Food & Drink

Familiar restaurant with a new name moving into former Wahlburgers space in Raleigh

Where once there was a Wahlburgers, there soon will be tacos, burritos and a restaurant that’s been in the Triangle for more than three decades.

The Flying Mayan, a new restaurant by the owners of the Flying Burrito, will open at 319 Fayetteville St., in the middle of downtown Raleigh. The space has been vacant since December after the celebrity burger chain Wahlburgers quickly opened and closed after just a few months in 2018.

Flying Burrito owner James Duignan said the Flying Mayan will be the same restaurant as its older sister restaurant in North Raleigh. The name change, he said, is simply a bit of honesty.

“I didn’t want to call it the Flying Burrito when the majority of our menu is tacos; the burrito name was just too restrictive,” Duignan said in a phone interview. “We have a lot of tacos, about 30 tacos, and we bring in different specialty tacos every three weeks.”

The Flying Burrito started as a restaurant in Chapel Hill more than 30 years ago. Duignan purchased it in 2007 and ran it in Chapel Hill until 2011, when he moved the restaurant to Raleigh, just off of U.S. 70, at 4800 Grove Barton Road.

Downtown Raleigh and its dense lunch crowd seems like the perfect spot for his restaurant, Duignan said. The downtown location will open in early December, Duignan said.

“The lunch market in downtown Raleigh, feeding the masses of people working there, that’s a natural fit for us,” Duignan said. “I’m very excited about opening down there.”

The Flying Mayan will serve the familiar Flying Burrito menu, with an expansive taco menu ranging from pulled pork to sweet potatoes, fried fish, jerk chicken and beyond, all on flour tortillas. There are burritos, of course, and larger plates like shrimp and grits with pork belly and blackened salmon. Among the occasional special tacos are ones Duignan deems “exotic,” including camel with adobo sauce.

While the Flying Burrito name has been in the area for a generation, Duignan said he only recently felt compelled to expand.

“Now is the time to start growing,” he said. “It takes a long time to get to that point.”

The space the Flying Mayan will move into was outfitted to be a restaurant not too long ago, so Duignan expects a quick turn-around after cleaning, a new paint job and addressing any needed repairs.

The anticipation of Wahlburgers built for more than a year, setting off debates about chains in downtown Raleigh and public challenges from local restaurant owners to a burger-off with one of the Wahlberg brothers. After that buildup, the restaurant was ultimately shut down by the Wake County health department after repeatedly failing inspections.

Duignan isn’t interested in talking about any of that, he said, feeling the past lives of the restaurant space shall remain in the past.

“I wish people would stop talking about it,” he said. “It has nothing to do with us, there’s no analogy between what we do and what they did.”

It wasn’t Wahl-burrito, after all.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

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.