentic Chinese Restaurant really does live up to all the hype. Likely the most talked-about new restaurant in Fayetteville in years, Mr. K has earned a loyal following in a relatively short time. Owner/chef Jeff Kong, who grew up in the restaurant business, likes to engage with customers about their likes, dislikes, spicy preferences and possible allergies – to determine what dishes that might best suit their tastes. A recent sampling led us to believe “the secret is in the sauce.” “Just enough citrus-y bite,” as a fellow foodie put it, savoring the orange chicken. We could have made a meal out of the plump veggie egg rolls, which blew us away with their flavor and crunch. The tofu and vegetables (Bean Curd in Home Style) and black pepper chicken provided leftovers for two additional meals. On future visits, we plan to try the fried scallion pancakes, Peking spiced beef wraps, cauliflower dry pot, curry chicken, spicy shrimp, kimchi lo mein, hot and sour soup … and about three dozen more dishes. Several entrées are $10.95 to $13.95. Mr. K serves lunch and dinner, but is closed on Wednesdays. The restaurant will be open for Christmas; check their Facebook page for hours. 5048 Yadkin Road, Fayetteville, 910-263-8439.

And foodie readers recommend …

“If you are looking for fresh and delicious breakfast/brunch options, First Watch in Freedom Town Center is a great choice. They have something for everyone! If you want to indulge in something decadent, might I suggest the million-dollar bacon and some of their amazing pancakes. The lemon ricotta pancakes with fresh-cut strawberries are my personal favorite, but you can’t go wrong with the banana crunch, carrot cake or pecan. If your dining partners want to eat a little more healthily, they will be pleased with their wide selection of options. They have also added some wonderful brunch cocktails. Fayetteville Foodie Tip: Download the First Watch app and put your name on the list before going on the weekends!” – Lynnie Guzman, marketing director, Holmes Security Systems

“Elizabeth’s Pizza on Hope Mills Road is the kind of place where you can bring people for the first time, and they love it! Super-friendly owners and staff. A beautiful space, and even a private dining room. Great food that’s not super[1]expensive. The New York-style, thin pizza is tasty, and I would say the best in Fayetteville! One of my go-to places, for sure!” – Mark Parsons, teacher, Stoney Point Elementary School

“My mom has always loved Hudson Bay Seafood (no relation) off Ramsey Street, and the family always went there with her and my stepdad for several years. It’s just traditional Southern fried seafood. For me, I like to order the fried shrimp and oysters – and it’s a value. It’s just a good place for good food to make good memories.”  – Rod Hudson, broker-in-charge and agent, Coldwell Banker Advantage, Garner

“For me, the ambiance is as important as the food. And Bonefish Grill, near The Fresh Market, has it all. The dining room is gorgeous – I’d even say romantic – and the menu features items from the land and sea. Everything I’ve tried is delicious, especially the Bang Bang Shrimp and a vast array of sauces, from sweet to spicy.” – Jules Donahue, retired sales and marketing executive