These two words epitomize the gastronomic philosophy of The Provincial, an up-and-coming eatery in downtown Apex. The owners also have inscribed them as a credo on the restaurant’s front window, menus and website.
“It’s all about taking fresh, simple, quality ingredients and letting them shine on the plate,” said chef-owner Wayne Alcaide, a New Jersey native who runs The Provincial along with his wife Kristyna.
A graduate of New York’s renowned Culinary Institute of America, Alcaide’s work history includes successful stints from California to Nevada to Florida. Ultimately, family ties pulled him to North Carolina.
Alcaide chose to open his bistro in downtown Apex for its quality of life and because he felt the locals would support his straightforward concept.
“The people here have been really kind to us, and business continues to grow,” he said. “There are plenty of other restaurants downtown, which means there’s some competition, but there’s nothing else quite like our place. We want to fill a niche and offer quality cuisine and good service for a reasonable price.”
Just a few steps inside The Provincial’s front door, a conspicuously positioned chalkboard provides evidence of the locally sourced goodness Alcaide serves up. Seafood selections are manifold, from crabs and clams to bluefish and sea trout.
Make no mistake: It’s the top-notch seafood that sets The Provincial apart, although virtually everything that lands on the table – from salads and soups to beef short ribs and grilled chicken – is laudable.
“I like working with fish, and not just the types people are most familiar with,” Alcaide said, adding that serving this high-quality seafood has helped bring in guests who visit several times a week.
Among the superb entrees, grilled North Carolina cobia is placed alongside honey-glazed brussels sprouts and whipped potatoes. Yellowfin tuna poke tacos encompass sushi-grade fish and chunks of avocado drizzled with sesame Sriracha mayo.
“That dish is totally based on the quality of the tuna, and we get the best we can find,” Alcaide said.
Staying true to his mission, Alcaide sources produce from Blue Sky Farms in Wendell, cheese from Goat Lady Dairy in Climax and red meat from Harris-Robinette Beef in Raleigh. This results in flavor-forward offerings like the baby lettuce salad with baked goat cheese, a grass-fed burger with charred onions and smoked bacon, and a brined Lady Edison pork chop with roasted sweet potatoes and kale.
Even small-plate starters triumph. Inside tip: To become the instant hero of the table, order the shareable shoestring onion rings paired with cucumber ranch for dipping. Tasting is believing.
While Alcaide churns out one winning dish after another, his wife handles essential goings-on like payroll, running food from the kitchen, and — most notably — preparing delicious desserts.
Wondrous concoctions like the Granny Smith apple tart, dark chocolate brownie and small-batch, house-made ice cream all stand on their own merits.
Indecisive? Don’t pass up the Caribbean rum cake with lick-the-plate-good, gooey caramel sauce and whipped cream.
“It’s a simple dessert, but everyone seems to love it,” said Kristyna, a native of the Czech Republic.
As for beverages, the wine list includes crisp whites and robust reds from France, Italy, Spain and California, available by the glass or bottle. Half a dozen beers are on draft, most originating in North Carolina.
When it comes to ambiance, the over 100-year-old property oozes with character and provides intimate dining with an unpretentious vibe. Exposed brick walls are contrasted by polished cement flooring. Pendant lights suspend from a striking tin ceiling.
The Alcaides strive to make The Provincial a go-to restaurant for locals to enjoy time and again.
“Our biggest hurdle when we first opened was staffing,” Wayne said. “Now, I never worry about the front of the house. Our team knows hospitality, and whenever you come in we’ll do our best to show you a great time.”
Future plans call for opening up an existing second floor for private parties, wine tastings and live music.
Be advised: The Provincial has just 53 indoor seats, including the bar, so go early or call for a reservation. The restaurant is open weekdays for lunch and seven nights a week for dinner service.
119 N. Salem Street, Apex