Birthday tacos, brunch & blue cups

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.)

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Oh, to be 21 again….

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.

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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).

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Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.

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.

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I promptly removed the olives and pawned them off to someone who’d actually eat them.

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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.

 

 

 

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