Area Dining Scene Winners

Triangle's best restaurants you need to taste in 2014

CorrespondentJanuary 30, 2014 

It never fails. Every year, as I look back over the previous 12 months of restaurant comings and goings in the process of putting together my annual Best Restaurants list, at least one noteworthy trend stands out. In 2012, it was the burgeoning dining scene in Raleigh, which was finally showing signs of catching up to its famously foodie neighbor to the west, Durham. The year before, it was the gratifying growth in the number of authentic Chinese restaurants.

This year the hottest trend, if you can call it a trend, was – well, fire. Just days before 2013 was ushered in, a building fire closed the original Hibernian pub on Glenwood South. That proved to be a harbinger of things to come, as three more restaurants of note would be shuttered by fires in 2013: Bali Hai Mongolian Grill, a veteran of more than three decades; Gregoria’s Kitchen, a relative newcomer whose Cuban cuisine had quickly won a strong following; and Pizzeria Toro, just weeks after opening to rave reviews.

The flames and glowing coals in Pizzeria Toro’s massive wood-fired oven were a prime exemplar of a decidedly more welcome sort of “fire” trend. That’s not to say that wood-fired pizza ovens are new to the area, just that Toro raised the bar. In a similar vein, the wood-burning rotisserie oven at Kipos in Chapel Hill is turning out seriously succulent herb-roasted lamb and Greek-style lemon chicken.

Otherwise, 2013 was a year of continuing trends that were already well underway: another authentic Chinese restaurant here, another small plates specialist there. In one noteworthy case, Stanbury set a new standard for the farm-to-fork category. My pick for Restaurant of the Year, One restaurant in Chapel Hill, is so utterly different from anything we’ve seen before that it defies categorization.

And what about those restaurants closed by building fires? Bali Hai’s owners are looking for a new location to rebuild, and in the meantime, fans can get their Mongolian grill fix at the Durham location. The reopening of Pizzeria Toro is just weeks away. Same goes for a bigger-and-better Hibernian with a rooftop patio. And Gregoria’s Kitchen was reincarnated as Gregoria’s Cuban Steakhouse at a new Durham location earlier this month.

Come to think of it, maybe the Chinese calendar’s designation of 2014 as the Year of the Horse is a little off the mark. Looks like it’s shaping up to be the Year of the Phoenix.

Note: You can find my full reviews of these (and hundreds more) restaurants at http://events.triangle.com/restaurants.

RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR

One

100 Meadowmont Village Circle, Chapel Hill

919-537-8207

one-restaurant.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Last summer, One’s owners closed the Chapel Hill restaurant temporarily for a reboot. When it reopened, the dining room looked much the same as before, from the floor-to-ceiling wine rack near the entrance to the sleek modern leather-upholstered chairs at burnished coffee-dark wood tables.

It’s in the large, open-theater kitchen that the dramatic change took place. New co-chefs Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan have worked in some of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the world. Their experience shows in a level of cooking not previously seen in the Triangle.

Their seasonally changing menu distinguishes itself by reviving an old fine-dining restaurant practice of offering entrees for two (Sunburst trout with Carolina Gold rice, green olives and sultana raisins, say, though the description doesn’t do the dish justice) in addition to the expected selection of entrees for one.

For my money, though, the best way to explore the creations of two such supremely talented chefs is their impromptu tasting menu. Here are just a few snapshots of the epicurean parade I enjoyed on a memorable Saturday night in October: miniature balls of cumin-scented squash falafel, nestled among rosettes of zucchini on a bed of squash “hummus;” salt meringue-baked flounder, voluptuous against a backdrop of creamed greens and a surprisingly delicate mustard sauce; supple, rosy slices of spice-rubbed lamb with fresh dates roasted to a sweet, crisp-edged turn; and a perfectly formed quenelle of fig leaf ice cream on a puddle of green peanut horchata dotted with vanilla-perfumed tapioca beads.

Perhaps inspired by the kitchen, the dining room staff at One has raised its game to a level of hospitality and polish matched by a mere handful of restaurants in the Triangle. The wine list, already one of the area’s best, continues to grow under the direction of Sean Rouch, the restaurant’s knowledgeable and approachable sommelier.

All of which adds up to One – the name of the restaurant, as well as its rank among establishments on this year’s list of the area’s best.

GOLD MEDAL

An

2800 Renaissance Park Place, Cary

919-677-9229

ancuisines.com

Cuisine: contemporary Asian

Fearrington House

2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro

919-542-2121

fearringtonhouse.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Herons

100 Woodland Pond, in the Umstead Hotel & Spa, Cary

919-447-4200

theumstead.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Lantern

423 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-969-8846

lanternrestaurant.com

Cuisine: Asian

Mateo

109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-530-8700

mateotapas.com

Cuisine: Spanish (tapas)

Panciuto

110 S. Churton St., Hillsborough

919-732-6261

panciuto.com

Cuisine: contemporary Italian

Poole’s Diner

426 S. McDowell St., Raleigh

919-832-4477

poolesdowntowndiner.com

Cuisine: American bistro

SILVER MEDAL

18 Seaboard

18 Seaboard Ave., Raleigh

919-861-4318

18seaboard.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern, grill

Angus Barn

9401 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh

919-781-2444

angusbarn.com

Cuisine: steakhouse

Bloomsbury Bistro

509-101 West Whitaker Mill Road, Raleigh

919-834-9011

bloomsburybistro.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Bruno

11211 Galleria Ave., Raleigh

919-435-6640

brunoraleigh.com

Cuisine: steaks, seafood, Italian

bu.ku

110 E. Davie St., Raleigh

834-6963

bukuraleigh.com

Cuisine: global street food

Coquette

4351 The Circle at North Hills, Raleigh

919-789-0606

coquetteraleigh.com

Cuisine: French

Elaine’s on Franklin

454 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-960-2770

elainesonfranklin.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Fairview

3001 Cameron Blvd., in the Washington Duke Inn, Durham

919-490-0999

washingtondukeinn.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Four Square

2701 Chapel Hill Road, Durham

919-401-9877

foursquarerestaurant.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Glenwood Grill

2603 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh

919-782-3102

glenwoodgrill.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Guglhupf

2706 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham

401-2600

www.guglhupf.com

Cuisine: German

Il Palio

1505 E. Franklin St., in the Siena Hotel, Chapel Hill

919-929-4000

sienahotel.com

Cuisine: Italian

Kitchen

764 Martin Luther King Blvd., Chapel Hill

919-537-8167

kitchenchapelhill.com

Cuisine: French, contemporary

Mandolin

2519 Fairview Road, Raleigh

919-322-0365

mandolinraleigh.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Margaux’s

8111-111 Creedmoor Road, in Brennan Station, Raleigh

919-846-9846

margauxsrestaurant.com

Cuisine: contemporary, seafood

Midtown Grille

4421-115 Six Forks Road, Raleigh

919-782-9463

themidtowngrille.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Nana’s

2514 University Drive, Durham

919-493-8545

nanasdurham.com

Cuisine: contemporary Mediterranean

Oakleaf

480 Hillsboro St., Pittsboro

919-533-6303

oakleafnc.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Saint Jacques

6112 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh

919-862-2770

saintjacquesfrenchcuisine.com

Cuisine: French

Second Empire

330 Hillsborough St., Raleigh

919-829-3663

second-empire.com

Cuisine: contemporary

Vivace

4209-115 Lassiter Mill Road, in The Alexan, Raleigh

919-787-7747

vivaceraleigh.com

Cuisine: Italian

Watts Grocery

1116 Broad St., Durham

919-416-5040

wattsgrocery.com

Cuisine: contemporary Southern

Yamazushi

4711 Hope Valley Road, Durham

919-493-7748

yamazushirestaurant.com

Cuisine: Japanese

BEST IN CLASS (BY CUISINE)

• AFRICAN

Queen of Sheba

1129-O Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill

919-932-4986

queenofshebachapelhill.com

• BARBECUE

Allen & Son

6203 Millhouse Road, Chapel Hill

919-942-7576

• BURGER

Chuck’s

237 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh

919-322-0126

ac-restaurants.com/chucks

• CAJUN/CREOLE

Battistella’s

200 E. Martin St., Raleigh

919-803-2501

battistellas.com

• CARIBBEAN

Old Havana Sandwich Shop

310 E. Main St., Durham

919-667-9525

oldhavanaeats.com

• CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICAN

Machu Picchu

4500-100 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh

919-526-7378

machupicchuperuviancuisine.com

• CHINESE (SZECHWAN)

Gourmet Kingdom

301 E. Main St., Carrboro

919-932-7222

thegourmetkingdom.com

• CHINESE (TAIWANESE)

Taipei Café

9825-G Chapel Hill Road, Morrisville

919-380-8568

taipei-cafe.com

• DELI

Neal’s Deli

100-C E. Main St., Carrboro

919-967-2185

nealsdeli.com

• FRENCH

Vin Rouge

2010 Hillsborough Road, Durham

919-416-0466

vinrougerestaurant.com

• GERMAN/CENTRAL EUROPEAN

J. Betski’s

10-120 W. Franklin St., Raleigh

919-833-7999

jbetskis.com

• GREEK

Kipos

431 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-425-0760

kiposgreektaverna.com

• INDIAN

CholaNad

308 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-537-8258

www.cholanad.com

• IRISH PUB

Doherty’s

1979 High House Road, Cary

919-388-9930

dohertysirishpubnc.com

• ITALIAN

Antonia’s

101 N. Churton St., Hillsborough

919-643-7722

www.antoniashillsborough.com

• JAPANESE

Waraji

5910 Duraleigh Road, Raleigh

919-783-1883

warajijapaneserestaurant.com

• KOREAN

Seoul Garden

4701 Atlantic Ave., Raleigh

919-850-9984

raleighseoulgarden.com

• MEXICAN (CONTEMPORARY)

Dos Perros

200 N. Mangum St., Durham

919-956-2750

dosperrosrestaurant.com

• MEXICAN (TRADITIONAL)

Centro

106 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh

919-835-3593

centroraleigh.com

• MIDDLE EASTERN

Sitti

137 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh

919-239-4070

sitti-raleigh.com

• PIZZA

Pizzeria Toro

105 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-908-6936

pizzeriatoro.com

NOTE: Pizzeria Toro is temporarily closed due to a building fire. Owners hope to reopen by February.

• SEAFOOD

Blu Seafood & Bar

2002 Hillsborough Road, Durham

919-286-9777

bluseafoodandbar.com

• SOUTHERN

Crook’s Corner

610 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-929-7643

crookscorner.com

• STEAKHOUSE

Bin 54

1201-M Raleigh Road, Chapel Hill

919-969-1155

bin54restaurant.com

• TAQUERIA

Los Comales

Two Durham locations: 2103 N. Roxboro Road; 3511 Witherspoon Blvd.

919-220-1614 (Roxboro); 919-973-0961 (Witherspoon)

• TAPAS

Mateo

109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-530-8700

mateotapas.com

• THAI

Sawasdee

Two Raleigh locations: 6204 Glenwood Ave.; 3601 Capital Blvd.

919-781-7599 (Glenwood); 919-878-0049 (Capital)

sawasdeeraleigh.com

• VEGETARIAN

The Fiction Kitchen

428 S. Dawson St., Raleigh

919-831-4177

thefictionkitchen.com

• VIETNAMESE

Taste Vietnamese

Cuisine

152 Morrisville Square Way, Morrisville

919-234-6385

facebook.com/taste.v.cuisine

BEST NEW RESTAURANTS

Bida Manda

222 S. Blount St., Raleigh

919-829-9999

bidamanda.com

Cuisine: Laotian

Bleu Olive Bistro

1821 Hillandale Road, Durham

919-383-8502

bleuolivebistro.com

Cuisine: contemporary Mediterranean

Jose and Sons

327-102 W. Davie St., Raleigh

919-755-0556

joseandsons.com

Cuisine: Mexican-Southern fusion

Kai Sushi and Sake Bar

7713 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh

919-870-4923

kaisushisakebar.com

Cuisine: Japanese, Korean

Kipos

431 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

919-425-0760

kiposgreektaverna.com

Cuisine: Greek

Pizzeria Toro

105 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham

919-908-6936

pizzeriatoro.com

Cuisine: pizzeria

NOTE: Pizzeria Toro is temporarily closed due to a building fire. Owners hope to reopen by February.

Stanbury

938 N. Blount St., Raleigh

919-977-4321

facebook.com/pages/Stanbury/359649790802483

Cuisine: contemporary

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