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Slices of cured meats on a wood board.
A charcuterie board at Colletta.
Forrest Mason Media

11 Hottest Restaurants in the Triangle, January 2023

From charcuterie boards in Cary to scallion pancakes in Durham

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A charcuterie board at Colletta.
| Forrest Mason Media

New year, new Heatmap. 2023 is shaping up to be a banner year for restaurant openings in the Triangle, with new projects from folks like Chef Scott Crawford and Giorgios Bakatasias, a whole slew of spots set to open in Durham’s American Tobacco Campus, lots of movement in Raleigh’s North Hills, and new developments galore all across the region seeking to entice hungry diners. Cheers to a new year and a whole host of new restaurants!

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

New to the list:

January, 2023: The Waiting Room, Five Star Durham
December 2022: La Mala, Rocks + Acid
November 2022: Mezcalito, Brunello Wine Bar
October 2022: Queen Burger, NoDa Brewing Tapas
September 2022: Colletta, M Sushi Cary, Prohibitive, Lovegrass Kitchen, Glasshouse Kitchen
August 2022: Krill, Little Barb’s Bakery
July 2022: Bluebird
June 2022: Bendito, Cheeni Indian Food Emporium

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Brunello Wine Bar

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In December 2020, Eater Carolinas reported on the closure of Durham’s beloved Bar Brunello, but like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Esteban Brunello and his quirky, yet renowned wine list are back — this time as Brunello Wine Bar. He’s partnered with longtime colleague Sergio Ramos to bring a selection of funky reds (like a shiraz from India), unique whites, and of course orange wine back to downtown Durham. Located right on CCB Plaza in the former Jeddah’s Tea space, Brunello Wine Bar is open six days a week.

Window with a Brunello Wine Bar logo.
Brunello makes a comeback.
Sergio Ramos

La Mala

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Sister restaurant to Raleigh’s La Santa, La Mala offers modern Mexican cocktails and street food-inspired eats. There is a large selection of margaritas and a list of mezcal drinks like El Chavo de Ocho (mezcal, lime, hibiscus, and agave). Bites like esquites, various ceviches, street tacos, and a Mexican spin on pigs in a blanket (mini hotdogs wrapped in a tortilla, fried, and served with lime) help sop up all that booze.

The Waiting Room

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A combo of small plates and craft cocktails is the name of the game at the Waiting Room, one of the many new spots coming to American Tobacco Campus in the next few months. The project is co-owned by Nick Singh (of Hillsborough’s the Nomad) and Buddy Maynard. The Waiting Room is designed to be just that — a spot to grab a drink and perhaps a small bite before moving on to dinner reservations or a show at DPAC. The cocktails range from classics to rotating seasonal creations, and food offerings include a charcuterie plate and caviar deviled eggs.

Five Star Chinese

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The Durham outpost of popular Raleigh spot Five Star opened late last month in American Tobacco Campus. Diners can expect much of the same Taiwanese-inspired Chinese cuisine, with dishes such as sesame peanut noodle salad, scallion pancakes, and the Five-Star chicken — the restaurant’s take on a classic kung pao. Expect expanded hours and offerings as it staffs up, and takeout is available.

Queen Burger

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Queen Burger was perhaps the Bull City’s most popular pandemic pivot, popping up in the parking lot behind Kingfisher as owners Sean Umstead and Michelle Vanderwalker tried to figure out how to survive. The simple menu of smash burgers and fries was an instant hit, and after taking a backseat for a bit as the pair reopened Kingfisher and opened Queeny’s, they are now available again at the new brick and mortar location on Blackwell Street next to the Durham Bulls stadium. In addition to burgers, there are ice cream sandwiches from Katie Meddis (Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings, & Sweets), as well as batched cocktails.

A cheeseburger next to a veggie burger.
Queen Burger offers meaty and vegan versions of its smashburger.
Queen Burger

Mezcalito Durham

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Local chain Mezcalito recently expanded to Durham with a fifth location on Ramseur Street near Ponysaurus Brewing. The menu is slightly more upscale on Mexican-American favorites like fajitas, tacos, and of course ACP (arroz con pollo). The highlight of the grill menu is El Mas Chingo (ribeye, shrimp, chicken enchiladas, and an optional crab leg add-on). There is an entire margarita menu, as well as inventive appetizers like the birria fries.

NoDa Brewing Tapas

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Beloved Charlotte brewery NoDa planted a flag in the Triangle with a new taproom and small plates concept in Chapel Hill. NoDa partnered with the folks behind BottleRev Chapel Hill and RTP Uncorked for its first concept outside of the Queen City. The opening menu includes items like smoked prawns with citrus and pickles, a bean tartine, and a sweet tea-brined Cornish game hen. NoDa beers are available to enjoy with tapas or take home, as well as wine.

Glasshouse Kitchen

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Finally, a reason to go to, or stay in, RTP after work hours. Glasshouse Kitchen opened last month on the AgTech Campus (check out Eater Carolina’s previous coverage) to great fanfare. Owners Sara Abernethy and Chris Borreson (of Raleigh’s Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing) scooped up chef Savannah Miller from Durham’s M Tempura to helm the kitchen. A seasonally rotating menu of small plates and sandwiches, like blistered shishito peppers, steamed mussels, pizzas, and the Glasshouse burger, can be paired with post-work beverages. Open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Wednesday through Saturday.

A dining room with floor to ceiling windows.
Glasshouse Kitchen.
Forrest Mason Media

Rocks + Acid Wine Shop

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The long-awaited solo project from former Fearrington House beverage director and sommelier Paula de Pano has opened in Chapel Hill’s Southern Village. The modern space features terroir-driven wines that are high in acid (hence the name), with an emphasis on female-led wineries and female winemakers. It’s part shop, part wine bar, and part classroom, with regular classes (including de Pano’s popular caviar and champagne class) being held in the bright and modern space.

Light wood shelves full of wine bottles
Rocks + Acid in Chapel Hill.
Daniel Turbert Photography

Colletta

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Charleston-based Indigo Road Hospitality opened a second location of its Italian concept Colletta (the first being in Atlanta) in Cary’s Fenton development at the end of August. Wood-fired pizzas and handmade pasta dominate the menu. Standouts include a chicken parm that could easily feed four, tender beef and pork polpette, and a black truffle ice cream with chocolate-coated hazelnuts that is likely the only dessert of its kind in the state. For groups, check out the family-style three-course option for the whole table.

Italian fare at Colletta.
Forrest Mason Media

M Sushi Cary

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Cary’s Fenton development looks to be the Triangle’s most exciting dining destination for the next few months — case in point is chef Mike Lee’s first foray outside of Durham with a second location of his flagship M Sushi restaurant. Handcrafted sushi and sashimi sourced fresh daily and a menu true to Japanese and Korean culinary tradition is the draw here. Opt for an omakase experience (available in multiple course formats), and pair with a drink from the cocktail, wine, and sake list.

Brunello Wine Bar

In December 2020, Eater Carolinas reported on the closure of Durham’s beloved Bar Brunello, but like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Esteban Brunello and his quirky, yet renowned wine list are back — this time as Brunello Wine Bar. He’s partnered with longtime colleague Sergio Ramos to bring a selection of funky reds (like a shiraz from India), unique whites, and of course orange wine back to downtown Durham. Located right on CCB Plaza in the former Jeddah’s Tea space, Brunello Wine Bar is open six days a week.

Window with a Brunello Wine Bar logo.
Brunello makes a comeback.
Sergio Ramos

La Mala

Sister restaurant to Raleigh’s La Santa, La Mala offers modern Mexican cocktails and street food-inspired eats. There is a large selection of margaritas and a list of mezcal drinks like El Chavo de Ocho (mezcal, lime, hibiscus, and agave). Bites like esquites, various ceviches, street tacos, and a Mexican spin on pigs in a blanket (mini hotdogs wrapped in a tortilla, fried, and served with lime) help sop up all that booze.

The Waiting Room

A combo of small plates and craft cocktails is the name of the game at the Waiting Room, one of the many new spots coming to American Tobacco Campus in the next few months. The project is co-owned by Nick Singh (of Hillsborough’s the Nomad) and Buddy Maynard. The Waiting Room is designed to be just that — a spot to grab a drink and perhaps a small bite before moving on to dinner reservations or a show at DPAC. The cocktails range from classics to rotating seasonal creations, and food offerings include a charcuterie plate and caviar deviled eggs.

Five Star Chinese

The Durham outpost of popular Raleigh spot Five Star opened late last month in American Tobacco Campus. Diners can expect much of the same Taiwanese-inspired Chinese cuisine, with dishes such as sesame peanut noodle salad, scallion pancakes, and the Five-Star chicken — the restaurant’s take on a classic kung pao. Expect expanded hours and offerings as it staffs up, and takeout is available.

Queen Burger

Queen Burger was perhaps the Bull City’s most popular pandemic pivot, popping up in the parking lot behind Kingfisher as owners Sean Umstead and Michelle Vanderwalker tried to figure out how to survive. The simple menu of smash burgers and fries was an instant hit, and after taking a backseat for a bit as the pair reopened Kingfisher and opened Queeny’s, they are now available again at the new brick and mortar location on Blackwell Street next to the Durham Bulls stadium. In addition to burgers, there are ice cream sandwiches from Katie Meddis (Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings, & Sweets), as well as batched cocktails.

A cheeseburger next to a veggie burger.
Queen Burger offers meaty and vegan versions of its smashburger.
Queen Burger

Mezcalito Durham

Local chain Mezcalito recently expanded to Durham with a fifth location on Ramseur Street near Ponysaurus Brewing. The menu is slightly more upscale on Mexican-American favorites like fajitas, tacos, and of course ACP (arroz con pollo). The highlight of the grill menu is El Mas Chingo (ribeye, shrimp, chicken enchiladas, and an optional crab leg add-on). There is an entire margarita menu, as well as inventive appetizers like the birria fries.

NoDa Brewing Tapas

Beloved Charlotte brewery NoDa planted a flag in the Triangle with a new taproom and small plates concept in Chapel Hill. NoDa partnered with the folks behind BottleRev Chapel Hill and RTP Uncorked for its first concept outside of the Queen City. The opening menu includes items like smoked prawns with citrus and pickles, a bean tartine, and a sweet tea-brined Cornish game hen. NoDa beers are available to enjoy with tapas or take home, as well as wine.

Glasshouse Kitchen

Finally, a reason to go to, or stay in, RTP after work hours. Glasshouse Kitchen opened last month on the AgTech Campus (check out Eater Carolina’s previous coverage) to great fanfare. Owners Sara Abernethy and Chris Borreson (of Raleigh’s Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing) scooped up chef Savannah Miller from Durham’s M Tempura to helm the kitchen. A seasonally rotating menu of small plates and sandwiches, like blistered shishito peppers, steamed mussels, pizzas, and the Glasshouse burger, can be paired with post-work beverages. Open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Wednesday through Saturday.

A dining room with floor to ceiling windows.
Glasshouse Kitchen.
Forrest Mason Media

Rocks + Acid Wine Shop

The long-awaited solo project from former Fearrington House beverage director and sommelier Paula de Pano has opened in Chapel Hill’s Southern Village. The modern space features terroir-driven wines that are high in acid (hence the name), with an emphasis on female-led wineries and female winemakers. It’s part shop, part wine bar, and part classroom, with regular classes (including de Pano’s popular caviar and champagne class) being held in the bright and modern space.

Light wood shelves full of wine bottles
Rocks + Acid in Chapel Hill.
Daniel Turbert Photography

Colletta

Charleston-based Indigo Road Hospitality opened a second location of its Italian concept Colletta (the first being in Atlanta) in Cary’s Fenton development at the end of August. Wood-fired pizzas and handmade pasta dominate the menu. Standouts include a chicken parm that could easily feed four, tender beef and pork polpette, and a black truffle ice cream with chocolate-coated hazelnuts that is likely the only dessert of its kind in the state. For groups, check out the family-style three-course option for the whole table.

Italian fare at Colletta.
Forrest Mason Media

M Sushi Cary

Cary’s Fenton development looks to be the Triangle’s most exciting dining destination for the next few months — case in point is chef Mike Lee’s first foray outside of Durham with a second location of his flagship M Sushi restaurant. Handcrafted sushi and sashimi sourced fresh daily and a menu true to Japanese and Korean culinary tradition is the draw here. Opt for an omakase experience (available in multiple course formats), and pair with a drink from the cocktail, wine, and sake list.

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