2017 Best in the Triangle and Restaurant of the Year

The Durham Dry-Aged Steak is made up of Back Creek Farm bone-in ribeye, roasted mustard marrow bone and served with french fries at The Durham Restaurant on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

The Durham Dry-Aged Steak is made up of Back Creek Farm bone-in ribeye, roasted mustard marrow bone and served with french fries at The Durham Restaurant on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

The best restaurants in the Triangle for 2017

By Greg Cox
Originally published 1/25/2017

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, one or two noteworthy trends invariably stand out.

These naturally have varied from year to year, running the gamut from small plates to authentic regional Asian cuisines to food truck operators opening brick-and-mortar locations. In 2015, we saw a bumper crop of new ventures from James Beard Award-winning chefs.

Looks like we’ll have to call the theme for 2016 “all of the above.”

Every trend I can think of that has made the news in recent years picked up steam last year. Well, every one except for cupcakes. That one appears to have leveled off.

But let’s talk superstar chefs. Ben and Karen Barker, with two Beard Awards between them, teamed up with their son, Gabe, to open Pizzeria Mercato in Carrboro in February. That same month, Nana’s owner/chef and perennial Beard contender Scott Howell opened NanaSteak in Durham. Beard semifinalist Matthew Kelly (Vin Rouge, Mateo) partnered in two new ventures, Lucky’s Deli and Mothers & Sons Trattoria. Scott Crawford, yet another semifinalist, left Herons to partner in Standard Foods – then promptly left that restaurant to open Crawford & Son.

Tired of chasing food trucks? No need to check Twitter for the current location of Pie Pushers’ brick-and-mortar location, which opened in September in downtown Durham. Or Belgian Waffle Crafters, which joined fellow food truckers American Meltdown and Porchetta in the Streets at Southpoint food court.

Brew N Que’s permanent address in Cary has been so successful that a second location opened late last year in Apex. Captain Poncho’s Tacos parlayed the success of its Southern Village location to a second in Wilmington and a third, just weeks ago, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

Maybe you’re looking for a new place to share some small plates. Check out newcomers Whiskey Kitchen (Raleigh), Tandem (Carrboro), Littler and Black Twig Cider House (both in Durham). With share plates that include the likes of pork cracklin’ biscuits, crab-stuffed deviled eggs, Southern poutine and potted rabbit with house-made Ritz crackers, they’ll get you out of your rut.

But in terms of sheer numbers, all of these trends pale in comparison to the rapidly expanding lineup of authentic regional Chinese and Indian restaurants. Szechuan Garden (Morrisville) and Szechuan Taste (Cary) opened within weeks of each other last summer. East Garden (Cary) brought Cantonese with dim sum and live fish tanks.

By my count, eight newcomers – with specialties ranging from Southern dosa (Dharani, Madras Dosa & Curry) to biryani (Hyderabad House, Biryani XPRX) – push the total number of Indian restaurants in the area to more than 50. Further sweetening the pot, a little retail shop called Mithai House of Indian Desserts recently reimagined itself as a “contemporary Indian snack bar, tea house, bakery and dessert destination,” and changed its name to Mithai Indian Cafe.

Just as the year was coming to an end, the owners of the Tan-Durm food truck partnered with the owners of Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub to open Viceroy in downtown Durham. The partners are billing their joint venture as a British pub serving Indian Cuisine – a combination that, in light of recent trends, seems perfectly natural.

Who knows? Maybe it’s the first blip on the radar screen of new trends for 2017.

The Durham’s dining room is an airy, casually inviting space whose vibrant mid-century modern decor takes its cues from the former Home Savings Bank building, an iconic 1968 structure that has been restored.

The Durham’s dining room is an airy, casually inviting space whose vibrant mid-century modern decor takes its cues from the former Home Savings Bank building, an iconic 1968 structure that has been restored.

Restaurant of the Year 2017

The Durham

Andrea Reusing has built a stellar reputation largely on her thoughtful melding of Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients at Lantern, the Chapel Hill restaurant that helped her win the 2011 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.

Chef Andrea Reusing of The Durham Restaurant in Durham on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

Chef Andrea Reusing of The Durham Restaurant in Durham on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

But fans familiar with her long-running Lantern Table series, in which she has explored cuisines from all over the world, will attest to Reusing’s versatility. And those who remember her pre-Lantern days nearly two decades ago, when she was chef at Enoteca Vin in Raleigh, will affirm that her commitment to local sourcing has deep roots.

For her latest venture – the restaurant at The Durham, a boutique hotel in a restored mid-century modern building in downtown Durham – she draws on all of her experience and considerable talent to present a seasonally evolving menu inspired by American classics.

The Durham’s dining room is an airy, casually inviting space whose vibrant mid-century modern decor takes its cues from the former Home Savings Bank building, an iconic 1968 structure that has been restored.

The Durham’s dining room is an airy, casually inviting space whose vibrant mid-century modern decor takes its cues from the former Home Savings Bank building, an iconic 1968 structure that has been restored.

What’s especially impressive, given the bold sweep of a menu that can whisk you from Pennsylvania-Dutch scrapple to California gold rush-inspired Hangtown fry in the course of a single brunch – is the consistently high level of execution. Having sampled liberally from the menu over the course of several meals, I have yet to come across anything I’d even call a near miss.

Chef Andrea Reusing of The Durham Restaurant prepares the Warm Savoy Spinach Salad with Durham bacon, pickled shallot, 5-minute egg and cremini mushroom in the kitchen on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

Chef Andrea Reusing of The Durham Restaurant prepares the Warm Savoy Spinach Salad with Durham bacon, pickled shallot, 5-minute egg and cremini mushroom in the kitchen on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017.

Instead, looking over my notes from those meals, I see the word “textbook” sprinkled liberally throughout descriptions of dishes, from classic spaghetti carbonara to roasted spice-cured breast of Moulard duck, showered with cress and shaved white truffle. A bone-in dry-aged rib-eye, flanked by a roasted marrow bone resting on a small tangle of greens wilting in hot beef fat, was the most memorable steak I’ve had in the Triangle. And that includes steakhouses.

I could go on. There was an ethereal deviled North Carolina blue crab soufflé, and a brunch side of bacon with a crisp crackling edge so good, even the word “bacon” falls short.

But you get the idea. Given the seasonal nature of the menu, some of the dishes I’m describing might well no longer be on the menu anyway.

That’s where the consistency of execution comes in. The Durham is one of those rare places where you can feel free to follow your whim when ordering, and know you’re in for a memorable meal.

In addition to the first floor dining room and patio, there is rooftop dining at The Durham Restaurant as well.

In addition to the first floor dining room and patio, there is rooftop dining at The Durham Restaurant as well.

Factor in a hospitable, well-trained wait staff and a vibrant cosmopolitan decor inspired by the historic building’s architecture (don’t miss the rooftop bar with a view of one of America’s most vibrant foodie towns), and you’ve got the Restaurant of the Year.

The Durham: 315 E. Chapel Hill St., in The Durham Hotel, Durham. 919-768-8831, thedurham.com/dining

 

Ember-killed salad, country ham and cider at Death & Taxes in downtown Raleigh.

Ember-killed salad, country ham and cider at Death & Taxes in downtown Raleigh.

GOLD MEDAL

Death & Taxes

105 W. Hargett St., Raleigh

984-242-0218

ac-restaurants.com/death-taxes

Cuisine: contemporary grill

The Fearrington House Restaurant

2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro

919-542-2121

fearringtonhouse.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Herons

100 Woodland Pond Drive, 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 Bar de Tapas

109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-530-8700

mateotapas.com

Cuisine: Tapas (Spanish-Southern fusion)

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

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

Mayumi Yamazawa, right, demonstrates Ryakubon Temae which is an abbreviated tea ceremony that is served at the end of meals at the Durham restaurant, Yamazushi, on Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. The restaurant focuses on kaiseki dining is a highly refined form of multi-course dining where every detail of the meal is artfully orchestrated, and nothing happens without careful thought and intentional purpose.

Mayumi Yamazawa, right, demonstrates Ryakubon Temae which is an abbreviated tea ceremony that is served at the end of meals at the Durham restaurant, Yamazushi. The restaurant focuses on kaiseki dining, a highly refined form of multi-course dining where every detail of the meal is artfully orchestrated, and nothing happens without careful thought and intentional purpose.

 

SILVER MEDAL

An Asian Cuisine

2800 Renaissance Park Place, Cary

919-677-9229

ancuisines.com

Cuisine: contemporary Asian

Bida Manda

222 S. Blount St., Raleigh

919-829-9999

bidamanda.com

Cuisine: Laotian

Elaine’s on Franklin

454 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-960-2770

elainesonfranklin.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Glenwood Grill

2603 Glenwood Ave., Suite 151, Raleigh

919-782-3102

glenwoodgrill.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Gocciolina

3314 Guess Road, Durham

919-973-4089

gocciolina.com

Cuisine: Italian

J. Betski’s

10 W. Franklin St., Suite 120, Raleigh

919-833-7999

jbetskis.com

Cuisine: German, Polish

Mandolin

2519 Fairview Road, Raleigh

919-322-0365

mandolinraleigh.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Saint Jacques

6112 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh

919-862-2770

saintjacquesfrenchcuisine.com

Cuisine: French

Stanbury

938 N. Blount St., Raleigh

919-977-4321

stanburyraleigh.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Yamazushi

4711 Hope Valley Road, Suite 6-A, Durham

919-493-7748

yamazushirestaurant.com

Cuisine: Japanese

Durham residents and art patrons explore The Counting House restaurant and bar, which is also an art gallery Monday morning, March 16, 2015 after the grand opening of the newest 21c Museum Hotel in the renovated ca. 1937 Hill Building at 111 North Corcoran Street, Durham. The newest 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, NC is the fourth in the nationwide hotel chain. It offers 10,500 square feet of art exhibition space and a 125 room boutique hotel and restaurant open to the public.

Durham residents and art patrons explore The Counting House restaurant and bar, which is also an art gallery at the 21c Museum Hotel in the renovated ca. 1937 Hill Building at 111 North Corcoran Street, Durham.

BRONZE MEDAL

18 Seaboard

18 Seaboard Ave., Suite 100, Raleigh

919-861-4318

18restaurantgroup.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern, grill

Angus Barn

9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh

919-781-2444

angusbarn.com

Cuisine: steakhouse

Bleu Olive Mediterranean Bistro

1821 Hillandale Road, Durham

919-383-8502

bleuolivebistro.com

Cuisine: contemporary Mediterranean

Bloomsbury Bistro

509 W. Whitaker Mill Road, Suite 101, Raleigh

919-834-9011

bloomsburybistro.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Bruno Seafood and Steaks

11211 Galleria Ave., Raleigh

919-435-6640

brunoraleigh.com

Cuisine: steaks, seafood, Italian

bu.ku

110 E. Davie St., Raleigh

919-834-6963

bukuraleigh.com

Cuisine: global street food

Coquette

4351 The Circle at North Hills, Raleigh

919-789-0606

coquetteraleigh.com

Cuisine: French

Counting House

111 N. Corcoran St., in 21c Museum Hotel, Durham

919-956-6760

countinghousenc.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Crook’s Corner

610 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-929-7643

crookscorner.com

Cuisine: Southern

Dashi

415 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-251-9335

dashiramen.com

Cuisine: Japanese

Elements

2110 Environ Way, Chapel Hill

919-537-8780

elementsofchapelhill.com

Cuisine: contemporary, Asian

Fairview Dining Room

3001 Cameron Blvd., in the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, Durham

919-493-6699

washingtondukeinn.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Garland

14 W. Martin St., Raleigh

919-833-6886

garlandraleigh.com

Cuisine: global

Guglhupf

2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham

919-401-2600

guglhupf.com

Cuisine: German

Il Palio

1505 E. Franklin St., in the Siena Hotel, Chapel Hill

919-918-2545

ilpalio.com

Cuisine: Italian

Kitchen

764 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill

919-537-8167

kitchenchapelhill.com

Cuisine: French, contemporary

La Farm

4248 NW Cary Parkway, Cary

919-657-0657

lafarmbakery.com

Cuisine: French bakery

Little Hen

5160 Sunset Lake Road, Apex

919-363-0000

littlehennc.com

Cuisine: American

Margaux’s

8111 Creedmoor Road, Suite 111, Raleigh

919-846-9846

margauxsrestaurant.com

Cuisine: contemporary, seafood

Piedmont

401 Foster St., Suite B2, Durham

919-683-1213

piedmontrestaurant.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Plates

301 Glenwood Ave., Suite 100, Raleigh

919-828-0018

plateskitchen.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern

330 Hillsborough St., Raleigh

919-829-3663

second-empire.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Vivace

4209 Lassiter Mill Road, Suite 115, Raleigh

919-787-7747

vivaceraleigh.com

Cuisine: Italian

Watts Grocery

1116 Broad St., Durham

919-416-5040

wattsgrocery.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern

The Vanilla Panacotta is served with pomegranate, sage and pistachio at Mothers & Sons in Durham.

The Vanilla Panacotta is served with pomegranate, sage and pistachio at Mothers & Sons in Durham.

BEST NEW RESTAURANTS

M Sushi

311 Holland St., Durham

919-908-9266

msushidurham.com

Cuisine: Japanese

Mothers & Sons Trattoria

107 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-294-8247

mothersandsonsnc.com

Cuisine: Italian

NanaSteak

345 Blackwell St., Durham

919-282-1183

nanasteak.com

Cuisine: steakhouse

Pizzeria Mercato

408 W. Weaver St., Carrboro

919-967-2277

pizzeriamercatonc.com

Cuisine: Italian

Szechuan Garden

10285 Chapel Hill Road, Suite 300, Morrisville

919-468-6878

szechuangardennc.com

Cuisine: Chinese

Tandem

200 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro

919-240-7937

tandemcarrboro.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Whiskey Kitchen

201 W. Martin St., Raleigh

919-803-3181

whiskey-kitchen.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Daniel Sartain, owner and managing partner at Bar Virgile in Durham, makes a Ramos Gin Fizz on Wednesday, July 29, 2015.

Daniel Sartain, owner and managing partner at Bar Virgile in Durham, makes a Ramos Gin Fizz.

BEST IN CLASS (BY CUISINE)

BAKERY

Boulted Bread

614 W. South St., Raleigh

919-999-3984

boultedbread.com

BAR (SERVING FOOD)

Bar Virgile

105 S. Mangum St., Durham

919-973-3000

barvirgile.com

BARBECUE

Hillsborough BBQ Company

236 S. Nash St., Hillsborough

919-732-4647

hillsboroughbbq.com

BURGER

Al’s Burger Shack

516 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-904-7659

alsburgershack.com

CAJUN/CREOLE

La Place

111 N. Churton St., Hillsborough

919-245-0041

laplacehillsborough.com

CHINESE (CANTONESE)

Shanghai Restaurant

3433 Hillsborough Road, Durham

919-383-7581

shanghaidurham.com

CHINESE (SZECHWAN)

Szechuan Garden

10285 Chapel Hill Road, Suite 300, Morrisville

919-468-6878

szechuangardennc.com

CHINESE (TAIWANESE)

Taipei 101

121-A E. Chatham St., Cary

919-388-5885

facebook.com/carytaipei101

COFFEEHOUSE/CAFE

Cocoa Cinnamon

Two Durham locations with a third in the works; see website.

cocoacinnamon.com

CUBAN

Old Havana Sandwich Shop

310 E. Main St., Durham

919-667-9525

oldhavanaeats.com

DELI

Lucky’s Delicatessen

105 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-864-8841

luckysdelinc.com

ETHIOPIAN

Awazé

904 NE Maynard Road, Cary

919-377-2599

awazecuisine.com

FRENCH

Vin Rouge

2010 Hillsborough Road, Durham

919-416-0466

vinrougerestaurant.com

FUSION

Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas (Latin-Southern fusion)

112 W. Main St., Durham

984-439-8702

lunarotisserie.com

GERMAN, POLISH

J. Betski’s

10 W. Franklin St., Suite 120, Raleigh

919-833-7999

jbetskis.com

GREEK

Kipos

431 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-425-0760

kiposgreektaverna.com

INDIAN

Biryani Maxx Indian Cuisine

590 E. Chatham St., Suite 102, Cary

919-377-0346

biryanimaxx.com

INDIAN (SOUTHERN)

CholaNad Restaurant & Bar

308 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

800-246-5262

cholanad.com

IRISH PUB

Doherty’s

Two locations: 1979 High House Road, Cary; 5490 Apex Peakway, Apex

919-388-9930 (Cary); 919-387-4100 (Apex)

dohertysirishpubnc.com

ITALIAN

Mothers & Sons Trattoria

107 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-294-8247

mothersandsonsnc.com

JAPANESE

M Sushi

311 Holland St., Durham

919-908-9266

msushidurham.com

KOREAN

Seoul Garden

4701 Atlantic Ave., Raleigh

919-850-9984

raleighseoulgarden.com

LEBANESE

Sitti

137 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh

919-239-4070

sitti-raleigh.com

MEXICAN (CONTEMPORARY)

Centro

106 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh

919-835-3593

centroraleigh.com

MEXICAN (TAQUERIA)

Taqueria El Toro

3601 Junction Blvd., Raleigh

919-661-5676

taqueriaeltororaleigh.com

MEXICAN (TRADITIONAL)

Tacos Y Mariscos Vallarta

3177 Capital Blvd., Raleigh

919-790-2696

nando.com/3ck

PAN-ASIAN

Banana Leaf

1026 Ryan Road, Cary

919-468-9958

bananaleafcary.com

PASTRIES

lucettegrace

235 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh

919-307-4950

lucettegrace.com

PERUVIAN

Mi Peru

4015 University Drive, Suite A1, Durham

919-401-6432

miperupci.com

PIZZA

Pizzeria Mercato

408 W. Weaver St., Carrboro

919-967-2277

pizzeriamercatonc.com

SANDWICHES (NON-DELI)

Toast Paninoteca

345 W. Main St., Durham

919-683-2183

toast-fivepoints.com

SEAFOOD

Blu Seafood & Bar

2002 Hillsborough Road, Durham

919-286-9777

bluseafoodandbar.com

SOUTHERN

Angie’s

1340 W. Garner Road, Garner

919-661-6707

angiesrestaurant.com

STEAKHOUSE

Bin Fifty-Four

1201-M Raleigh Road, Chapel Hill

919-969-1155

bin54chapelhill.com

TAPAS

Mateo Bar de Tapas

109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-530-8700

mateotapas.com

THAI

Lemongrass

8320 Litchford Road, Suite 142, Raleigh

919-954-0377

lemongrassthairestaurant.net

TURKISH

Talulla’s

456 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-933-1177

talullas.com

VEGETARIAN

The Fiction Kitchen

428 S. Dawson St., Raleigh

919-831-4177

thefictionkitchen.com

VIETNAMESE

Pho Far East

4011 Capital Blvd., Suite 133, Raleigh

919-876-8621

nando.com/phofar