I am totally new here. Here's the situation in a nutshell: I enter a new decade, 40, the day after Valentine's, and since my birthday falls on a Friday I am making a weekend of the festivities. Dinner with husband on my birthday and a dinner with my friends on Saturday. All the friends who will be joining fit into the category of stay-at-home moms who are pretty serious about food. I would definitely put most of the group, including me, in the category of discerning when it comes to dining out. We have high standards and derive great pleasure from dining out. Oh, and of course we rarely get to go out because we have kids, no money, no time, etc.
I am treating and want to take them, and me, somewhere great. I have lived in the Chapel Hill/Durham area for a decade and have been to all the biggies mentioned here: Lantern, ACME, Mag Grill, Nana's, Four Square. Not so many of the new ones like Rue Cler, Piedmont, Vin Rouge, to name a few.
There will be about 10 of us. I want a good meal. I sort of dreamed there'd be some wonderful little place with excellent atmosphere, an attentive but discrete wait staff, where a big group of moms wouldn't feel like we weren't hip enough to be there, where we could sit for several hours on a Saturday night and not feel nudged to get on with it already. Where we could have very tasty food and no one would think: "Gee, I'd be pretty disappointed if I turned forty and I got these chewy pork chops." Oh, and nice drinks that don't consume around the kids.
So, my question is: Is there such a place that is new, or should I stick with the old favorites [I really love Nana's]. I also used to really love ACME, but haven't been there in several years. Is it still all that? How about the new ones in Durham [where I live]: Rue Cler and Piedmont? I've been checking the reviews and they seem mixed enough that I wouldn't find them a totally safe bet if this were my first time. Nana's and Magnolia Grill are great, but though we are treating and I feel generous, part of me seizes up a little when I think what the bill for 10 people will look like. But will it be THAT much higher at a great place than an okay place, and shouldn't it just be great for a big celebration? I mean, if we are doing this, should we just go with a sure thing and figure we won't remember a higher bill, but will definitely remember a less-than-stellar dinner?
Many humble thanks,