Two more mobile vendors go brick-and-mortar

Beef empanadas from Makus Empanadas opening later this year at Hope Valley Commons.
Beef empanadas from Makus Empanadas opening later this year at Hope Valley Commons. The Plaid Penguin

Heavenly Smoke, a barbecue-toting truck-and-trailer rig that’s been making the local food truck rounds since 2013, has opened a restaurant in the food court at Northgate Mall in Durham. Owner Shawn Stanley, who has also been hitting the road for barbecue competitions as far away as Texas, is especially proud of his beef brisket and chopped smoked turkey. For those who can’t decided between the two, he offers the Carolina Slammer, which includes both on a toasted garlic bun with his signature relish.

Stanley has expanded his offering for the food court to include a breakfast menu, with options ranging from build-your-own biscuits to breakfast bowls filled with potatoes, onions and peppers topped with your choice of meat: smoked sausage, brisket, or bacon (beef or pork). Heavenly Smoke (1058 W. Club Blvd., in the Northgate Mall food court; is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Also in Durham, the owners of Makus Empanadas are targeting Dec. 28 for the opening of their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Hope Valley Commons. The popular corporate caterer’s Argentinean-style baked empanadas — the native specialty of brothers Hernan and Santiago Moyano and their childhood friend, Ricky Yofre — will form the foundation of the restaurant’s menu.

The list includes nine variations on the theme — traditional fillings (beef empanadas are made from a recipe handed down from the Moyano brothers’ grandparents) as well as contemporary variations ranging from vegan to bacon and cheese. A handful of sides and house-baked cookies (if you’re feeling indulgent, order a side of dulce de leche for dipping) round out the offering.

The partners plan to expand the menu over time, adjusting the offering based on customer feedback. They’ve recently added a pepperoni empanada to the list, and are working on a pork barbecue version.

“We know North Carolina is barbecue country,” says Hernan Moyano, “so we’re taking our time to make sure we get that one right.”

Initially, Makus Empanadas (1125-304 W. NC Hwy. 54, Durham; 919-390-7525; will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The owners plan to extend hours of operation next year.

Greg Cox, the longtime N&O restaurant critic, also covers restaurant news. Reach him at