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St. James and Flask & Beaker

Guilty Gourmand | Jun 18, 201803:58 PM

A comparison and contrast. The Good and the bad.

I recently had a chance to try a couple of new (to me) places. First the good. St. James in Durham was excellent. I had a red snapper dish with corn pudding and succotash with she crab emulsion (or something along those lines). It was excellent. My wife had the calabash platter with fried shrimp and shared some of that with me as well. It may be the best fried shrimp I've ever had. Was just the right size and minimal breading so that there was actual shrimp there unlike popcorn shrimp that can sometimes just be fried breading and without being those large jumbo shrimp that can too easily be too big, tough and chewy. Nice wine and beer accompaniments and good service. We didn't sample the cocktail selection but looked nice and inventive. Do sort of wish we had tried a salad but ended up sort of skipping over that accidentally on the menu. Also wish they had some free or cheaper hushpuppies offered up as appetizers although the crackers in old bay seasoning are neat and good.

Now the bad. I had lunch the other day at Flask & Beaker at the relatively new State View hotel on NCSU's Centennial Campus. Was there for a meeting and so decided to check this out despite being warned of inconsistent effort by Greg Cox's review. Unfortunately, I get the sense things have gone even further downhill from his review. The food was not completely bad but they need some management oversight there. I got a chicken sandwich and fries. Fries were pretty good. Chicken itself was not bad. Bun was horrible, including one of them being so stale and/or so toasted I could not eat. Had water to drink and never got a refill despite glass being empty or mostly empty half the time I was there and being one of only 2 or 3 parties in the place. Bill for this was $15 and change. I suppose that's ok for a good version of this in an upscale hotel restaurant but my dish was not worth that. I usually pay by credit card but I paid with a $20 bill this time. Waitress asked if I needed change? Really? No change needed--I always tip 35% on the bill when I receive really poor service. I'm not sure the question was sparked by the waitress's greed however as I don't think they had any cash in the cash register. She eventually came back with the $20 broken down into two 5s and 10 one dollar bills. OK. Whatever. Then a woman came in from White Street brewing and was talking with the restaurant manager or assistant I guess because they hadn't ordered anything from them last week. The explanation given was really bizarre and nonsensical but seemed to boil down to we're new and don't know what we're doing. We'll probably order something but don't know how much business to expect and I'm not in charge of that. I noticed half the draft beers listed on the menu seemed to be missing. I also noticed that the menu was not the same one I had looked at online earlier. Quibbles I guess but the totality really makes this a shame. It's a beautiful hotel and could be beautiful space. It's off the beaten path so that may make it difficult to draw non-hotel people there I know. Given what they are offering, however, I wouldn't eat there if I were staying in the hotel.

Saint James Seafood
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