Foodie News: Top restaurant news of 2018

December 29, 2018 GMT

A Place at the Table opened in January 2018 as Raleigh’s very first “pay-what-you-can” style restaurant and is located in the former Café de los Muertos space in downtown Raleigh at 300 W. Hargett Street. It concluded the year being featured on NBC. Can’t think of a better representation of the Triangle spirit in general, and the spirit of the locally owned and operated restaurants we are blessed with here. “Pay” them a visit in 2019!

After multiple delays, Morgan Street Food Hall in downtown Raleigh’s warehouse district opened following on the heels (pun intended) of Blue Dogwood Public Market food hall in Chapel Hill, and will be followed by another in downtown Raleigh – Transfer Co. Food Hall – as well as one in Durham – Durham Food Hall – opening in 2019.

The legendary, 88-year-old Mecca Restaurant was sold to Greg Hatem and became part of the Empire Eats family (Gravy, Sitti, The Pit Raleigh, The Pit Durham, The Raleigh Times, and The Morning Times). Hatem is a long-time friend of the Doumbalis family and has vowed, after some needed updates, to keep things pretty much the same. Congrats on a successful transition of a downtown institution!

Lynnwood Brewing Concern, which operates a grill and taproom in morth Raleigh and a brewery and bar at Dock 1053 on East Whitaker Mill Road, opened their newest restaurant called Wilson’s Eatery featuring locally sourced, scratch made sandwiches, flatbreads and salads and “several house-made sodas & mixers” in their craft cocktails.

We enjoyed the much-anticipated opening of Big Dom’s Bagel Shop in downtown Cary in the former Little Caesars space. It is a grab and go bagel shop offering bagels, biscuits and b’donuts and is brought to us by the folks that also own Pizzeria Faulisi. It is located at 203 E. Chatham Street. Check them out here.

Shortly after the Old Havana Sandwich Shop in Durham ended a seven-year run, the husband and wife team of Roberto Copa Matos and Elizabeth Turnbull opened a farm-to-table Cuban restaurant Copa at 107 West Main Street in the larger, renovated former Revolution spot. The lunch menu is the Old Havana you may be familiar with, but the dinner menu is where Copa separates itself from Old Havana, with a menu comprised largely of tapas and small plates.

If you had also been dreaming about a rotating mini-food truck venue…every day…with a full service beer garden (30 beers on tap) and a place to enjoy it all (indoor and outdoor), then you were just as excited as I was with the opening of County Fare at 1920 Chapel Hill Road.

Hutchins Garage opened in the Central Park District at 402 W. Geer Street in Durham. Pizza and beer top the list of great options there as well as a very cool atmosphere. Check them out on Facebook here.

Eastcut Sandwich Bar slid into the former Finch’s spot (3211 Old Chapel Hill Road) They serve up East Coast sandwich fare, salads, small plates, soups, sweets, and beer, wine and limited cocktails. The establishment is very family friendly and they even allow dogs on their deck. A great new Durham spot. Check them out here.

Deeluxe Chicken opened in the former Oval Park Grille spot at 1116 Broad St. by chefs Scott Howell and Rick Robinson, who first met nearly 30 years ago working together at Durham’s Magnolia Grill. The menu is built around fried chicken, of course, with dark and light quarters served with a side.

The Saleh family brought its newest Neomonde Mediterranean Deli to downtown Durham in the Unscripted Hotel building at 202 Corcoran St. As most know, Neomonde has locations in Raleigh and Morrisville.

The latest addition to the M Restaurant Group in Durham came to life with the opening of M Tempura located in the former downtown Scratch Bakery location at 111 Orange Street. Chef Michael Lee’s other restaurants include nearby M Sushi and M Kokko. Get to know M Tempura here.

There is a new place to get your morning brew in south Durham with the opening of People’s Coffee located at the intersection of 751 and Renaissance Parkway, behind Bonefish Grill and beside Town Hall Burger and Beer. Brought to us by Jordan Wells and David Sadeghi, the concept features coffee from Black & White Coffee Roasters, pastries and such from Strong Arm Baking Co., and a grab-and-go menu and cold-pressed juice offerings from Cold Off The Press.

Franklin Street’s legendary Spanky’s “retired” and was repurposed under the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group’s umbrella as Lula’s – a Southern restaurant featuring really good fried chicken, porkchops, short ribs, farm-to-table vegetables, freshly squeezed lemonade, homemade biscuits and mint juleps.

Fusion Fish, the global Asian fusion restaurant featuring sushi, spirits and cocktails, opened in the former One spot in Chapel Hill’s Meadowmont. You can find them on Facebook here.

Award-winning Oakleaf restaurant has successfully completed their move (after a temporary “stay-over” with their sister restaurant, Alberello) from quaint Pittsboro to hip downtown Carrboro. They opened in the spot adjacent to the Cats Cradle and in the same building as Fleet Feet and Rise Donuts.

Crunkleton’s Gary Crunkleton is expanding his empire following the news that he would be part of the new ownership of Crook’s Corner – he has now partnered with Sam Suchow, the owner of the barbecue restaurant The Pig, and opened The Neighborhood Bar right next to The Pig on Weaver Dairy Road in north Chapel Hill. Don’t worry, there is a “pass through” between the two establishments allowing you to order barbecue!

Chapel Hill welcomed the second location of Heavenly Buffaloes in the former home of Sandwich on Franklin Street. The Chapel Hill location is much larger than the original Durham “shack” and will be more of a traditional restaurant, including a dining room with seating for nearly 80 people.

The Pickle Jar Café, once in Siler City, relocated to the former Oakleaf spot in Pittsboro’s historic Chatham Mills. They specialize in fresh, local ingredients and scratch made recipes that support local farmers and community. Check them out here.

Chapel Hill’s The Root Cellar opened their second location in Chatham Parkbetween Chapel Hill and Pittsboro. The space is absolutely gorgeous and inviting with three large garage doors that open to an expansive outside dining area. And next door House of Hops has opened, with the potential for a lot of joint endeavors.

Tarbouch on Creedmoor Road in Raleigh; Menchie’s at Sutton Square; Calavera Empanadas and Tequilla in downtown Raleigh; Positalia Italian Eatery in Brier Creek; Applebee’s at the corner of Gorman and Hillsborough Street in Raleigh; Standard Foods in downtown Raleigh; Mr. Sticky Buns food truck up on Capital Blvd.; Baskins-Robbins ice cream shop in Cameron Village; Freshii on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh; Kimbap in Raleigh’s Seaboard Station; the final Z Pizza location in downtown Raleigh; O’Charley’s location in Raleigh’s Brier Creek; Toppers Pizza location on Ronald Drive in Raleigh; Sugarland Bakery’s Cameron Village location; Phat Chicken on Martin Street; TLC Wings that had moved into the former Applebee’s location on Hillsborough Street; Raleigh Raw at Morgan Street Food Hall; Noodles & Company in Cameron Village; Bocci Trattoria & Pizzeria on Hillsborough Street; Oak & Dagger Public House at Seaboard Station; Chick-fil-A in downtown Raleigh on Fayetteville Street; Bedford Bistro in north Raleigh; 888 Chinese Take Out on Creedmoor Road in the Stonehenge Shopping Center.

McCall’s Bar-b-Que and Seafood in Clayton (still have the original location in Goldsboro); SiP Bistro in Holly Springs; Bruegger’s Bagels in Garner; Just Cookin’ in Garner; Grill 57 in Garner; Rock Harbor Grill in Fuquay-Varina.

Tossed location in Morrisville; Bob Evans on Walnut Street in Cary; Uncle Maddio’s in Parkside Town Commons; Tijuana Flats in Cary’s Bradford Shops; Cary location of Little Caesar’s; German Grille in Cary; TGI Fridays in Cary on Kildaire & Tryon; Newk’s Eatery in Cary; Cantina 225 in Apex; Rookies Sports Bar in Apex; Lee’s Garden Chinese Restaurant in Apex; Macaroni Grill in Cary; Giardino Gourmet Salads in Cary; Smok’t BBQ & Tap in Cary’s Cornerstone Village; West Park Tavern in Cary; Gigi’s Cupcakes in Cary’s Waverly Place; Cary Towne Kitchen & Bar at 2002 Kildaire Farm Road in Cary; Patrick Jane’s Bar & Bistro at The Shoppes of Kildaire in Cary; The Original NY Pizza location at High House Crossing in Cary.

Amante Pizza in the Hope Valley Shopping Center; Scratch, “Baby” Scratch & The Lakewood; Finch’s after moving to Durham; Spice and Curry, near the intersection of Highways 54 and 55 in Durham; Satisfaction Restaurant & Bar near Brightleaf Square; Ninth Street’s The Pie Hole; After 26 years, Scott Howell’s Nana’s; Maybelle’s in Durham’s American Tobacco Campus; Basan, part of the Eschelon Experiences restaurant group; The Cupcake Bar in downtown Durham; Vegan Flava Cafe in Durham by Northgate Mall; Cure Deli in Durham.

Spanky’s, after a 40 year run (replaced by Lula’s); R&R Grill also on Franklin Street; Noodles & Company on Franklin Street; Smoothie King on Franklin Street; Toppers Pizza on Franklin Street; Sugarland Bakery on Franklin Street; Living Kitchen on Chapel Hill’s Elliott Road; Mystery Brewing Company in Hillsborough; The Shoppe Bar and Meatball Kitchen in Carrboro; Raaga in Chapel HIll at East 54; Allen & Son BBQ between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough (Chatham County location still open!)

Alberello in North Chatham (but replaced by Sadie’s Southern).

The Pizza Times joined downtown favorites The Raleigh Times Bar and The Morning Times and is serving up pizzas by the pie and by the slice. They are open around the corner from The Raleigh Times at 210 Wilmington St. in downtown Raleigh.

Two years after a fire completely destroyed their restaurant, Sushi Nine on Western Blvd. reopened at 3812 Western Boulevard. While the building is certainly new, the menu is just like their customers remember – nothing changed there! Check them out here.

Smashed Waffles (all waffles, all the time) opened at 2304 Hillsborough Street, directly across from NC State. Check out the Greenville-based concept here.

Tonbo Ramen, brought to us by the owners of Kanki, opened in the Moore Square District at 211 S. Wilmington Street in downtown Raleigh serving up quintessential Japanese ramen dishes, such as Tonkotsu, Shio and Shoyu. Also they have an upstairs Izakaya bar, their version of a Japanese speakeasy, where you can enjoy craft cocktails and small plates, offering the unique flavors of Japan.

CO, offering a modern take on traditional Southeast Asian cuisine, moved into the AC Hotel at North Hills adding to their locations in Charleston, Charlotte, Atlanta, Savannah and Myrtle Beach. Get familiar with them here.

Chronic Tacos opened their Raleigh location at 9424 Falls of the Neuse Road (same shopping center as Sprouts Farmers Market) in early 2018.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema opened its first Triangle location at 2116 New Bern Avenue, but its not just a movie theatre and beer (although those are two great things), they also serve up great food and free movie rentals – 75,000 titles!

Wahlburger’s finally opened in the former Oxford space…and just closed, seven months later.

Seoul 116 Korean Kitchen & Bar, City Market Sushi’s sister restaurant, opened in the former More. Kitchen & Wine Bar space at 116 N West St.

Happy + Hale opened in the Park Central building in North Hills serving up salads, juices and smoothies. The newest location offers a larger indoor seating area, outdoor patio seating, and brunch on the weekends. They’ve also partnered with Counter Culture Coffee and Brewery Bhavana to offer coffee and beer.

Viva moved into the former McAlister’s Deli location in North Hills. With multiple locations in and around Charlotte, this is the first Triangle-area location for the rotisserie joint that specializes in pollo a la brasa.

In downtown Raleigh, the much anticipated Kaiju Bowl and Bao opened on Davie Street in the former Dickey’s Barbecue spot.

Fig, a coffee shop and cocktail bar, serving your favorite drinks all day and a small menu to accompany those, opened at 1000 Brookside Drive.

Tapworks, a 50-tap, self-pour joint at 222 Glenwood Avenue in downtown Raleigh, opened and also includes a pretty fun food menu.

Also at 222 Glenwood South, Anise Pho opened serving up authentic Vietnamese cuisine. This is actually a re-opening, as they moved from Cary to this location.

GiGi’s Pizza took over the former ZPizza spot in the Bank of America building in downtown Raleigh. The menu includes specialty pizzas, strombolis, calzones, sandwiches and salads. They kept the self-service 20-beer draft system they inherited from ZPizza.

The national “super-food” cafe chain Kale Me Crazy opened in the former home of Baskin-Robbins in Cameron Village. The restaurant offers juices, smoothies, salads, and wraps in a sleek, upscale environment. With a location in Cary, this will be their second Triangle area location.

Lola’s Beach Bar opened a few doors down from NOFO and Third Place Coffee Shop on Glenwood Avenue at Five Points. They are self-described as a gritty surf/tiki beach bar in serving street tacos, burritos, nachos with margaritas, beer and tequila.

O-Ku Sushi opened in The Dillon at 411 W Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh’s warehouse district. O-Ku is described as authentic Asian cuisine with a southern approach. They have additional locations in Charlotte, Charleston, Atlanta, Nashville and Washington, D.C. Get familiar with them here.

Papa Shogun, moved into the former Kimbap spot in Seaboard Station, combining the techniques and flavors of Italian and Japanese cuisines for a new perspective on familiar foods in a refined yet fun environment. Check them out here.

The newest Triangle location of Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar opened in Raleigh at McNeil Point, just off Wake Forest Road (across from Mami Nora’s). They currently have two locations in Cary and a location in Durham. Check them out here.

Tenedor, a neighborhood taqueria that focuses on fast, fresh Latin fare consisting of family recipes mated with secret sauces and seasonings, opened at the end of November just outside of 440 on New Bern Avenue/Hwy. 64. Check them out here.

Postmaster at 160 E Cedar Street in Cary opened featuring seasonal southern dishes using local ingredients, paired with a classic, but creative, bar program.

Early May saw the grand opening of the second location of ZenFish (original location is in Durham) at 9924 Chapel Hill Road in Morrisville near the intersection with Weston Parkway.

LaStella Wood Fired on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh closed but has reopened in Cary in the former Hurricane Grill & Wings spot in the Shoppes at Kildaire(corner of Kildaire Farm Road and Cary Parkway)

Anna Ko opened Terra Bonum Salad Cafe in the spot formerly occupied by Giardino Gourmet Salads on Harrison Avenue in the Bass Pro Shop shopping center offering up fresh salads, wraps and grain bowls.

Over in Morrisville G.58 Cuisine finally opened in the building at corner of Chapel Hill Road and Carrington Mill Boulevard. This is a concept we first reported on in late 2016.

Anjappar Indian Restaurant opened in Cary’s Stone Creek Village shopping center in the former Chubby’s Tacos / Guacamaya spot. They also have locations in New York and New Jersey.

Piasans Italian Restaurant closed making way for Kathmandu Kitchen at 1275 Northwest Maynard Road in the Maynard Crossing Shopping Center. It is an authentic Himalayan restaurant featuring Indian, Nepali and Tibetian dishes.

CoreLife Eatery opened in late November in Cary’s Crossroads Shopping Center. The active lifestyle restaurant serves a variety of greens, grains and broth-based dishes. The eatery has other locations in North Carolina, which include Fayetteville and Greensboro, and 49 locations across the U.S.

Bu.ku, the restaurant that introduced global street food to downtown Raleigh, opened a second location in Wake Forest at 1228 Heritage Links Drive in the Heritage development, next to Wine 101 wine shop.

Just over in Rolesville, The Cobalt Café, a coffee shop and breakfast and lunch spot, opened at 6150 Rogers Road. In addition to great coffee, they bake their muffins fresh daily from scratch.

Showmars, a fast, casual concept featuring a blend of Greek and Southern, serving up sandwiches and salads, opened at the corner of Capital and Stadium Drive in Wake Forest.

Osteria G opened at 5160 Sunset Lake Road in Apex in the former Little Hen spot, where every day different special dishes are cooked according to the fresh products that the local market offers. Diners enjoy varied dishes accompanied by a good glass of wine.

Bawarchi Grill & Spirits opened in the former Rookies in Apex (and before that, Rudino’s) space at 800 W. Williams Street. Indian cuisine and booze…sounds like my kinda place!

Cultivate Cafe + Coffee Roasters, a new coffee shop and roaster, opened in the downtown Fuquay-Varina area in the former EMS building serving up freshly-roasted organic coffee and other complementary house-made products, like ice cream made from grass-fed organic milk and hand-crafted sweet and savory baked goods from Bestow Bakery.

Scratch Kitchen & Taproom at 225 N. Salem Street in the former Tobacco & Mule Exchange building in downtown Apex opened. Scratch represents a partnership between two restaurant families with over a dozen successful concepts between them. Jeff and Meredith Kromenhoek and the ownership team of The Mason Jar Tavern and The Mason Jar Lager Company have come together to bring a truly exciting new concept. Think Southern food with a touch of Asian flair.

In Fuquay-Varina, Abbey Road Tavern & Grill opened at 711 N. Main Street. They also have locations in Cary and Apex and have earned the title of ‘Best Burger’ in the Triangle 14 times.

Also in downtown Fuquay-Varina, Vicious Fishes Brewery, Taproom & Kitchen opened at 132 S. Fuquay Avenue in the former Rock Harbor Grill space. The new spot will combine a craft brewery already known for its location in Angier with a gastropub featuring wood-fired cuisine.

A new fast-casual restaurant called Sushiōki (“Oki” means big in Japanese) opened in February at 4900 Highway 55 (near the intersection with Highway 54, next to Brigs restaurant). The concept features large, burrito-sized sushi rolls.

There is a new North Indian restaurant called Naan Stop over on Erwin Road next to Black Twig, and their website (get this) is Naan Stop Duke. Love the clever name.

East Durham Bake Shop opened at 406 South Driver Street specializing in handmade seasonally inspired pastries that can be paired with house-made soups and salads alongside locally roasted espresso beverages and organic teas. And of course their flaky, buttery, handmade sweet and savory pies.

A new Korean BBQ joint called Itaewon Grill opened on Erwin Road in the former Hungry Leaf spot.

Chapel Hill’s Roots Bakery, Bistro and Bar opened a second location in the former Hope Valley Bar and Grill space (before that, Hope Valley Brewing Company and before that, City Beverage) at 4810 Hope Valley Road in Hope Valley Pointe. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Thai @ Main Street opened in the former Dame’s Chicken and Waffles space in downwtown Durham. Chef/owner Jay Aparoj also owns Bangkok 54 in Chapel Hill. Thai @ Main Street will serve the dishes of central Thailand, focusing on the flavors of Bangkok, where Aparoj grew up.

Tamale Factory and Tequila Bar has opened in the Erwin Terrace building at 2816 Erwin Road (think Nosh, Black Twig Cider House, Pho & Poke House).

Foster Street Coffee, owned by Tracy Cooper, opened on the ground level of the Liberty Warehouse apartments and just steps away from Durham Central Park.

Hi-Wire Brewing opened a taproom in downtown Durham at 800 Taylor Street at the Golden Belt campus. It has a large interior space, as well as an outdoor covered patio and beer garden. Dubbed the “Durham Fun Zone,” the space is game and activity heavy, featuring full-sized shuffleboard courts, soccer pool tables, table tennis and more.

A new Zimbabwean restaurant called Zweli’s Kitchen opened at 4600 Chapel Hill-Durham Blvd.

Cucciolo Osteria, a new Italian restaurant tucked away off of 601 W. Main Street (down from The West End Wine Bar) opened mid-summer.

The former Joe Van Gogh spot on Duke’s campus become Beyu Blue Coffee – from the folks at Beyu Caffé. Beyu’s owner, Dorian Bolden, is a Duke alumnus.

Pokeworks is now open in downtown Durham on the ground floor of One City Center at 122 W. Main Street. Pokéworks serves build-your-own poké bowls, poké burritos and poké salads with a variety of proteins, sauces and toppings to choose from. This is their first North Carolina location with another on the way in Raleigh.

Saint & Co. opened in the space formerly occupied by The Pie Hole at the intersection of Ninth and Green streets in Durham. The bakery/cafe menu features fresh baked artisan pastries and breads, salads, sandwiches, and amazing brick hearth Neapolitan style pizza.

Uncle Julio’s Mexican restaurant moved into the former Champps location at the Streets at Southpoint but you won’t recognize the inside – a complete remodel.

Bralie’s Sport Bar & Grill has opened a second location (affectionately called Bralie’s 2) at 4707 Hillsborough Road. The original location is on Carpenter Fletcher Road near the intersection of Hwy. 55 and Interstate 40.

Over on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street Bonchon Chicken opened in the former McAlister’s location and specializes in Korean-style fried chicken and a variety of savory Asian fusion dishes. They have 236 restaurants in nine countries with more than 63 in the United States.

Korean restaurant MinGa moved into the former Captain Poncho (and Mixedbefore that) space on Franklin Street, near the intersection with Estes Drive.

Chapel Hill was also the beneficiary of the opening of the popular Greensboro burger maker Hops Burger Bar and their gourmet burgers at 140 West Franklin Street in the former Lime Fresh Mexican Grill space. Of note, Trip Advisor named them the best burger spot in the nation in 2015!

Carrboro’s YesterYear Brewery truly lived up to its name and is now a distant memory as it transformed with new partners, a new experience, an added kitchen and reopened under a new name – Vecino Brewing Co. They are located at 300 East Main Street next to Cat’s Cradle.

In Chapel Hill’s Rams Plaza, Mr. Tokyo Japanese Restaurant moved into the space next door to the newly relocated Monterrey Mexican. Apparently they have a couple of locations in the Charlotte area, but most notably on their website is that they offer an unlimited sushi and hibachi menu for lunch and dinner.

Gael Chatelain of Napoli Food Truck fame opened Napoli Café at 105 E. Main Street in downtown Carrboro. The café serves up handmade from scratch gelato using local milk, espresso based drinks with Counter Culture beans, teas from Sangha Tea and local craft beer on draft. You can order from the truck in the cafe and enjoy it all on the new patio between the truck and café.

CAVA opened in the Village Plaza shopping center on Elliott Road just down from Whole Foods. The Greek/Mediterranean concept allows you to customize your ideal grain bowl, salad, or pita.

B.GOOD opened on Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street completing their coverage of the entire Triangle with locations in Raleigh (North Hill and downtown) and Morrisville. Each location serves “food with roots” – meaning food that is sustainable, natural, clean and freshly prepared and served every day.

Charlie Farris and Clint Winslow opened another Jersey Mike’s in Chatham County, just down 15-501 from Chapel Hill in the Lowe’s Foods shopping center. Farris and Winslow also own locations in Chapel Hill (2 locations), Durham and Hillsborough.

Alberello closed at the end of October, making room for Sadie’s Southern from Leslie and Brendan Cox, owners of Oakleaf in downtown Carrboro.

Sean Lennard covers restaurant news on his blog, Triangle Food Blog.