Now for a bite of Mexico

FROM STAFF REPORTSJune 10, 2011 

Lilly Vallance is bringing her grandmother's empanada recipe to downtown Raleigh.

The Mexico City native and former manager of the Ugly Monkey Party Bar plans to open Calavera, an empanada and tequila bar, this month in the Palladium Plaza building at 444 S. Blount St.

The restaurant is taking the space previously occupied by 101 Lounge & Cafe.

Vallance said Calavera, which means skull in Spanish, will feature meat and vegetarian empanadas, some appetizers as well as cocktails and Mexican beer.

The restaurant will keep the same basic menu for lunch and dinner, with empanadas priced between $2.50 and $3.50.

"When I go home to Mexico, I always go to the little bars that are really cozy and really small," said Vallance, 30, who has worked in the downtown restaurant scene for the past 11 years. "Really good food - maybe three items on the menu - but it's always packed. That's kind of what we want to do."

The restaurant is a partnership between Vallance, her husband, David, and Kenneth Yowel, another veteran of the Raleigh restaurant scene.

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The DVD kiosk war is escalating in the Triangle.

NCR announced this week that it has installed its Blockbuster Express kiosks in more than 800 Food Lion grocery stores in 11 states, including more than 50 across the Triangle. There are also Blockbuster Express kiosks in local Kerr Drug, Rite Aid and Sheetz stores.

They compete for consumers' attention with Redbox kiosks, which are in Lowes Food, CVS, Harris Teeter, Walmart and other spots.Every Redbox is assembled in a huge Creedmoor factory, about 30 miles north of Raleigh.

The race to install kiosks comes as Blockbuster has closed more of its local stores, limiting options for traditional DVD rentals. The market has shifted to kiosks and to online rentals, an industry dominated by Netflix.

To promote its Food Lion connection, NCR is offering a free first night's rental of $1-per-night movies through June 17. Blockbuster Express customers should enter the promo FOODLION.

The Triangle's pizza market, which has seen a flurry of new additions recently, also has a change.

The Fuhgeddaboudit Pizza at 7321 Six Forks Road in North Raleigh has changed its name to Camos Brothers Pizza and remains open.

The store's owners, Richard and Gus Camos, had a falling out with their partner, NYC Pizza president Cary Joshi. There is another Camos Brothers location on Chapel Hill's Franklin Street.

And the Fuhgeddaboudit Pizza at Millpond Village in Cary remains open. Joshi said he expects to open others "in the near future."

Panera Bread has closed one location in North Raleigh and is preparing to open another.

A new Panera in the Market at Colonnade shopping center will open at 6:30 a.m. Monday. The first 300 customers will receive a free travel mug and free refills for 30 days.

The store replaces the Panera in the Falls Village Shopping Center on New Falls of Neuse Road that closed Sunday.

Market at Colonnade, at Six Forks and Strickland roads, is anchored by a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods that opened this year. Panera is occupying some of the 17,000 square feet of additional space in the center for other stores and restaurants.

"We expect it to be a higher volume location," said Josie Franzetta, a spokeswoman for Breadwinners at the Triangle, a Panera franchisee.

Tyler's Taproom, which signed a lease in downtown Raleigh's Seaboard Station before the economic downturn took hold, now expects to open the restaurant this fall.

Construction has begun on the more than 10,000-square-foot restaurant, which will include the space previously occupied by Tookie's Grill.

The restaurant will also feature an outdoor deck and bar facing Peace Street.

"We are excited about finally making our Raleigh location a reality," Tyler Huntington, president of Tyler's restaurants, said in a release. "It took a while to get all of the pieces together, but the wait has been worth it. In the end we will have more space, room for private events, and a great patio area."

This will be the fourth Tyler's in the Triangle. The others are in downtown Durham's American Tobacco Campus, in downtown Carrboro and at Beaver Creek Crossings in Apex.

Kristen Greczyn is opening Kristen's Place at 2035 Renaissance Park Place in Cary at the end of June. Kristen's Place, which is next to Kristen's Shoe Boutique, will carry women's apparel and gifts and accessories. The website is kristensplacecary .com.

Toyota of Apex, at 1210 Laura Village Drive, Apex, celebrated its grand opening Monday. John Futrell, who came from Toyota of Wilmington, is general manager and vice president.

Staff writers David Bracken, Alan M. Wolf and Amy Rue contributed

to this report.

Send news about store openings and closings to amy.rue@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4566.

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