Last week, I turned 22.
So, despite the name of a popular store at the mall suggests, I had to face the sad reality that I would not be 21 forever.
This year, I celebrated in a much more demure manor than last year. (I rang in my legal drinking age with a tall Hurricane and a couple of beignets at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.)
Lucky for me, this year my birthday fell on my favorite day of the week: Taco Tuesday.
To be honest, I didn’t really think too much about tacos when I told my roommates I wanted to go to Sandwhich for dinner. But deep down, I was hoping they’d have their special Moroccan tacos I had a while back. They did.
Sandwhich describes itself as a “funky, eclectic lunch and dinner spot,” but it’s so much more. They have cool and warm sandwiches (of course), burgers, soups, salads, hot dogs and polenta bowls. Most ingredients are locally-sourced and all of them are outstanding. The weekly specials are always my favorite though and vary from kale salad with roasted beets to hearty lentil soup.
BUT THE TACOS. Three corn tortillas filled with roasted butternut squash, pico de gallo, avocado and a homemade spicy sauce. They were even better than I remembered and came with a side of homemade quick-brined pickles. Quickles. A little weird with tacos, but I ate mine (and my friend’s) anyway.
The birthday celebration continued on Thursday night at He’s Not Here to watch the Duke-UNC basketball game. He’s Not is famous around Chapel Hill for serving tapped beer in huge blue cups, the equivalency of about two and a half beers. As an ode to my upbringing, I ordered a SweetWater Blue, made in Atlanta. It’s a light-bodied ale with a subtle blueberry flavor and it went perfectly with the large pizza my friends and I ordered from my favorite pizza place in town: Italian Pizzeria III (IP3).
The Tar Heels lost, but the pizza and beer made us all feel a little better. Don’t worry; the rematch is March 4.
Refusing to let the Tar Heel loss get in the way of my birthday week, I invited all my friends to brunch at one of my favorite places that I like to think I discovered first, Lucha Tigre. Lucha is a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant, but don’t let your previous terrible fusion dining experiences scare you: it’s SO good.
It was my first time going there for brunch, but I adapted to the special menu quickly and ordered the huevos rancheros, which did not disappoint. The runny eggs, black beans and crispy tortillas were elevated by a bold homemade ranchero sauce.
Friends’ orders included General Tso’s chicken empanadas, salmon poke, chilaquiles and tortas. Chili salt-rimmed Bloody Marys and $2 mimosas accompanied the fresh, vibrant and flavorful food.
Surrounded by my best friends at a huge table with incredible food, I realized: twenty two might not be so bad after all…
SANDWHICH: 407 West Franklin Street Chapel Hill, NC 27516, (919) 929-2114, sandwhichnc.com. Lunch everyday 11-4; Dinner Tues-Sat 4-9. $$. Wine & beer. Credit cards accepted.
LUCHA TIGRE: 746 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514, (919) 904-7326, luchatigre.com. Dinner: everyday 5pm-12am; Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm; Brunch: Sat & Sun 12pm-4pm. $$. Tequila & sake bar. Credit cards accepted.