Little Hen chef Regan Stachler back in the kitchen with new wine bar in Fuquay-Varina

Regan Stachler

Chef Regan Stachler is getting better at taking it easy.

When he closed his Apex restaurant Little Hen in 2017, Stachler said he was burned out. In more than five years of business, he had worked the line for all but a dozen services. He’d had a heart attack at 36. He needed a break.

Now, Stachler will return this fall with a new wine bar, teaming up with Fuquay-Varina’s Cellar 55 and owner Bill Wigington. The wine shop and bar are located at 1351 E. Broad St. in the Fuquay Crossing shopping center.

The new restaurant is named Laurel, taking its name for the bay leaf tree. Stachler is planning a Mediterranean-focused menu largely of snacks that pair well with wines. He said to expect marinated cheeses and olives, pickled vegetables, salads, charcuterie and crudos and for hummus to be the star.

“My wife and I always wanted to own a wine bar,” Stachler said. “We have great affection for wine. ... Wine is so unique because every vintage and every area can be different. It’s like produce, but with vegetables you know what you’ve got. With wine you have to wait — I just love that.”

Cellar 55 will remain primarily a retail wine and beer shop, but seating for more than 30 has been added. The shop will still pour wines and beer, but Laurel will feature about a dozen wines by the glass selected by Stachler.

NYC restaurant scene

In between restaurants, Stachler has done restaurant consulting and organized charity cooking events, like Chicken Wire and Soup for Syria.

In the fall of 2017, he signed on as executive chef of Cary’s Mayton Inn, but left soon thereafter over creative differences. Early in his career, Stachler spent years in New York City’s restaurant scene, including the venerable Gramercy Tavern. The loss of farm-to-table restaurant Little Hen is still lamented in the Triangle. The News & Observer dining critic Greg Cox awarded it four-and-a-half stars in a 2012 review.

With Laurel, Stachler said he built a food program devoted to his passion for wine and Mediterranean dishes, but that wouldn’t tie him to the line on a nightly basis. The menu draws on Middle Eastern and Persian influences, Stachler said, with many dishes served as cold appetizers to share with a few glasses of wine. Stachler has also been making his own pottery, a therapeutic hobby, he said, with some of his creations destined for the restaurant.

“I got into this food for my health; I started doing it right at the tail end of LIttle Hen,” Stachler said. “Then I was selling hummus at the farmers market. It was part of my diet. I want to cook food that I’m passionate about.”

Laurel will open in mid-October, Stachler said, with full service running Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a limited menu Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday. He said he’s already setting his sights on expanding Laurel, as he looks for a location for the wine bar in Cary.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.