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burger with a glass of white wine
Burger at Young Hearts Distilling.
Stacey Sprenz Photography

12 Hottest Restaurants in the Triangle, October 2021

From cereal milkshakes to oyster plates to fancy burgers

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Burger at Young Hearts Distilling.
| Stacey Sprenz Photography

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.

This inaugural Heatmap features gems like a Black-owned cafe and bookshop, an outpost of a famed New York pizzeria, and a deli with a bit of an identity crisis (but in a good way). The Heatmap will be update monthly, so bookmark this page and check back often to see what is new and exciting on the Triangle’s restaurant scene.

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

New to the list:

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. 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

2. Osteria Georgi

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201 S Elliott Rd #100
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 375-0600
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The newest star in the Giorgios Bakatsias constellation, Osteria Georgi seems to be part of a renaissance of Italian dining in the Triangle — one that combines a bit from both classic red sauce Italian-American joints and true Italian cuisine. Executive chef Dan Jackson and his team put creative spins on dishes like puttanesca (in this case prepared with a catch of the day and served over Sardinian couscous) and polpette (meatballs, made here with both beef and eggplant and studded with pine nuts). The extensive Italian wine list and possibly one of the largest offerings of Amari in the Triangle are two other great draws.

The spread at Osteria Georgi.
Shannon Kelly

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. 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

6. 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.

7. Di Fara Pizza Tavern

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111 E Chatham St
Cary, NC 27511
(919) 678-5300
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It’s not secret that the Triangle is home to A LOT of New York transplants, many of whom will be thrilled to find that a branch of famed NYC pizzeria of the same name. Di Fara Pizza Tavern in Cary was opened by Greg Norton and Matt Geiser — Norton’s uncle Domenico DeMarco opened the original DiFara’s in Brooklyn in 1965. The pair has gone to great lengths to recreate the DiFara experience, even sourcing a style of water treatment machine to replicate the NYC tap water that many claim make that city’s pizza dough so good. Expect classic New York pies, available whole or by the slice, and perhaps a bit of Brooklyn nostalgia.

8. Union Special

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401 Fayetteville St Suite 103
Raleigh, NC 27601
(984) 200-3094
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Baker Andrew Ullom has opened a second location of his beloved bakery in downtown Raleigh, offering some of the same sandwiches, pastries, and breads that have earned Union Special a cult following over the past few years. Recent special offerings include grandma-pizza-like vegan slices topped with a tomato sauce made with sesame and pumpkin seeds, garlic, and citrus, shaved Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, and spelt waffles with raspberry compote, espresso cream, and chocolate streusel. Union Special’s regular offerings of cold and hot sandwiches, pastries, and freshly baked breads are also available.

9. 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

10. 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

11. 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.

12. 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?

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1. 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

2. Osteria Georgi

201 S Elliott Rd #100, Chapel Hill, NC 27514
The spread at Osteria Georgi.
Shannon Kelly

The newest star in the Giorgios Bakatsias constellation, Osteria Georgi seems to be part of a renaissance of Italian dining in the Triangle — one that combines a bit from both classic red sauce Italian-American joints and true Italian cuisine. Executive chef Dan Jackson and his team put creative spins on dishes like puttanesca (in this case prepared with a catch of the day and served over Sardinian couscous) and polpette (meatballs, made here with both beef and eggplant and studded with pine nuts). The extensive Italian wine list and possibly one of the largest offerings of Amari in the Triangle are two other great draws.

201 S Elliott Rd #100
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

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. 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

6. 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

7. Di Fara Pizza Tavern

111 E Chatham St, Cary, NC 27511

It’s not secret that the Triangle is home to A LOT of New York transplants, many of whom will be thrilled to find that a branch of famed NYC pizzeria of the same name. Di Fara Pizza Tavern in Cary was opened by Greg Norton and Matt Geiser — Norton’s uncle Domenico DeMarco opened the original DiFara’s in Brooklyn in 1965. The pair has gone to great lengths to recreate the DiFara experience, even sourcing a style of water treatment machine to replicate the NYC tap water that many claim make that city’s pizza dough so good. Expect classic New York pies, available whole or by the slice, and perhaps a bit of Brooklyn nostalgia.

111 E Chatham St
Cary, NC 27511

8. Union Special

401 Fayetteville St Suite 103, Raleigh, NC 27601

Baker Andrew Ullom has opened a second location of his beloved bakery in downtown Raleigh, offering some of the same sandwiches, pastries, and breads that have earned Union Special a cult following over the past few years. Recent special offerings include grandma-pizza-like vegan slices topped with a tomato sauce made with sesame and pumpkin seeds, garlic, and citrus, shaved Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, and spelt waffles with raspberry compote, espresso cream, and chocolate streusel. Union Special’s regular offerings of cold and hot sandwiches, pastries, and freshly baked breads are also available.

401 Fayetteville St Suite 103
Raleigh, NC 27601

9. 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

10. 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

11. 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

12. 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

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