Londoners Kelly Bruney and Maisie Coborne, both vegetarians, dreamed for years of opening their own vegetarian restaurant. Last year, they decided to team up and do something about it. They quit their day jobs, packed their bags and moved all the way to Chapel Hill, where they believed a vegetarian restaurant would receive a warm welcome. The partners searched for a suitable site and eventually found one in the old Bon's space in University Square. They gave the dining room a makeover, transforming it into an airy, casually contemporary space. Their dream finally came to fruition July 1, when Bruney and Coborne opened the doors to Butternut Squash (133-E W. Franklin St.; 929-8199; www.butternutsquashrestaurant.com).
Judging by the early signs, the restaurant promises to be a dream come true for many others, too, especially given the dearth of vegetarian restaurants in the Triangle. For starters, the pantry is stocked with produce that's overwhelmingly local and organic, much of it from Redbud Organic Farm in Burlington. The owners hired Johnson & Wales-trained chef Andrew Gentry, who has worked in vegetarian restaurants in Asheville for a number of years, to transform those raw materials into a diverse menu of vegetarian and vegan fare.
Gentry rose to the challenge with an offering that ranges from the restaurant's namesake butternut squash risotto to Thai-style seitan skewers to a weekly changing vegan farmers' market special. Lighter fare includes tempeh hot wings, vegan lettuce rolls, flash-fried goat cheese with berry reduction and sandwiches on vegan bread baked in house by pastry chef Christina Gentry (Andrew's wife). Pancakes with real maple syrup, omelets made with organic eggs, cheddar cheese grits and biscuits with shiitake and onion gravy are among the highlights of a breakfast menu that should prove enticing to vegetarians and "temporary vegetarians" alike.
Butternut Squash is open Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Beer and wine will be served, pending approval of the license.
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Meanwhile in Wake County, a couple of Raleigh restaurants have proved so successful that they've taken the show on the road to Cary. Just like the original in North Raleigh, the new Cary location of Café Capistrano (2250 Gathering Park Circle; 467-2320; www.cafecapistrano.com) specializes in California-style Mexican cuisine with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and scratch preparation. Jasmin Mediterranean Bistro (1624 Walnut St.; 469-1112; www.themediterraneanbistro.com) features kebabs and other Middle Eastern fare, including the restaurant's specialty: chicken shawarma, marinated overnight and flame-grilled on a traditional vertical spit. Pending health inspections, the restaurant is expected to open this week.