As a child, one of my favorite activities was coloring.  My father would take me on weekly trips to the grocery store and allow me to pick out a treat. I always picked out a box of Crayola crayons – and not just the box of the original 8 colors. Glitter crayons, metallic crayons, neon crayons, glow in the dark crayons, pastels, colored pencils, magic markers, I had them all.  And I remember the magical feeling of overwhelming joy and excitement I was filled with in anticipation of using these unique colors to paint a new canvas.

I get a similar feeling about dining at Aurants in Duryea.  Each time I go there, I feel giddy with anticipation about the endless culinary combinations on the menu, which includes many things I have never even tasted before. It’s slogan, “A separation from the rest,” appropriately describes this unique restaurant. A far cry from the diet of pizza and wings that are traditional in the area, Aurants offers bold and innovative creations. Don’t get me wrong, I do love pizza and wings, but, like the original box of 8 Crayola crayons, I tire of them and need more “color”!

Chef and owner David W. Ciminelli, Jr. (“Chef Davo”) has carefully crafted an extensive menu that changes often, offering a plethora of flavors and “proteins” in ever color. The menu is divided into different sections, “Easy pickings” (appetizers, small plates, soups and salads), “Hand held hotties” (described as modern gourmet sandwiches), “make a meal mayhem” (create your own entree section) and “Side car tag alongs” (your choice of accompanying sides that are available to be purchased separately for $5).

When I heard about Aurants, I couldn’t wait to try it. I was a huge fan of Chef Davo’s homemade potato chips with blue cheese dip and pretzel encrusted chicken bites when he was a chef at the River Street Ale House. I have heard that these chips sometimes grace the menu at Aurants and have been on the lookout for them ever since.
Here is a sample of some of the tasty treats we have tried at Aurants.

The first bite I ever had at Aurants blew me away. I ordered the chocolate jalapeno corn fritters, an appetizer described as “southern style corn fritters infused with minced roasted corn, pickled jalapenos, banana puree and saved which chocolate, pan fried and plated with a side of ancho chili maple syrup.”  Now, I have had corn fritters before, but this sweet and savory appetizer was unlike anything I have ever tasted. There were so many layers of flavor that were way beyond anything I could imagine. The deep fried, spicy chocolate taste made me feel like I had gone to heaven and hell at the same time. Hell because I knew it probably wasn’t the healthiest choice, but heaven because I loved it anyway and would order it again. Sometimes, it feels good to be bad.

Aurants boasts a wide selection of domestic and imported beers, bottled and on tap. They cleverly showcase this feature seamlessly in their menu by offering a Chicken Dogfish Chowder as an appetizer. A chowder of chicken tenderloin morsels, bacon, granny smith apples, corn, basic root vegetables, smokey cheese and random selections of dogfish head beers with crispy onions,” this chowder was the perfect remedy to the winter blahs. One bowl warms the soul, and if you are still in the mood for Dogfish Brews after your dinner, Aurants is open late every night. See below for details and hours.

The Aurants house salad is a colorful combination of the freshest ingredients and is by far one of the best salads in the area. Available in a small or large size, the house salad is a heaping pile of baby spinach greens with vine ripe tomatoes, english cucumbers, artichokes, portabella mushrooms, mixed kalamata olives, caper berries, fresh mozzarella cheese dressed with a house lemon garlic vinaigrette. The olives were jumbo and delicious, like homemade mix my uncle makes.  Be warned, the large size house salad is very large!  Definitely enough for a table of four, and a nice starter to accompany any appetizer on the menu.

One of the most popular items on the menu is the Blue Crab Grilled Cheese, composed of Muenster cheese, poached garlic, artichokes, and blue crab meat on a thick sliced ciabatta bread. As you can see, the portion is extremely generous.

My experience of living in Philadelphia provided me with a solid education on cheese steaks, and I have tried a wide variety of them but I have never before seen this version. Aurants offers a Gouda Duck Cheese Steak, made of pulled duck confit, smoked gouda cheese, portabella mushrooms, yellow peppers and sweet onions on a Philly roll. 
(They also offer a Chicken Garlic Cheese Steak, which I will absolutely be trying in the near future. It is served on a Philly roll with roasted free range chicken, mozzarella cheese, melted onions, poached garlic and lemon garlic aioli.)

Each sandwich and main protein dish comes with your choice of side car tag along, which includes the popular bacon smoked Gouda macaroni and cheese. 

In the “make a meal mayhem” portion of the menu, your choice of protein can be prepared in one of six signature ways. The protein list at Aurants is updated daily, and specifically provides that the meats are raised free range style, without any hormones, antibiotics or unnatural farming practices involved. The seafood is wild caught and ocean farmed. This may account for the high price ($12-$40) for some of the first class selection of meats and seafood, but you get what you pay for, and it’s nice to know where your dinner comes from.
 Seafood protein offerings have included: diver sea scallops, yellow fin tuna loin, atlantic coast mahi mahi, new zealand king salmon, and east coast halibut. Meat protein offerings have included angus top sirloin filet, pork mignon, baby veal chops, New York Strip steak, and even game meats like Canadian buffalo tenderloin, Red Elk Rib Chops, and even KANGAROO! But vegans and vegetarians, don’t stress. Tofu is available as a protein, and is also available as an appetizer. 

These protein offerings can be prepared in six different fashions as described on their menu:

basic pan roast style
rubbed w/ dried herbs, lightly seasoned, pan roasted and finished w/ port wine shallot butter, pan juices and crispy tumbleweed onions.
au poivre diane clash
pepper tarragon spiced, pan seared and plated over dijon green peppercorn sauce w/ poached garlic, caper berry pods, shaved asiago and set afire.
spanish thai on the fly
rubbed w/ chili spices, painted w/a mojito mole aioli, baked and plated over coconut curry cashew sauce w/ crispy cellophane noodle and blackened candied cashews.
spinach pesto parmesan
ginger coriander rubbed, pan seared, brushed w/ spinach walnut pesto, ambushed w/ parmesan, baked and finalized w/ a tad more spinach walnut pesto and lemon garlic aioli.
mediterranean style
caraway dill weed infused, pan seared and displayed over zinfandel remoulade, cucumber dill sauce, topped w/ olive tapenade and asiago.
east vs. west
sesame seared one side, blackened on the other, plated w/ maple mustard, wasabi wing sauce, sriracha stripe, cellophane noodle and crispy onions.


If the choices overwhelm you, no need to worry. The wait staff at Aurants are patient, kind, and professional. More importantly, they are knowledgeable of the offerings on the menu and available to make a recommendation.  Here are some of the proteins and side dishes we have tried:
Filet mignon with a side car risotto tag along.

Pork mignon prepared East and West style, with a side of spinach garlic artichoke saute.

Atlantic Coast Mahi Mahi prepared Mediterranean style, a perfect choice for seafood dishes, with the gorgozla polenta pumpkin plank. The Mahi Mahi was cooked to perfection, and the olive tapenade really created a nice layer of flavor. I loved the polenta and plan on ordering it again. (Note to those unfamiliar with polenta: It’s just another carb made of cornmeal that you will love. Try it!)

Colossal diver sea scallops, prepared Mediterranean style with a side of pan fried asparagus and portabella mushrooms.
Each time I visited Aurants, the food blew me away. If I HAD to offer complaint, there are two things I would like to change. First, it seems like a good number of the patrons order sandwiches, which eradicates the need for a bread basket. But for those patrons that order entree selections, especially the pricer items that can cost upwards of $38 and $40, an accompanying bread basket and/or a  modest house salad of mixed greens would be nice.
Second, I would really love a side of mixed greens with my sandwich. The sandwiches, which range from $12-$15, are already accompanied by your choice of a generous side dish. While you can chose a vegetable, the natural and more popular choice of side with a sandwich is a starch like potato salad or the restaurant’s popular mac and cheese. Add in some mixed greens with vinaigrette on the side, and your plate would be a more balanced dish of perfection.

Lastly, Aurants offers desserts made in house, including flan. My personal choice is the rich chocolate cherry creme brulee, which I always order with a nice hot cup of tea.

I hope you enjoyed my sampling of photos from my delicious dining experiences at Aurants. Their menu changes daily and they are always offering new items, so please let me know if you go and try something amazing and it brings the color back into your life! 🙂
If you go:  Aurants is located at 941 Main Street in Duryea, PA 18642. Aurants is now open for lunch and its hours are as follows:
Tuesday- Thursday: 11am-midnight
Friday: 11am-2am
Saturday: 5pm-2am
Sunday: 5pm-midnight.
I suggest you make reservations well in advance. I called the day of my birthday (too late) and was SOL. While the staff is always very accommodating, they’re always packed for dinner, especially on a weekend!! But it’s well worth the wait. 🙂

Barbecue, noun: 1. Commonly referred to as a grill, a barbecue is generally a brazier fitted with a grill and sometimes a spit. The brazier can range anywhere from a simple firebowl, which uses hot coals as heat, to an elaborate electric barbecue. 2. Food (usually meat) that has been cooked using a barbecue method. 3. A term used in the United States for an informal style of outdoor entertaining where barbecued food is served.

Barbecue, verb: A method of cooking by which meat, poultry or fish (either whole or in pieces) or other food is covered slowly cooked in a pit or on a spit, using hot coals or hardwood as a heat source. The food is basted, usually with a highly seasoned sauce, to keep it moist.

~ Except from “The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion,” 2009, Barron’s Educational Series.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for barbecue.  There’s something about the smell and taste of a sweet sauce that conjures up memories of long, steamy days of summer that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside – kinda like how you feel when watching a Country Time Lemonade commercial. The smell of barbecue also brings me back to my days as a proud employee of Danny Meyer’s upscale New York City barbecue joint, Blue Smoke/Jazz Standard.

During my recent visit to Nashville, I made it a point to boldly go for lunch where we have never been in all the years we have been there to taste of the best BBQ Nashville has to offer: Neely’s BBQ.  In 1988, the first Neelys BBQ was opened in Memphis by the four Neelys brothers: Gaelin, Tony, Mark and Patrick. As a result of bustling business, the brothers expanded their BBQ empire and Pat’s wife, Gina, came on board in 1992. Naturally, I was ecstatic to learn that not only do the Neelys have BBQ restaurants in Memphis, but they also have two in Nashville.

 In 2008, “Down Home with the Neelys” premiered on the Food Network, breaking records to become the highest rated Food Network series debut. It still remains one of the Food Network’s top shows. Everyday I rush home from work so that I will make it just in time for the 5:30 showing of “Down Home with the Neelys” on the Food Network. There is something so intriguing about Pat and Gina Neely, who are obviously very much in love with each other and barbecue.  Their vivacious energy and enthusiasm for their food is so fascinating to watch that it even makes me jealous at times. It’s evident to anyone who has seen the show how these two are in adoration of each other in the kitchen. I’ll have what they’re having!!!

The walls of Neelys BBQ are adorned with hundreds of photos Neelys barbecue products and food, famous foodies and celebrity chefs who have visited. I was excited to see a picture of Guy Fieri and of Giada DiLaurentis, two of my favorite Food Network stars. If they’ve eaten here, I thought, the BBQ really must be good!
One of the best parts of my dining experience at Neelys BBQ was that all of the people behind the counter were the nicest servers I have ever encountered in my life. Yes, this is a bold statement I can comfortably make. It was mid-week lunchtime and there was a long line behind me of guys in suits waiting to get their BBQ fill.  Since this was my first time there, I had a million questions for the lady taking my order and I did hold up the line a little bit. I didn’t know what to expect and wondered if they were going to yell at me. (I did get yelled at for asking a question about hot peppers at Pat’s in Philadelphia once. You have to keep the line moving!!!) But this was the south. Either these people have a longer lunch hour or they’re just patient.  The server happily and patiently answered all of my questions and even recommended some of her own personal favorites.
I decided to order the BBQ Chicken Dinner – a half chicken slow roasted over hickory wood and glazed with the Neely’s mild BBQ Sauce. It had a really intense smokey flavor and was out of this world. The dinner platters were served with two sides so I enlisted the help of the Neelys employees in deciding which was the best side to get. They recommended the potato salad, hands down. They weren’t mistaken, the potato salad was very fresh and tasty. The chunks of potatoes were large and soaked up just enough of the creamy mayo.  I also went with the baked beans, which were delicious and I think a southern barbecue staple.
Intrigued by the notion of BBQ nachos, we sampled these as well. They looked somewhat like the old school tortilla chips and cheeze whiz from a can that you would get at a high school sporting event but they were surprisingly fresh tasting and really great.  The pulled pork hiding under the cheeze whiz was tender and not overly fatty. Warning: fork and napkin required. 

The ribs were phenomenal and fell right off of the bone. These are available wet or dry and there are three different kinds of barbecue sauce available at the counter for you to dip them in. I personally loved the original sauce – a little sweet and not too tangy, just the way a barbecue sauce should be.
The macaroni and cheese was similar in taste to the BBQ nachos, but definitely not my favorite bite of the day. But it’s not the fault of the Neelys. I didn’t care for the macaroni and cheese anywhere in Nashville.  I learned on this recent trip that I prefer French style macaroni and cheese, baked to a crisp engulfed in layers of gruyere and fontina, rather than the old school southern style. 

The ONLY “vegetable” on the menu at the Neely’s BBQ was the coleslaw. I was a little bit surprised and disappointed about this considering Gina is constantly raving about how much she loves collard greens and the romantic twosome are always whipping up enticing salad concoctions. The coleslaw was tasty and fresh, but I shuddered at the thought of how much sugar must be in it. But let’s be honest, we obviously weren’t here to have a healthy lunch. 🙂 

The Neelys menu also featured BBQ wings, which apparently were amazing and out of this world! (I don’t eat wings but I trust the reputation of these wings enough to recommend them!)

Finally, we had to finish off the meal with a sampling of a Neely dessert: the peach cobbler. I always love to watch Pat and Gina make desserts on their show and was really excited about having the chance to try a bite of one of their cobblers. The Peach Cobbler at Neely’s BBQ was sinfully light and scrumptious. A scoop of ice cream would have been the icing on my cobbler, but I was still happy with it as is! 

Lastly, as if my experience at Neelys BBQ wasn’t exciting or authentic enough, I was absolutely thrilled when  some of the servers took me in the back to see the electric fire pit in person, the powerhouse of the restaurant.  I almost died when I saw it – I literally almost fainted when the doors opened and a plume of BBQ smoke came at me.  (I did have to shower several times to rid myself of the smell of the bbq pit.  Ladies, do not expect to get close to your man after a trip to this place.) But it was well worth it and I will never forget this experience!!!

To all of the staff at Neelys BBQ, thanks for showing us “Yankee girls” an amazing time and serving us out of this world authentic southern BBQ! Love love loved it!