As I look at how the Triangle food scene is going to evolve in 2016, most of the action seems to be in Durham.
A handful of established Durham chefs and entrepreneurs are expanding their operations, which would make anyone interested in good food and drink giddy about the future.
One note: I’m reporting these owners’ hopeful projections of when the restaurants will open, but you need to keep in mind that construction projects often can be delayed.
By early spring, chef Matt Kelly, an owner of Mateo and Vin Rouge, hopes to open an Italian restaurant, Mothers & Sons, as well as a deli, Lucky’s, both next door to Mateo on West Chapel Hill Street in downtown Durham. He’s partnering with longtime Mateo chef Josh DeCarolis for the traditional Italian trattoria that will offer both extruded and completely handmade pasta (as in mixed, rolled and shaped by hand). Mothers & Sons also will serve meats and vegetables cooked on a wood-fired brick hearth. Kelly’s partner in the deli is Drew Brown, former co-owner of Piedmont restaurant and staff chef at Firsthand Foods. Kelly also plans to open a Durham oyster bar later in the year.
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Pizzeria Toro’s chef-owner Gray Brooks is adding two restaurants: a 30-seat dinner-only restaurant in the former Monuts location on East Parrish Street by late February and a breakfast-served-all-day diner in the old Jack Tar Motel by early fall.
Although not ready to share details, Scratch bakery owner Phoebe Lawless said she is expanding and hopes to be open by the fall.
Over at the American Tobacco complex, two longtime Durham restaurateurs are adding restaurants. Chef Scott Howell of the fine-dining restaurant Nana’s hopes to open Nanasteak by Feb. 1. Tyler Huntington, owner of multiple Tyler’s Taproom locations in the Triangle, will be opening a “biscuit and barbecue concept” this spring. (In the next few months, Huntington is also opening Two Doors Distilling Co., which is housed inside his company’s event space, The Rickhouse, next to the old Durham Athletic Park.)
In northwest Durham, Picnic, a modern-take on a barbecue joint, will open by early February. The restaurant is a collaboration among former Piedmont chef Ben Adams, Pig Whistle pitmaster and caterer Wyatt Dickson and farmer Ryan Butler of Green Button Farm and will offer classic and updated offerings based on the meat-and-three model.
Also in Durham, a Rise biscuit and doughnut location will open in the old Daisy Cakes place in February. Over in Carrboro, another Rise will be open by mid-February. That location is owned by Rick Robinson, former Mondo Bistro chef and owner who has returned to the Triangle, and his colleague Ken Priest. The store’s general manager will be Silvia Pahola, who worked for many years at James Beard Award-winning chef Andrea Reusing’s restaurant, Lantern in Chapel Hill. Priest and Robinson also plan to open Rise locations in Greensboro.
In Carrboro, James Beard-award-winning chefs Ben and Karen Barker of the former Magnolia Grill in Durham are partnering with their son, Gabriel, to open Pizzeria Mercato on West Weaver Street. The restaurant opening got pushed to late January, said Gabriel Barker, who worked for several years at Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco.
Over in Hillsborough, Bona Fide Sandwich Co. is expected to open in February. The restaurant is a collaboration among Matt Fox, Jeremy Blankenship and Dean James, who work at other popular Hillsborough restaurants, The Wooden Nickel Pub, Hillsborough BBQ Co., and most recently, La Place. The restaurant will be at 104 N. Churton St.
It is also worth noting that Mystery Brewing Co. owner Erik Lars Myers hopes to add a restaurant in his taproom by the brewery’s fourth anniversary in early May. Myers said it will offer more varied pub fare from Belgian frites to lighter, fresher food including vegetarian options.
Then Hot Tin Roof bar plans to add a kitchen and start serving sandwiches, subs, hot dogs and burgers by early March. One of the bar’s owners, John Bland, also plans to open two more restaurants this year in downtown Hillsborough: a white-tablecloth steakhouse and a more casual restaurant with a banquet space.
New in Raleigh
Back in Raleigh, there’s also plenty to look forward to in 2016.
Most notably, the family behind the former Bella Mia coal-fire pizzeria in Cary is getting back into the business. Rick Guerra and his pizza-making son, Anthony, are opening Pizza Guerra at 105 E. Martin St. downtown, next door to Fox Liquor Bar. Bella Mia opened to rave reviews, getting a four-star review from longtime News & Observer restaurant critic Greg Cox and being named the Triangle’s restaurant of the year in 2011.
Also downtown, chef Teddy Klopf plans to open Provenance any day now on the first floor of the new Skyhouse luxury apartment building on East Martin Street. Klopf describes the restaurant as “refined new Southern cuisine in a contemporary, casual setting.” He previously worked at McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C., and The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary.
In the former Tir Na nOg space, Bida Manda co-owner Vansana Nolintha plans to convert the 8,000-square-foot Irish pub into Plenty, a brewery, dim sum restaurant, florist shop and bookstore by summer.
On Hillsborough Street, H-Street Kitchen is expected to open in the spring in the old Varsity Theater location. The project is the brainchild of Gary Bryant, a longtime Raleigh restaurant executive known for starting the Bear Rock Cafe. The chef will be Adam Rose, former chef at Straw Valley Food & Drink in Durham and the Siena Hotel’s Il Palio restaurant in Chapel Hill.
Rocky Top Hospitality owner Dean Ogan hopes to reopen Twisted Fork at the Triangle Town Center, which was closed due to a fire, by mid-January. Maximillian’s in Cary will hopefully open by Feb. 1 under the new ownership of longtime employees Will and Margie Hennessee.
Also in the works is the restaurant by the owners of the Pho Nomenal Dumpling Truck, which took home the $50,000 cash prize as Season 6 winner of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race.” In an email, co-owner Sophia Woo wrote, “All we can say is that we are in the works for a brick-and-mortar-location in Raleigh and it will be an exciting collaboration between us and Chef Andrew Schaumann from the former food truck Sol Taco.”
While you are waiting for these places to open, be sure to check out Trophy Brewing’s just-opened 10,000-square-foot brewery and taproom on Maywood Avenue, south of downtown Raleigh, or head over to last year’s restaurant of the year, Gocciolina, in Durham, which now has an expanded waiting area since it took over a small space next door.
I already know what we have to look forward to in 2017: Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen plans to add another eatery to her six-restaurant empire, a Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pizza joint called PooleSide Pie.
Correspondent Greg Cox contributed.