The Forbes list of coolest places to eat on earth in 2018 stretches from Moscow to Raleigh’s Moore Square, with detours to Japan, Spain and Colombia.
Included in the 10 spot rundown is Raleigh’s Brewery Bhavana, which in nine months has blossomed from a multi-concept curiosity to the city’s busiest restaurant. It’s one of only two spots in the United States featured on the list, which includes a pizzeria in Barcelona, outdoor wood-fired cooking in Tulum and a 14-seat tempura temple in Tokyo.
Of Brewery Bhavana, award-winning food writer and Cary native Matt Goulding said he loved the beers, dumplings and crispy pig ears. He pointed to Bhavana as Raleigh’s graduation moment into a bona fide eating hot spot.
“Raleigh’s transformation from an underachieving food town to a serious eating destination is complete,” Goulding said.
Equal parts dim sum house, taproom and flower and bookshop, Brewery Bhavana has caught on faster than co-founder Vansana Nolintha expected.
Just this summer, six months after the restaurant opened in downtown Raleigh, Bon Appetit named it one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in the country this year. News & Observer dining critic Greg Cox gave it a four star review in August.
“We thought it would take some time for the community to understand the concept, but everyone has been so generous and understanding of what we’re doing,” said Nolintha, who opened Bhavana with his sister, Vanvisa Nolintha, and brewer Patrick Woodson. The Nolinthas also own Bida Manda, a Laotian restaurant, next door.
“As a dining community, nationally and internationally, we’re looking for community driven, authentic offerings. It’s quite inspiring for a creative person.”
This week, the team announced plans to open a taproom next to its brewing operations in Southeast Raleigh. The complex is at the corner of South Bloodworth and Hoke streets below Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Today in food, concept is king, not geography. No longer does a restaurant need a New York or Los Angeles address to play on the world stage. The Triangle has turned heads for years with projects from Ashley Christensen’s Death and Taxes to Andrea Reusing’s The Durham.
Bhavana is the latest shot across the bow.
“You don’t have to look elsewhere for inspiration,” Nolintha said. “There are so many brilliant minds here in the Triangle. All you have to do is look inward and toward home for inspiration. Raleigh is well represented in the national food community.”
This week, Bhavana also appeared on USA Today’s list of the 20 best new restaurants in America – those that have opened in the last year and a half. The list will be voted on by readers over the next month, with the top restaurant announced in January. Nolintha said the mentions in national media were humbling and shared with the city.
“I think what we do essentially, it’s about creating home and about going home,” he said. “It’s about finding that thing that wakes us up in the morning, it’s about finding that vice and that fire deep in our gut and in our heart and share it.
“It’s about hoping to make an impact where we are in the best way we know how. It’s about sharing our hearts, our stories, our passions, our crafts and our love for this community.”
On Wednesday, Bhavana ranked No. 9.
Voting for USA Today’s best new restaurant is open until 12 noon Jan 1 at 10best.com/awards/travel/best-new-restaurant. The winners will be announced Friday, Jan. 5.
Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson