I’ve been to Herons twice now, once for a romantic dinner with my husband, and once for Sunday brunch with the family. I didn’t do a review of my first dinner here, as my pictures turned out very dark, and I was a bit unsure of how to review the restaurant. My first impressions were that it was overly expensive, and the food was too “frou frou”, overly decorated without the flavor to back it up. The service was spectacular though, making it one of those “special occasion” restaurants where you care more about the person you’re with than the food.
I decided to come back for the Sunday brunch as the prices are more reasonable, and I figured they’d skip things like foam and fancy shaped crackers on top. They even have a kid’s menu for brunch, so I didn’t need to get a babysitter.
I made a reservation for 11am on a Sunday. I’m not sure if I needed a reservation for brunch or not, but I figured with Herons, it can’t hurt. Our coats were taken at the entrance, and we were promptly seated near a window so we could see the outdoor eating area. Someday when it’s nice weather in NC I need to come back here and eat with a view of the woods.
My son immediately picked the pancakes to eat, since that’s what he eats at every restaurant that serves breakfast. At $6 it was decently priced, for Herons. My husband picked the Steak & Eggs, since he’s still on the low-carb diet and that’s just about all he could eat. It took me a really long time to decide, but I finally picked the Pecan Crusted French Toast, and the Fruit Plate appetizer for us all to share.
The waiter brought out tiny shot-glasses of what he called a “peanut butter smoothie” for us to try. I remembered this from the last time we were here, I guess the chef likes to give out samples of new things to try. I wasn’t particularly thrilled by it, my husband couldn’t eat his (carbs) and my son didn’t like his. I ate all 3 since I didn’t mind it, but I certainly wouldn’t have ordered it.
We also got some free bread and scones. The waiter explained that the bread was from La Farm Bakery, and the scones were made in-house. Honestly, I liked the scones best, and I ended up eating two of them. But I always liked La Farm’s pastries better than their bread anyhow.
The entrees took quite a while to come out, but since it’s not really a diner, I wasn’t expecting super-fast service. All the entrees and the fruit plate were served at the same time, on very large, square plates, so there was hardly any room left on the table. The plates were big, but mostly bare, typical Herons style.
My son’s pancakes were at least served somewhat normally, with two nice round pancakes on a nice round plate, maple syrup on the side. With the butter from the bread, and pouring on all the maple syrup, he actually ate both pancakes. He did mention they weren’t as good as IHOPs, but he’s 7 so I wouldn’t trust his judgement. I think they looked beautiful and I’m sure they tasted just as wonderful, but he wouldn’t let me try any.
My husband’s entree was more “potato cake” than “Steak & Eggs”, but being on a diet, he didn’t complain too much. At least with the eggs and steak it was all protein and fat, no carbs, and he said it was very good. But he couldn’t eat the potato cake at all, and he gave it to me to eat. It was good, but far too rich and too big, and even I couldn’t eat all of it. Perhaps they could give a bit more steak and cut that potato cake in half. For $22 I would expect more than two tiny slices of steak.
I loved my French toast, and I thought everything about it, even the little smudge of marmalade on the lower left side of the plate, was delicious. For $12 I thought I definitely got the best deal on an entree here.
The Fruit Plate, since it was served with the entrees, was mostly overlooked and eaten mostly after the main food was done. For $11 I thought it was pretty bare, probably not more than 1/2 lb. fruit total, and could have used some more berries and less melon. I probably wouldn’t get it again.
Overall I think that brunch is definitely the best deal you’re going to get at Herons, since they do try more to make your food taste good instead of just look good. I was generally unimpressed with the dinner presentation and would choose Second Empire over Herons for any sort of date/anniversary/special occasion. However if you’re going to be at the Umstead anyway for a hotel stay or a nice relaxing day at the spa, then certainly the food here is going to be convenient. Just expect the meal to be all about service and presentation, because the meal will not fill you up or compare to the flavors to be had at other high-end restaurants in the area.