The local dining scene has not been immune to the effects of the recession, and many restaurants continue to struggle.
But a number of establishments have fared well enough to open new locations. Not surprisingly, these are for the most part restaurants that specialize in serving affordable fare.
One exception is ShabaShabu in Raleigh, which has opened a new location in Durham (4020 Chapel Hill Blvd.; 237-1935; www.shabashabu.net). And even in that case, the prices on ShabaShabu's Thai and Japanese menus -- while somewhat higher than you'd find in straightforward ethnic eateries -- are still competitive with those at comparable upscale restaurants.
The contemporary designer setting at the new Durham location of West End Wine Bar (601 W. Main St.; 381-4228; www.westendwinebar.com) hardly shouts "hard times," either. But you'll still find plenty of glasses in the $5-$7 range on the intelligently chosen wine list, just as you can at the Chapel Hill original. And the food, which ranges from Guglhupf pastries in the morning to tapas and other light fare supplied in part by Pop's and Rue Cler in the evening, certainly qualifies as gourmet dining on a budget.
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If it's Mexican you're after, you have three new options. La Vaquita (2403 Pickett Road; 402-0209; www.lavaquitanc.com), one of the best of Durham's many taquerias, has opened a second location in the former Best Burrito spot (3409 Hillsborough Road; 383-8828). There's no plastic cow on the roof of the new taqueria (the one at the original was inherited from a dairy shop that once occupied the building), but there is indoor seating. Meanwhile, the owners of the El Cerro Grande chain have doubled down their bets on the economy with new locations in Raleigh's Mission Valley Shopping Center (2217 Avent Ferry Road; 832-0293) and Wendell (18 W. Third St.; 365-5072).
Wake Forest gets its slice of the expansion pie, too, in the form of the Triangle's third location of Atlanta-based pizzeria Mellow Mushroom (2125 S. Main St.; 556-8884; www.mellowmushroom.com). So does Apex, where the area's third Slice of NY (2045 Creekside Landing Drive; 387-0500) is now tossing and saucing pies in Beaver Creek Crossing.
Hankering for barbecue? You'll have another option as of next Monday, when Ole Time Barbecue (6309 Hillsborough St.; 859-2544; www.oletimebarbecue.com) takes its show on the road to southern Raleigh (1701 Pinewinds Drive (772-1811). And yet another by June 1, when Backyard BBQ Pit in RTP (5122 N.C. Highway 55; 544-9911; www.sweetribs.com) opens an outpost in northern Durham (3218 Guess Road; 697-3164).