2014 Best in the Triangle and Restaurant of the Year

N&O dining critic Greg Cox shares his picks for the Triangle’s best restaurants and explains the past year’s biggest dining trends.

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Originally published 1/30/2014

By Greg Cox

It never fails. Every year, as I look back over the previous 12 months of restaurant comings and goings in the process of putting together my annual Best Restaurants list, at least one noteworthy trend stands out. In 2012, it was the burgeoning dining scene in Raleigh, which was finally showing signs of catching up to its famously foodie neighbor to the west, Durham. The year before, it was the gratifying growth in the number of authentic Chinese restaurants.

This year the hottest trend, if you can call it a trend, was – well, fire. Just days before 2013 was ushered in, a building fire closed the original Hibernian pub on Glenwood South. That proved to be a harbinger of things to come, as three more restaurants of note would be shuttered by fires in 2013: Bali Hai Mongolian Grill, a veteran of more than three decades; Gregoria’s Kitchen, a relative newcomer whose Cuban cuisine had quickly won a strong following; and Pizzeria Toro, just weeks after opening to rave reviews.

The flames and glowing coals in Pizzeria Toro’s massive wood-fired oven were a prime exemplar of a decidedly more welcome sort of “fire” trend. That’s not to say that wood-fired pizza ovens are new to the area, just that Toro raised the bar. In a similar vein, the wood-burning rotisserie oven at Kipos in Chapel Hill is turning out seriously succulent herb-roasted lamb and Greek-style lemon chicken.

Otherwise, 2013 was a year of continuing trends that were already well underway: another authentic Chinese restaurant here, another small plates specialist there. In one noteworthy case, Stanbury set a new standard for the farm-to-fork category. My pick for Restaurant of the Year, One restaurant in Chapel Hill, is so utterly different from anything we’ve seen before that it defies categorization.

And what about those restaurants closed by building fires? Bali Hai’s owners are looking for a new location to rebuild, and in the meantime, fans can get their Mongolian grill fix at the Durham location. The reopening of Pizzeria Toro is just weeks away. Same goes for a bigger-and-better Hibernian with a rooftop patio. And Gregoria’s Kitchen was reincarnated as Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse at a new Durham location earlier this month.

Come to think of it, maybe the Chinese calendar’s designation of 2014 as the Year of the Horse is a little off the mark. Looks like it’s shaping up to be the Year of the Phoenix.

 

RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR: ONE

100 Meadowmont Village Circle, Chapel Hill

919-537-8207

one-restaurant.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Last summer, One’s owners closed the Chapel Hill restaurant temporarily for a reboot. When it reopened, the dining room looked much the same as before, from the floor-to-ceiling wine rack near the entrance to the sleek modern leather-upholstered chairs at burnished coffee-dark wood tables.

It’s in the large, open-theater kitchen that the dramatic change took place. New co-chefs Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan have worked in some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the world. Their experience shows in a level of cooking not previously seen in the Triangle.

Their seasonally changing menu distinguishes itself by reviving an old fine-dining restaurant practice of offering entrees for two (Sunburst trout with Carolina Gold rice, green olives and sultana raisins, say, though the description doesn’t do the dish justice) in addition to the expected selection of entrees for one.

For my money, though, the best way to explore the creations of two such supremely talented chefs is their impromptu tasting menu. Here are just a few snapshots of the epicurean parade I enjoyed on a memorable Saturday night in October: miniature balls of cumin-scented squash falafel, nestled among rosettes of zucchini on a bed of squash “hummus;” salt meringue-baked flounder, voluptuous against a backdrop of creamed greens and a surprisingly delicate mustard sauce; supple, rosy slices of spice-rubbed lamb with fresh dates roasted to a sweet, crisp-edged turn; and a perfectly formed quenelle of fig leaf ice cream on a puddle of green peanut horchata dotted with vanilla-perfumed tapioca beads.

Perhaps inspired by the kitchen, the dining room staff at One has raised its game to a level of hospitality and polish matched by a mere handful of restaurants in the Triangle. The wine list, already one of the area’s best, continues to grow under the direction of Sean Rouch, the restaurant’s knowledgeable and approachable sommelier.

All of which adds up to One – the name of the restaurant, as well as its rank among establishments on this year’s list of the area’s best.

 

GOLD MEDAL

An
2800 Renaissance Park Place, Cary
919-677-9229
ancuisines.com
Cuisine: contemporary Asian

An
2800 Renaissance Park Place, Cary
919-677-9229
ancuisines.com
Cuisine: contemporary Asian

Fearrington House
2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro
919-542-2121
fearringtonhouse.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Herons
100 Woodland Pond, in the Umstead Hotel & Spa, Cary
919-447-4200
theumstead.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Lantern
423 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
919-969-8846
lanternrestaurant.com
Cuisine: Asian

Mateo
109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham
919-530-8700
mateotapas.com
Cuisine: Spanish (tapas)

Panciuto
110 S. Churton St., Hillsborough
919-732-6261
panciuto.com
Cuisine: contemporary Italian

Poole’s Diner
426 S. McDowell St., Raleigh
919-832-4477
poolesdowntowndiner.com
Cuisine: American bistro

SILVER MEDALS

18 Seaboard
18 Seaboard Ave., Raleigh
919-861-4318
18seaboard.com
Cuisine: contemporary Southern, grill

Angus Barn
9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh
919-781-2444
angusbarn.com
Cuisine: steakhouse

Bloomsbury Bistro
509-101 West Whitaker Mill Road, Raleigh
919-834-9011
bloomsburybistro.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Bruno
11211 Galleria Ave., Raleigh
919-435-6640
brunoraleigh.com
Cuisine: steaks, seafood, Italian

bu.ku
110 E. Davie St., Raleigh
834-6963
bukuraleigh.com
Cuisine: global street food

Coquette
4351 The Circle at North Hills, Raleigh
919-789-0606
coquetteraleigh.com
Cuisine : French

Elaine’s on Franklin
454 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
919-960-2770
elainesonfranklin.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Fairview
3001 Cameron Blvd., in the Washington Duke Inn, Durham
919-490-0999
washingtondukeinn.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Four Square
2701 Chapel Hill Road, Durham
919-401-9877
foursquarerestaurant.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Glenwood Grill
2603 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh
919-782-3102
glenwoodgrill.com
Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Guglhupf
2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham
401-2600
www.guglhupf.com
Cuisine: German

Il Palio
1505 E. Franklin St., in the Siena Hotel, Chapel Hill
919-929-4000
sienahotel.com
Cuisine: Italian

Kitchen
764 Martin Luther King Blvd., Chapel Hill
919-537-8167
kitchenchapelhill.com
Cuisine: French, contemporary

Mandolin
2519 Fairview Road, Raleigh
919-322-0365
mandolinraleigh.com
Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Margaux’s
8111-111 Creedmoor Road, in Brennan Station, Raleigh
919-846-9846
margauxsrestaurant.com
Cuisine: contemporary, seafood

Midtown Grille
4421-115 Six Forks Road, Raleigh
919-782-9463
themidtowngrille.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Nana’s
2514 University Drive, Durham
919-493-8545
nanasdurham.com
Cuisine: contemporary Mediterranean

Oakleaf
480 Hillsboro St., Pittsboro
919-533-6303
oakleafnc.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Saint Jacques
6112 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh
919-862-2770
saintjacquesfrenchcuisine.com
Cuisine: French

Second Empire
330 Hillsborough St., Raleigh
919-829-3663
second-empire.com
Cuisine: contemporary

Vivace
4209-115 Lassiter Mill Road, in The Alexan, Raleigh
919-787-7747
vivaceraleigh.com
Cuisine: Italian

Watts Grocery
1116 Broad St., Durham
919-416-5040
wattsgrocery.com
Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Yamazushi
4711 Hope Valley Road, Durham
919-493-7748
yamazushirestaurant.com
Cuisine: Japanese

BEST IN CLASS

(by Cuisine)

AFRICAN
Queen of Sheba
1129-O Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill
919-932-4986
queenofshebachapelhill.com

BARBECUE
Allen & Son
6203 Millhouse Road, Chapel Hill
919-942-7576

BURGER
Chuck’s
237 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh
919-322-0126
ac-restaurants.com/chucks

CAJUN/CREOLE
Battistella’s
200 E. Martin St., Raleigh
919-803-2501
battistellas.com

CARIBBEAN
Old Havana Sandwich Shop
310 E. Main St., Durham
919-667-9525
oldhavanaeats.com

CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICAN
Machu Picchu
4500-100 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh
919-526-7378
machupicchuperuviancuisine.com

CHINESE (SZECHWAN)
Gourmet Kingdom
301 E. Main St., Carrboro
919-932-7222
thegourmetkingdom.com

CHINESE (TAIWANESE)
Taipei Café
9825-G Chapel Hill Road, Morrisville
919-380-8568
taipei-cafe.com

DELI
Neal’s Deli
100-C E. Main St., Carrboro
919-967-2185
nealsdeli.com

FRENCH
Vin Rouge
2010 Hillsborough Road, Durham
919-416-0466
vinrougerestaurant.com

GERMAN/CENTRAL EUROPEAN
J. Betski’s
10-120 W. Franklin St., Raleigh
919-833-7999
jbetskis.com

GREEK
Kipos
431 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
919-425-0760
kiposgreektaverna.com

INDIAN
CholaNad
308 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
919-537-8258
www.cholanad.com

IRISH PUB
Doherty’s
1979 High House Road, Cary
919-388-9930
dohertysirishpubnc.com

ITALIAN
Antonia’s
101 N. Churton St., Hillsborough
919-643-7722
www.antoniashillsborough.com

JAPANESE
Waraji
5910 Duraleigh Road, Raleigh
919-783-1883
warajijapaneserestaurant.com

KOREAN
Seoul Garden
4701 Atlantic Ave., Raleigh
919-850-9984
raleighseoulgarden.com

MEXICAN (CONTEMPORARY)
Dos Perros
200 N. Mangum St., Durham
919-956-2750
dosperrosrestaurant.com

MEXICAN (TRADITIONAL)
Centro
106 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh
919-835-3593
centroraleigh.com

MIDDLE EASTERN
Sitti
137 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh
919-239-4070
sitti-raleigh.com

PIZZA
Pizzeria Toro
105 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham
919-908-6936
pizzeriatoro.com

SEAFOOD
Blu Seafood & Bar
2002 Hillsborough Road, Durham
919-286-9777
bluseafoodandbar.com

SOUTHERN
Crook’s Corner
610 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
919-929-7643
crookscorner.com

STEAKHOUSE
Bin 54
1201-M Raleigh Road, Chapel Hill
919-969-1155
bin54restaurant.com

TAQUERIA
Los Comales
Two Durham locations: 2103 N. Roxboro Road; 3511 Witherspoon Blvd.
919-220-1614 (Roxboro); 919-973-0961 (Witherspoon)

TAPAS
Mateo
109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham
919-530-8700
mateotapas.com

THAI
Sawasdee
Two Raleigh locations: 6204 Glenwood Ave.; 3601 Capital Blvd.
919-781-7599 (Glenwood); 919-878-0049 (Capital)
sawasdeeraleigh.com

VEGETARIAN
The Fiction Kitchen
428 S. Dawson St., Raleigh
919-831-4177
thefictionkitchen.com

VIETNAMESE
Taste Vietnamese
Cuisine
152 Morrisville Square Way, Morrisville
919-234-6385
facebook.com/taste.v.cuisine

BEST NEW RESTAURANTS

Bida Manda
222 S. Blount St., Raleigh
919-829-9999
bidamanda.com
Cuisine: Laotian

Bleu Olive Bistro
1821 Hillandale Road, Durham
919-383-8502
bleuolivebistro.com
Cuisine: contemporary Mediterranean

Jose and Sons
327-102 W. Davie St., Raleigh
919-755-0556
joseandsons.com
Cuisine: Mexican-Southern fusion

Kai Sushi and Sake Bar
7713 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh
919-870-4923
kaisushisakebar.com
Cuisine: Japanese, Korean

Kipos
431 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
919-425-0760
kiposgreektaverna.com
Cuisine: Greek

Pizzeria Toro
105 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham
919-908-6936
pizzeriatoro.com
Cuisine: pizzeria

Stanbury
938 N. Blount St., Raleigh
919-977-4321
facebook.com/pages/Stanbury/359649790802483
Cuisine: contemporary