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Lechon Latin BBQ food spread.
Lechon Latin BBQ food spread.
Stacey Sprenz Photography

12 Hottest Restaurants in the Triangle, May 2022

From Puerto Rican barbecue to mushroom stroganoff

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Lechon Latin BBQ food spread.
| Stacey Sprenz Photography

As summer approaches and a slew of new restaurants have begun to open their doors, we’ve been tracking some of the hottest dining options in the Triangle. Unlike our other maps, this map constantly tracks some of the newest (and hottest) restaurants, bars, and cafes that have recently opened (or in some cases re-opened after pandemic closures). Given the clear struggles of the restaurant industry during the Covid-19 pandemic some of these spots may have been open longer than others, but all are new within the past year.

Have a lead on a soon-to-open or brand new spot? Send us a tip.

New to the list:

May 2022: Apéritif, Fine Folk
April 2022: A’Verde, La Buena Vida
March 2022: Lechon Latin BBQ, the Durham Hotel, Littler
February 2022: Craften, Saint James Seafood
December 2021: Crawford Cookshop, La Muñeca
November 2021: Queeny’s, the Willard, Cugino Forno
October 2021: St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar, Day and Night Exotic Cereal Bar, Union Special Bread (Downtown Raleigh)

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Apéritif

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3105 Shannon Rd Suite 203
Durham, NC 27707
(919) 937-9747
Visit Website

Located in the new South Square development, Apéritif offers an extensive wine and cocktail list that is complemented by a range of snacks, platters, and desserts. A menu of bit sized canapes like the Lyon (Brie, raspberry jam, pecans, and parsley on puff pastry) and the Laguna Beach (whipped goat cheese with sun-dried tomato and lemon zest on cucumber) complements larger charcuterie and cheese boards, and the dessert menu options are designed to pair perfectly with cocktails or wine.

2. Saint James Seafood

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806 W Main St
Durham, NC 27701

Matt Kelly’s love letter to all things seafood is open — again. After two closures (gas main explosion and a pandemic) Saint James is back with seafood towers, plenty of oysters, and of course the hot baked crab dip. The chowder fries come with Old Bay-seasoned fries, clam chowder, aged white cheddar, and Benton’s bacon. The fried seafood platters, Kelly’s nod towards classic Calabash joints, have also returned, and the raw bar menu is heavy on oysters from across the country. The beverage menu has plenty of seafood-friendly wines plus tiki drinks, sherries, and a party bowl called the Polynesian Paralysis which serves four.

A selection of items offered on at Saint James
A selection of favorites at Saint James.
Forrest Mason Media

3. Queeny’s

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321 E Chapel Hill St
Durham, NC 27701

Michelle Vanderwalker and Sean Umstead, the couple behind Kingfisher and Queenburger, partnered with Durham event guru King Kenney to open Queeny’s, a neighborhood grill updated for the 21st century. The menu features crowd-pleasers like nachos, a pork chop sandwich, fried pickles, and a daily blue plate special. The space is intended to be a gathering place for the community, with a coffee bar and podcast studio among some of the additions to the the traditional bar and grill vibe.

Roasted chicken with farro and sweet potatoes.
Roasted chicken with farro and sweet potatoes at Queeny’s.
Queeny’s

4. The Durham Hotel

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315 E Chapel Hill St
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 768-8830
Visit Website

The Restaurant at the Durham Hotel isn’t new per se, but it made news earlier this month with the announcement that Durham favorite Shane Ingram (of the late, much-loved Foursquare) has taken the helm, sort of. The sort of is because the team describes it as a collaborative kitchen, with Ingram essentially playing coach to a roster of cooks who are encouraged to put their own twists on the menu. The collaboration has resulted in recent menu items like baked flounder stuffed with country ham mousse and broccoli rabe and winter squash birria with crispy chickpeas, cilantro, and radish.

Fare at the Durham.
Anna Routh Barzin

5. Littler

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110 E Parrish St
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 374-1118
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After closing the doors to Littler in March 2020 chef Grey Brooks (Jack Tar, Pizzeria Toro) is finally reopening the tiny restaurant with the help of two returnees to North Carolina’s restaurant scene. Chef Elizabeth Murray (most recently at celebrated California eateries Post Ranch Inn and Coi) will collaborate with Brooks on the menu and helm the kitchen, while chef Tanya Matta (a Durham native and recently at Savannah’s the Grey) will take over pastry duties at Littler, as well as Toro and Jack Tar. Diners can expect a return of Littler favorites like the lamb burger, the latkes Benedict, and the shrimp spoonbread, as well as new items on the ever-changing menu.

A table full of plates of food.
Plates at Littler.
Forrest Mason Media

6. Ideal's Sandwich and Grocery

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2108 Angier Ave
Durham, NC 27703
(919) 724-0241
Visit Website

Ideal’s recently joined Rofhiwa as one of the growing food and drink options in East Durham. The draw here is the bread — baked fresh daily, Ideal’s is only open until it runs out of bread, not what goes inside it. The deli serves both warm and cold sandwiches, with offerings like the Harlem chopped cheese (ground beef, onions, sharp provolone, cherry peppers, and chop sauce) or the roast turkey (turkey, bacon chili basil mayo, provolone, pepperoncini peppers, roasted red peppers, and arugula). They also have a retail and deli section.

7. A’Verde Cocina + Tequila Bar

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2300 Walnut St
Cary, NC 27518
(984) 200-3469
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“Top Chef” alum Katsuji Tanabe marks his return to the Triangle dining scene with A’Verde — an ode to the culinary traditions of his childhood growing up in Mexico City. The menu features items like his grandmother’s 1950s recipe for cornbread, chicken enchiladas, and pork belly adobo fried rice. The menu is perfect for exploring small-plates-style, and the beer, wine, and cocktail list is accompanied by an impressive selection of tequilas and mezcals.

Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita pibil at A’Verde.
Forrest Mason Media

8. St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar

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223 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 322-0359
Visit Website

They survived the pandemic only to be hit with a fire that forced them to close again, but the team at Raleigh’s St. Roch has finally reopened their doors. The renovated space has a New Orleans gothic cathedral vibe, and chef Sunny Gerhart once again leans on his Louisiana roots for a menu that includes crawfish hushpuppies, alligator bolognese, and of course, plenty of oysters. The signature Tchoupitoulas Street Special comes with 18 freshly shucked oysters, a quarter pound of North Carolina peel ‘n eat shrimp, blue crab claws, and a myriad of fixings. An innovative cocktail list and plenty of seafood-friendly wines are available. The weekend brunch menu features biscuit sandwiches, a Cajun breakfast complete with beignets and boudin balls, and a standout fried oyster hotcake that sees freshly fried oysters atop a fluffy pancake with chili crisp, spicy Creole cane syrup, and whipped ricotta.

A white hand pours hot sauce onto a plate of oysters.
Oysters at St. Roch.
Anna Routh

9. La Buena Vida

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4516 Falls of Neuse Rd
Raleigh, NC 27609

La Buena Vida is the latest restaurant from husband and wife Salvador Alvarez (Chido Tacos, Totopos) and Biridiana Frausto (Fonda Lupita). The vibrant decor hints at an exciting menu, filled with items like Mexican-style sushi, Zarandeado-style fish, and a carne asada steak dish that comes with roasted marrow and is served with a drizzle of tequila that’s been set ablaze. The flare for the dramatic also extends to the cocktail list, making the entire experience endlessly Instagrammable.

10. Fine Folk

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2409 Crabtree Blvd #100
Raleigh, NC 27604
(919) 338-2066
Visit Website

After opening during the pandemic as a pop-up and garnering a loyal following, Fine Folk has brought its style of amped up comfort food to a new brick and mortar location on Crabtree Boulevard. The menu is divided into shared plates and mains, with options like a beet Waldorf salad, fried tortellini, mussels en brodo, mushroom stroganoff, and loaded steak frites among the choices.

11. Lechon Latin BBQ

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5959 Triangle Town Blvd Unit 2121
Raleigh, NC 27616
(919) 793-9913
Visit Website

Recently profiled by Eater Carolinas, Lechon Latin BBQ is the latest entrant to the Triangle’s growing barbecue scene. The draw here is the Puerto Rican-style lechon, suckling pig that has been slow roasted, resulting in a contrast of meltingly-tender meat and crackly-crisp skin. Puerto Rican-style potato salad, fried yuca, cilantro coleslaw, and Cuban bread from Tampa’s La Segunda Bakery are some of other other offerings on the menu.

Lechon Latin BBQ spread
Lechon Latin BBQ spread.
Stacey Sprenz Photography

12. Craften Neighborhood Food and Drink

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706 Money Ct suite 101
Knightdale, NC 27545
(919) 373-8118
Visit Website

Food hall meets full-service restaurant at Craften, the brand new establishment from co-founders Max Trujillo (NC F&B Podcast) and Kip Downer. Guests are able to order from all of Craften’s food menus at the same time, rather than splitting up to order from each individual stall. The offerings include Venezuelan, tacos, Italian pasta bowls and sandwiches, and burgers, along with beer, wine, and cocktails. The Knightdale location is the first, with a second Craften planned for Clayton in the near future.

1. Apéritif

3105 Shannon Rd Suite 203, Durham, NC 27707

Located in the new South Square development, Apéritif offers an extensive wine and cocktail list that is complemented by a range of snacks, platters, and desserts. A menu of bit sized canapes like the Lyon (Brie, raspberry jam, pecans, and parsley on puff pastry) and the Laguna Beach (whipped goat cheese with sun-dried tomato and lemon zest on cucumber) complements larger charcuterie and cheese boards, and the dessert menu options are designed to pair perfectly with cocktails or wine.

3105 Shannon Rd Suite 203
Durham, NC 27707

2. Saint James Seafood

806 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701
A selection of items offered on at Saint James
A selection of favorites at Saint James.
Forrest Mason Media

Matt Kelly’s love letter to all things seafood is open — again. After two closures (gas main explosion and a pandemic) Saint James is back with seafood towers, plenty of oysters, and of course the hot baked crab dip. The chowder fries come with Old Bay-seasoned fries, clam chowder, aged white cheddar, and Benton’s bacon. The fried seafood platters, Kelly’s nod towards classic Calabash joints, have also returned, and the raw bar menu is heavy on oysters from across the country. The beverage menu has plenty of seafood-friendly wines plus tiki drinks, sherries, and a party bowl called the Polynesian Paralysis which serves four.

806 W Main St
Durham, NC 27701

3. Queeny’s

321 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
Roasted chicken with farro and sweet potatoes.
Roasted chicken with farro and sweet potatoes at Queeny’s.
Queeny’s

Michelle Vanderwalker and Sean Umstead, the couple behind Kingfisher and Queenburger, partnered with Durham event guru King Kenney to open Queeny’s, a neighborhood grill updated for the 21st century. The menu features crowd-pleasers like nachos, a pork chop sandwich, fried pickles, and a daily blue plate special. The space is intended to be a gathering place for the community, with a coffee bar and podcast studio among some of the additions to the the traditional bar and grill vibe.

321 E Chapel Hill St
Durham, NC 27701

4. The Durham Hotel

315 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
Fare at the Durham.
Anna Routh Barzin

The Restaurant at the Durham Hotel isn’t new per se, but it made news earlier this month with the announcement that Durham favorite Shane Ingram (of the late, much-loved Foursquare) has taken the helm, sort of. The sort of is because the team describes it as a collaborative kitchen, with Ingram essentially playing coach to a roster of cooks who are encouraged to put their own twists on the menu. The collaboration has resulted in recent menu items like baked flounder stuffed with country ham mousse and broccoli rabe and winter squash birria with crispy chickpeas, cilantro, and radish.

315 E Chapel Hill St
Durham, NC 27701

5. Littler

110 E Parrish St, Durham, NC 27701
A table full of plates of food.
Plates at Littler.
Forrest Mason Media

After closing the doors to Littler in March 2020 chef Grey Brooks (Jack Tar, Pizzeria Toro) is finally reopening the tiny restaurant with the help of two returnees to North Carolina’s restaurant scene. Chef Elizabeth Murray (most recently at celebrated California eateries Post Ranch Inn and Coi) will collaborate with Brooks on the menu and helm the kitchen, while chef Tanya Matta (a Durham native and recently at Savannah’s the Grey) will take over pastry duties at Littler, as well as Toro and Jack Tar. Diners can expect a return of Littler favorites like the lamb burger, the latkes Benedict, and the shrimp spoonbread, as well as new items on the ever-changing menu.

110 E Parrish St
Durham, NC 27701

6. Ideal's Sandwich and Grocery

2108 Angier Ave, Durham, NC 27703

Ideal’s recently joined Rofhiwa as one of the growing food and drink options in East Durham. The draw here is the bread — baked fresh daily, Ideal’s is only open until it runs out of bread, not what goes inside it. The deli serves both warm and cold sandwiches, with offerings like the Harlem chopped cheese (ground beef, onions, sharp provolone, cherry peppers, and chop sauce) or the roast turkey (turkey, bacon chili basil mayo, provolone, pepperoncini peppers, roasted red peppers, and arugula). They also have a retail and deli section.

2108 Angier Ave
Durham, NC 27703

7. A’Verde Cocina + Tequila Bar

2300 Walnut St, Cary, NC 27518
Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita pibil at A’Verde.
Forrest Mason Media

“Top Chef” alum Katsuji Tanabe marks his return to the Triangle dining scene with A’Verde — an ode to the culinary traditions of his childhood growing up in Mexico City. The menu features items like his grandmother’s 1950s recipe for cornbread, chicken enchiladas, and pork belly adobo fried rice. The menu is perfect for exploring small-plates-style, and the beer, wine, and cocktail list is accompanied by an impressive selection of tequilas and mezcals.

2300 Walnut St
Cary, NC 27518

8. St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar

223 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601
A white hand pours hot sauce onto a plate of oysters.
Oysters at St. Roch.
Anna Routh

They survived the pandemic only to be hit with a fire that forced them to close again, but the team at Raleigh’s St. Roch has finally reopened their doors. The renovated space has a New Orleans gothic cathedral vibe, and chef Sunny Gerhart once again leans on his Louisiana roots for a menu that includes crawfish hushpuppies, alligator bolognese, and of course, plenty of oysters. The signature Tchoupitoulas Street Special comes with 18 freshly shucked oysters, a quarter pound of North Carolina peel ‘n eat shrimp, blue crab claws, and a myriad of fixings. An innovative cocktail list and plenty of seafood-friendly wines are available. The weekend brunch menu features biscuit sandwiches, a Cajun breakfast complete with beignets and boudin balls, and a standout fried oyster hotcake that sees freshly fried oysters atop a fluffy pancake with chili crisp, spicy Creole cane syrup, and whipped ricotta.

223 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601

9. La Buena Vida

4516 Falls of Neuse Rd, Raleigh, NC 27609

La Buena Vida is the latest restaurant from husband and wife Salvador Alvarez (Chido Tacos, Totopos) and Biridiana Frausto (Fonda Lupita). The vibrant decor hints at an exciting menu, filled with items like Mexican-style sushi, Zarandeado-style fish, and a carne asada steak dish that comes with roasted marrow and is served with a drizzle of tequila that’s been set ablaze. The flare for the dramatic also extends to the cocktail list, making the entire experience endlessly Instagrammable.

4516 Falls of Neuse Rd
Raleigh, NC 27609

10. Fine Folk

2409 Crabtree Blvd #100, Raleigh, NC 27604

After opening during the pandemic as a pop-up and garnering a loyal following, Fine Folk has brought its style of amped up comfort food to a new brick and mortar location on Crabtree Boulevard. The menu is divided into shared plates and mains, with options like a beet Waldorf salad, fried tortellini, mussels en brodo, mushroom stroganoff, and loaded steak frites among the choices.

2409 Crabtree Blvd #100
Raleigh, NC 27604

11. Lechon Latin BBQ

5959 Triangle Town Blvd Unit 2121, Raleigh, NC 27616
Lechon Latin BBQ spread
Lechon Latin BBQ spread.
Stacey Sprenz Photography

Recently profiled by Eater Carolinas, Lechon Latin BBQ is the latest entrant to the Triangle’s growing barbecue scene. The draw here is the Puerto Rican-style lechon, suckling pig that has been slow roasted, resulting in a contrast of meltingly-tender meat and crackly-crisp skin. Puerto Rican-style potato salad, fried yuca, cilantro coleslaw, and Cuban bread from Tampa’s La Segunda Bakery are some of other other offerings on the menu.

5959 Triangle Town Blvd Unit 2121
Raleigh, NC 27616

12. Craften Neighborhood Food and Drink

706 Money Ct suite 101, Knightdale, NC 27545

Food hall meets full-service restaurant at Craften, the brand new establishment from co-founders Max Trujillo (NC F&B Podcast) and Kip Downer. Guests are able to order from all of Craften’s food menus at the same time, rather than splitting up to order from each individual stall. The offerings include Venezuelan, tacos, Italian pasta bowls and sandwiches, and burgers, along with beer, wine, and cocktails. The Knightdale location is the first, with a second Craften planned for Clayton in the near future.

706 Money Ct suite 101
Knightdale, NC 27545

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