The food hall scene has finally made its way to the Triangle, with two in downtown Raleigh, one in Chapel Hill and another on the way in Durham.
Each has its own character and personality but no shortage of tasty food options. Many vendors already have a presence around here, including many who operate food trucks.
As the food halls settle into operations, we’ll explore each one to give you a taste of what you’ll find. This month, we’re at Blue Dogwood Public Market in Chapel Hill, the Triangle’s first food hall.
The Bar at Blue Dogwood
The wares: A rotating selection of half a dozen North Carolina beers (plus a couple of ciders) on tap to go with the tasty bites you pick up at the market’s food vendors. They focus on smaller breweries that are non-distributed or self-distributed, so you can expect an eclectic selection that might include Boxcar Belle German lager by Southern Peak Brewery in Apex, Clouds Brewing’s Sweet Potato porter, and a bourbon barrel-aged high gravity cider fermented by Chatham Cider Works in Pittsboro.
The wares: A drool-inducing assortment of house-made chocolates, including cherry cordials, whiskey honey truffles, Coconut Bliss bars, and Nut & Tart bars, made with 72% fair trade dark chocolate and spangled with candied walnuts and dried organic cranberries.
Left Bank Butchery
The wares: This whole animal butcher — a rarity in these parts — showcases its wares with a handful of sandwiches and snacks listed on a chalkboard behind the counter. After you polish off that charcuterie plate or braised brisket sandwich (with currants on a cornmeal-dusted roll from the excellent Chicken Bridge Bakery in Pittsboro), pick up a “poulet rouge” style chicken or a couple of grass-fed New York strips for a little DIY cheap eats at home.
The wares: The shop’s namesake Italian cookies — baked on a miniature waffle iron that gives them their distinctive pattern — are offered in a variety of flavors, from traditional anise to pizzelle sandwiches filled with cannoli cream. Like all the sweet and savory pastries in the display case (where you’ll find the likes of amaretti, citrus olive oil cake and rosemary focaccia among the rotating offering), they’re baked from scratch in a dedicated gluten-free kitchen.
Rumi Persian Cafe
The wares: Lamb shank, braised with vegetables and served on a small mountain of lentil-spangled rice, delivers some serious bang for just 12 bucks. Problem is, you’ll have to resist the temptation of the other authentic Persian dishes, a changing selection that might include organic saffron chicken, grass-fed beef meatballs, and the ambrosial pomegranate and walnut stew, fessen joon (aka khoresht fesenjan).
The wares: Oversize Colombian tamales have several filling options, including the best-selling smoky pinto beans with ripe plantains, steamed in a banana leaf; pasteles de yuca, plump with red lentils, brown rice and spinach; arepas with your choice of filling: artichoke and chickpeas, or black beans, zucchini, and plantains; a vegan gratin of almond-feta, kale and millet. If you get the feeling you’ve stumbled onto a veritable El Dorado of vegetarian and gluten-free fare, you’re right.
Vegan Flava Cafe
The wares: Tucked into the corner of Blue Dogwood Public Market, this colorful shop speaks global vegan with a Caribbean accent. Here’s a selective glossary: curry lentils served over organic coconut rice; BBQ jackfruit (a surprisingly successful marriage of subtly sweet tropical fruit and tangy Midwestern style barbecue sauce); mock tuna salad wrap (the protein is chickpea, the wrap is your choice: lettuce, seaweed or collard greens); and Island Flava smoothie (organic mangoes, pineapples, bananas, and organic almond milk).
Blue Dogwood Public Market is at 306 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill. It is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more, go to bluedogwood.com.