Where Chefs Eat 1

Local Chefs Talk about Exploring the City’s Culinary Scene

When chefs finish up their shift for the evening, they like to explore.

They like to see what else is cooking. They like to try their friends’ latest culinary creations.

And they like to talk about Greensboro’s restaurant scene.

They say the Gate City offers an eclectic mix and has some good options for adventurous eaters. We spoke to three chefs about where they like to eat when they’re not working, and their thoughts on the city’s culinary landscape.

Jon Player, chef de cuisine, 1618 Midtown

Where do you like to eat?

Bandito Bodega. I like the fact that they started off as a food truck and grew into a brick-and-mortar building. That’s a really big jump.

What do you like about eating there?

Nick Benshoff [the owner] really nails that Southwestern, Asian influence. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.

What do you like to get when you go there?

The Dan Dan Noodle Bowl is probably one of my favorites when I go there. Asian noodles, nice spicy peanut sauce.

What do you enjoy about that particular dish?

It’s got a full balance of flavors. You’ve got sweet, you’ve got hot, you’ve got very savory. You’ve got the fried pork, which gives you some umami, a nice meatiness. It’s fantastic. I’m also a type 1 diabetic. Anytime I eat rice or noodles, I take a pretty big shot. But this is just one of those guilty pleasures. When my numbers are good, I’ll go ahead and have one of those.

How did you get interested in a culinary career?

I was a butcher at the Fresh Market in the mid- to late 90s. And as a butcher you really kind of have to know how to cook. You get asked a lot of questions on a daily basis. I had some great butchers that showed me the ropes. And I did some bartending for a while and decided to go to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin.

How would you describe the culinary scene here in Greensboro?

It’s definitely going in the right direction. People here are doing a lot of good things. It’s an exciting time.

How has it changed over the years?

You have at least 10 restaurants now that are solid, solid dinner choices. You used to have one major restaurant in town, Revival Grill, that was really pushing the limits, and it took a while for people to catch up to that.

Mike Benshoff, owner Bandito Burrito

Where do you like to eat?

Van Loi II Vietnamese Restaurant

What do you like about going there?

It’s really authentic Vietnamese for this area. It’s not like going to a more Americanized Asian restaurant. And I like to be able to get a more real experience.

What do you like to get when you go there?

I really like the Bun Bo Hue. It’s a noodle soup, with a rich beef broth, spices in it, fresh herbs. You can get blood cake in it,  which is almost like a blood jello. It’s got somewhat of a livery taste. It isn’t something you see a whole lot around here.

What do you enjoy about that particular dish?

I’m a huge fan of noodle soups, like pho, ramen. If I see it on the menu, I’m interested in it. And what I like about this is that it’s spicy. And something about eating the noodles with all the vegetables, the beef broth, I just enjoy those types of dishes.

How did you get interested in a culinary career?

I started working in restaurants in high school, part-time. And my parents, they liked to go out to eat, but they were also decent home cooks. And once I got into a kitchen, that really piqued my interest. I wanted to learn more about the process of making food and how different dishes and recipes were done.

How would you describe the culinary scene in Greensboro?

It’s up-and-coming. We have a lot of the same sorts of restaurants—a lot of pizza restaurants, a lot of burger restaurants. But we’re starting to branch out into other areas. There are things that work other places that haven’t been tried here, so there’s still plenty of opportunities to grow the culinary scene.

How has it changed over the years?

I’ve seen a lot of different things come and go. But you’re starting to see some more interesting ideas and more niche restaurants–kind of like what we do. We’re not trying to conform to a set category. It’s ever-evolving.

Kris Reid, chef/owner Liberty Oak

Where do you like to eat?

I’m a big fried chicken fan and love breakfast foods. Those are probably my two favorites, so for fried chicken and chicken wings, I go to Scratch.

What do you like about going there?

Just that it’s homemade, and that it’s local. I don’t like giving money to the corporate places. I like to support other local businesses and privately owned restaurants in the community.

What do you like to get when you go there?

They do doughnuts and chicken. So I get the chicken wings and the Korean wings and a doughnut. They have a maple doughnut over there with bacon on top, and then they have this injector where they inject maple syrup all around your doughnut.

How did you get interested in a culinary career?
My first job was in a restaurant when I was 14. I started busing tables and washing dishes. Then started cooking, and it’s all I’ve done ever since. Here I am 25 years later, and I’m still doing it. And I still love it. I go home and cook more.

How would you describe the culinary scene in Greensboro?

I think it’s growing. I’ve seen the market pick up a lot in the last five years where people are really familiar with more foods than they used to be. It used to be you had to watch the terminology on your menus because people wouldn’t really understand foreign words. Now people are like ‘Oh, a gastrique, sure, I know what that is,’ whereas people before people were like, ‘what in the world is that?’

How has it changed over the years?

I think Greensboro’s on its way to having that kind of scene. You have the Taste of Carolina food tours that were in here yesterday. Five years ago, you didn’t see things like that in Greensboro. There wasn’t enough of a scene enough where you could find enough people who wanted to try all the different restaurants. Now you see them popping up.