Who says good things always come in threes? Lately, good news for foodies has been coming in twos. To wit:
A pair of premieres. Two restaurant chains based in the Northeast have opened their first locations in the Triangle in recent weeks. The Original Soupman (6325 Falls of the Neuse Road; 790-8668; www.originalsoupman.com) offers a daily changing selection of 10 soups from a list of 50, including Italian wedding, turkey chili, mulligatawny and the popular house specialty, lobster bisque. Yes, this is the chain whose flagship location in New York inspired the famous "Soup Nazi" episode on Seinfeld. No, according to local franchisee Steve Lineberry, nobody has been thrown out of this location for not following restaurant rules.
In Durham, New Jersey-based Golden Krust (3600 N. Duke St.; 283-4639; www.goldenkrustbakery.com) serves Caribbean fare, cafeteria style. The chain is best known for Jamaican patties, savory turnovers available with eight filling options, and for pastries such as rum cake and spice bun. Jerk chicken, braised oxtail and curried goat are popular entrees.
A brace of bottle shops. Hope Valley Bottle Shop (4711 Hope Valley Road, in Woodcroft Shopping Center; 403-5200) offers a selection of about 600 wines, from affordable, familiar labels to rare, special occasion wines. Owners Drew Lazarus and Thomas Thorne call their Durham establishment a "bottle shop" to distinguish it from traditional wine shops. How is it different? For one thing, the owners go beyond offering weekly wine tastings (Saturdays from 4:30-7 p.m.). They have installed a self-serve "wine station" where customers can insert a prepaid card and dispense the wine of their choice from a rotating selection of eight and enjoy it in a lounge-like seating area. Also unlike traditional wine shops, Hope Valley Bottle Shop offers an extensive selection of imported beers and microbrews, with a particularly strong selection of Belgians.
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Carrboro Beverage Co. (102 E. Main St., Carrboro; 942-3116) bills itself as a bottle shop, too. The overwhelming majority of its bottles are filled, not with wine, but with about 300 varieties of beer. That's no surprise, considering the shop is run by the owners of Tyler's Taproom next door. The shop also sells beer glassware and other merchandise, as well as unusual sodas such as barrel-brewed ginger ale and a nonalcoholic soda made with chardonnay grapes. Oh, and there's a modest selection of inexpensive wines.
A couple of café conversions. A few months ago, Jonathan Tagg went looking for a partner to help him run Broad Street Café (1116 Broad St.; 416-9707; www.thebroadstreetcafe.com) in Durham. He found one in Daphne Lagasse, whose 14-year culinary career includes work in the kitchens of Panzanella, Provence and The Grill at Glen Lennox. It seemed a shame to let all that talent go to waste, so the partners gave the place a thorough makeover, transforming it from coffeehouse to full-fledged restaurant specializing in wood-fired pizzas. The café also features a full bar with an extensive beer selection.
In Raleigh's Swift Creek Shopping Center, Café Noir (2893 Jones Franklin Road; 341-5460; www.cafenoirnc.com) underwent a similar transformation under the leadership of new chef-proprietor Nicolas Baliva and executive sous chef Christopher Sofield. The duo designed an ambitious menu of small plates, large salads, panini and entrees ranging from steak au poivre to pan-roasted, line-caught salmon with Tuscan beans, tomatoes and Sicilian olives over wilted greens. They expect to be serving beer and wine by the end of this month.