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Overhead view of tapas plates and cocktails.
The Willard offers a menu of tapas-style small bites, Mediterranean-inspired larger plates, and signature craft cocktails.
Baxter Miller

12 Hottest Restaurants in the Triangle, November 2021

From tapas to oyster plates to fancy burgers.

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The Willard offers a menu of tapas-style small bites, Mediterranean-inspired larger plates, and signature craft cocktails.
| Baxter Miller

After a pandemic-induced lull in new openings the Triangle’s restaurant scene is beginning to heat up again, which means its time for Eater Carolina’s first ever : for the Triangle. Unlike our other maps, this map constantly tracks some of the newest (and hottest) restaurants, bars, and cafes that have recently opened. 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 this year.

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

New to the list:

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. 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

2. Cugino Forno Durham

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800 Taylor St
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 908-0122
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Beloved pizzeria Cugino Forno has opened its first location outside of the Triad in Durham’s Golden Belt complex. The Neapolitan-style pizzas are cooked in an oven imported directly from Naples that contains stones from Mt. Vesuvius. Pizzas include Margherita, funghi, and Livorno (Italian sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzerella di Bufala, garlic, and basil).

3. Rofhiwa Book Café

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406 S Driver St
Durham, NC 27703
(919) 391-8945
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Anchoring Old East Durham’s small downtown, Rofhiwa is Black-owned coffee shop and bookstore that took over the old East Durham Bake Shop space. Books on a wide range of subjects, all from Black authors, occupy one corner of the colorful space, while the coffee bar serves classic cafe drinks. A rotating selection of pastries and small bites is usually available, and a generous side patio is popular on sunny days.

4. Ideal's Sandwich and Grocery

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2108 Angier Ave
Durham, NC 27703
(919) 724-0241
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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). Plans are in the works for an expanded grocery and retail section.

5. Tesoro

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100 E Weaver St
Carrboro, NC 27510
(919) 537-8494
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Former Pizzeria Mercato sous chef David Peretin recently opened this ode to handcrafted pasta right in the center of Carrboro. The restaurant seats just 18 customers at a time, with a similarly scaled back menu of small plates and pasta to match. Starters are homemade bread, a salad of local lettuces, arancini with a salsa Calabrese, and marinated olives. The real stars of the show are Peretin’s pastas — shapes like spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni, and gnocchi all made fresh in house. Tesoro is an homage to classic pasta, nothing overly fancy or gimmicky.

Pesto pasta.
Tesoro

6. Boxyard RTP

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900 Park Offices Dr
Research Triangle, NC 27709
(919) 475-5321
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The shipping-containers-as-shops trend has arrived in the Triangle with Boxyard RTP, in an area not really known as a destination for diners outside of office hours. Boxyard aims to change that, with storefronts (box-fronts?) for an outpost of Durham’s Beyu Caffe, Buzzy Bakes bakery, Wonderpuff cotton candy shop, and the much-anticipated Lawrence BBQ from chef Jake Wood. Future openings include a second location for Fullsteam Brewery, Bulkogi (Korean), Carrburitos, Meat and Graze (cheese and charcuterie), RTP Uncorked (wine bar and shop), and Lagoon Bar (tiki).

Lawrence Barbecue
John Park

7. Lulu Bang Bang

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5418 Page Rd
Durham, NC 27703
(919) 908-1851
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Pan-Asian street food collides with all things tiki at this newest offering from chef William d’Auvray and Chapel Hill Restaurant Group. There’s lunch and dinner service, with dishes like barbecued chicken banh mi, chili-fried peanuts, coconut-grilled lamb, and larb tod. The signature Colada BangBang cocktail is made with a charred pineapple-infused Plantation rum.

8. Day and Night Cereal Bar

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6325 Falls of Neuse Rd
Raleigh, NC 27615

LA-based Day and Night Exotic Cereal Bar recently opened its newest location off Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh. What exactly is an exotic cereal bar? Well, imagine childhood favorite cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch transformed into magical bowls and shakes by a Michelin-trained stoner. Those Honey Nut Cheerios become The Beehive -—combined with Honey Bunches of Oats, a roasted almond granola, and drizzle of honey (add milk for a bowl, or turn it into a shake). The Buttercup comes with Cocoa Puffs, Reese’s Cup Cereal, whipped cream, a peanut butter drizzle, and chocolate donut sprinkles. Top it all off with a bacon flight and a cup of a coffee, because why not?

9. Ish Delicatessen

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702 N Person St
Raleigh, NC 27604
(984) 200-8189
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Matt Fern’s Ish Delicatessen on Person Street in Raleigh is just that. It’s not a Jewish deli, and it’s not an Italian sub shop — it’s a little bit of everything. “Ish.” There’s a Reuben, of course, and an Italian sub, but there’s also sloppy SPO’s (sausage, peppers, and onions role-playing as a sloppy Joe), egg and olive salad (a Fern family Easter tradition apparently), and summer spiedies.

10. The Willard Rooftop Lounge

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9 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 803-5200
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Located atop downtown Raleigh’s AC Hotel, the Willard is the latest entrant in the city’s rooftop offerings. The cocktail menu features drinks like the Willard gimlet, a signature gin and tonic, and the Dos Caras, made with tequila blanco, mezcal joven, grapefruit, cinnamon, and clove. A menu of globally inspired small plates (roasted carrots and harissa toast, chicken shawarma flatbread, and crispy shrimp shakshouka) complements the drinks, as well as a beer and wine menu.

Rooftop seating with views of the Raleigh Skyline.
The Willard offers panoramic views of the downtown Raleigh skyline.
Baxter Miller

11. St. Roch Fine Oysters + Bar

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

12. Young Hearts Distilling

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225 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601

Billing itself as Downtown Raleigh’s first distillery and restaurant, Young Hearts is the brainchild of the folks behind Trophy Brewing. On the booze side of things Young Hearts is focusing on botanical forward spirits, amari, gins, and more, while the food options include both dinner and late menus. Dinner features small plates and mains like a local pork torchon, beet (yes, beet) bourguignon, and a venison carpaccio. Those staying later can soak up some of that liquor with the late night lasagna, Swedish meatballs, or hoppin’ John croquettes.

Food and drinks at Young Hearts.
Stacey Sprenz Photography

1. 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

2. Cugino Forno Durham

800 Taylor St, Durham, NC 27701

Beloved pizzeria Cugino Forno has opened its first location outside of the Triad in Durham’s Golden Belt complex. The Neapolitan-style pizzas are cooked in an oven imported directly from Naples that contains stones from Mt. Vesuvius. Pizzas include Margherita, funghi, and Livorno (Italian sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, mozzerella di Bufala, garlic, and basil).

800 Taylor St
Durham, NC 27701

3. Rofhiwa Book Café

406 S Driver St, Durham, NC 27703

Anchoring Old East Durham’s small downtown, Rofhiwa is Black-owned coffee shop and bookstore that took over the old East Durham Bake Shop space. Books on a wide range of subjects, all from Black authors, occupy one corner of the colorful space, while the coffee bar serves classic cafe drinks. A rotating selection of pastries and small bites is usually available, and a generous side patio is popular on sunny days.

406 S Driver St
Durham, NC 27703

4. 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). Plans are in the works for an expanded grocery and retail section.

2108 Angier Ave
Durham, NC 27703

5. Tesoro

100 E Weaver St, Carrboro, NC 27510
Pesto pasta.
Tesoro

Former Pizzeria Mercato sous chef David Peretin recently opened this ode to handcrafted pasta right in the center of Carrboro. The restaurant seats just 18 customers at a time, with a similarly scaled back menu of small plates and pasta to match. Starters are homemade bread, a salad of local lettuces, arancini with a salsa Calabrese, and marinated olives. The real stars of the show are Peretin’s pastas — shapes like spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni, and gnocchi all made fresh in house. Tesoro is an homage to classic pasta, nothing overly fancy or gimmicky.

100 E Weaver St
Carrboro, NC 27510

6. Boxyard RTP

900 Park Offices Dr, Research Triangle, NC 27709
Lawrence Barbecue
John Park

The shipping-containers-as-shops trend has arrived in the Triangle with Boxyard RTP, in an area not really known as a destination for diners outside of office hours. Boxyard aims to change that, with storefronts (box-fronts?) for an outpost of Durham’s Beyu Caffe, Buzzy Bakes bakery, Wonderpuff cotton candy shop, and the much-anticipated Lawrence BBQ from chef Jake Wood. Future openings include a second location for Fullsteam Brewery, Bulkogi (Korean), Carrburitos, Meat and Graze (cheese and charcuterie), RTP Uncorked (wine bar and shop), and Lagoon Bar (tiki).

900 Park Offices Dr
Research Triangle, NC 27709

7. Lulu Bang Bang

5418 Page Rd, Durham, NC 27703

Pan-Asian street food collides with all things tiki at this newest offering from chef William d’Auvray and Chapel Hill Restaurant Group. There’s lunch and dinner service, with dishes like barbecued chicken banh mi, chili-fried peanuts, coconut-grilled lamb, and larb tod. The signature Colada BangBang cocktail is made with a charred pineapple-infused Plantation rum.

5418 Page Rd
Durham, NC 27703

8. Day and Night Cereal Bar

6325 Falls of Neuse Rd, Raleigh, NC 27615

LA-based Day and Night Exotic Cereal Bar recently opened its newest location off Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh. What exactly is an exotic cereal bar? Well, imagine childhood favorite cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch transformed into magical bowls and shakes by a Michelin-trained stoner. Those Honey Nut Cheerios become The Beehive -—combined with Honey Bunches of Oats, a roasted almond granola, and drizzle of honey (add milk for a bowl, or turn it into a shake). The Buttercup comes with Cocoa Puffs, Reese’s Cup Cereal, whipped cream, a peanut butter drizzle, and chocolate donut sprinkles. Top it all off with a bacon flight and a cup of a coffee, because why not?

6325 Falls of Neuse Rd
Raleigh, NC 27615

9. Ish Delicatessen

702 N Person St, Raleigh, NC 27604

Matt Fern’s Ish Delicatessen on Person Street in Raleigh is just that. It’s not a Jewish deli, and it’s not an Italian sub shop — it’s a little bit of everything. “Ish.” There’s a Reuben, of course, and an Italian sub, but there’s also sloppy SPO’s (sausage, peppers, and onions role-playing as a sloppy Joe), egg and olive salad (a Fern family Easter tradition apparently), and summer spiedies.

702 N Person St
Raleigh, NC 27604

10. The Willard Rooftop Lounge

9 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603
Rooftop seating with views of the Raleigh Skyline.
The Willard offers panoramic views of the downtown Raleigh skyline.
Baxter Miller

Located atop downtown Raleigh’s AC Hotel, the Willard is the latest entrant in the city’s rooftop offerings. The cocktail menu features drinks like the Willard gimlet, a signature gin and tonic, and the Dos Caras, made with tequila blanco, mezcal joven, grapefruit, cinnamon, and clove. A menu of globally inspired small plates (roasted carrots and harissa toast, chicken shawarma flatbread, and crispy shrimp shakshouka) complements the drinks, as well as a beer and wine menu.

9 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603

11. 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

12. Young Hearts Distilling

225 S Wilmington St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Food and drinks at Young Hearts.
Stacey Sprenz Photography

Billing itself as Downtown Raleigh’s first distillery and restaurant, Young Hearts is the brainchild of the folks behind Trophy Brewing. On the booze side of things Young Hearts is focusing on botanical forward spirits, amari, gins, and more, while the food options include both dinner and late menus. Dinner features small plates and mains like a local pork torchon, beet (yes, beet) bourguignon, and a venison carpaccio. Those staying later can soak up some of that liquor with the late night lasagna, Swedish meatballs, or hoppin’ John croquettes.

225 S Wilmington St
Raleigh, NC 27601

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