I don’t know about you but I always enjoy the New Year! It feels like there are so many possibilities in the upcoming 365 days but I always try to take a look back at what was accomplished and what has passed. And in 2019, a LOT happened in the Triangle area. New restaurant construction hasn’t slowed down much but the majority of the action last year was in Raleigh, similar to 2018. So here’s a quick look back at the highlights and restaurants that opened up in 2019.
One of the first new bars I hit up for the year was Apero, a cool little wine-apertif bar that was doing a lot of things right. Interesting cocktails, wine and European small plates for a more sophisticated crowd. And while I still enjoy my visits to Apero, it would soon be overtaken by some newer bars opening up. Later on in January, Boxcar Durham opened up and it was impressive! More space, more games and fresh wood-fired pizza made this third Boxcar probably the best ever! The better layout and large bar makes for a much more relaxed game-playing experience. Plus the location is awesome by the old Durham Bulls ballpark. In mid-February, Cat Tales Cat Cafe opens up in Chapel Hill and while it may not be for everyone, love their concept and mission. Re-homing and getting kitties adopted is a worthwhile cause and I imagine some folks love playing with kittehs. Those that are allergic to cats should do a hard pass!
In April, Barcelona Wine Bar opens up at the Dillon in Raleigh and becomes one of my favorite new spots. Spanish tapas done right and in a fun setting, love the bar, patio and dining room, it’s always a good meal here. Hawthorne & Wood in Chapel Hill follows later that month with a Michelin-starred chef in the kitchen. This fancier restaurant overs a more civilized dining experience with plush seating and top-notch service. While there was a lot of goodness in April, there was also some sadness. The April 10 gas explosion at Kaffeinate in Durham was a shock to the Bull City resulting in the loss of two lives and many injuries. It was incredulous to see all the damage done in that block when seen firsthand. But thankfully, the community came together and has been trying to make the best of an awful situation.
And in June we get M Pocha and its Asian small plates from Chef Mike Lee in Durham along with the wonderful Layered Croissanterie in Raleigh. M Pocha (located at Five Points) is playing around with a lot of different Asian cuisines in a hip, communal setting. Layered Croissanterie is top-notch offering up some of the best croissants I’ve ever had. Great space, delicious pastries and cool owners. Wow, we’re not even halfway through 2019 and in need of a breather, phew!
July starts off quickly with the new Chicken Bee (Korean Fried Chicken) in Durham and Chido Taco in Raleigh offering up a cool twist on ethnic eats. Chicken Bee has a lot of service issues when it opens given how long it takes to cook up Korean fried chicken but seems to have things in order now. Chido Taco is doing tacos and burritos mercado-style. I’m not sure what that means but it’s a good looking space offering great, quick-casual Mexican with a full bar! Kingfisher Bar opens up offering farm to glass cocktails in a very cool underground setting for Durham.
In August we get Shake Shack in Cary, Coronato Pizza in Carrboro and Jolie in Raleigh covering burgers, pizza and French food, wow! Shake Shack has met all my expectations in serving up an excellent burger and fries. Jolie gets off to an interesting start for me, a quick thunderstorm up on the rooftop patio interrupts our excellent meal. And Coronato Pizza is doing some great za, Roman-style. September brings us Pooleside Pies and Wegman’s in Raleigh, both very long awaited in the Triangle. Poole’side is probably one of the most beautifully designed dining spaces in the Triangle and its pizzas are definitely a twist on traditional Neapolitan. Interesting to see these larger grocery chains coming to the Raleigh Durham area (Publix, Lidl).
For the final quarter of 2019 things slow down a bit but we get Rosewater Kitchen and Bar from Giorgio’s group along with High Horse from Chef Katsuji Tanabe over in City Market. Both are offering up some delicious eats in very cool but different settings. Rosewater is light and bright while High Horse goes dark and sexy, choose between North Hills or City Market for a fun dinner. Cha House in Raleigh and Ko*an in Cary round up the quarter with some delicious boba tea and Asian eats for the area. Cha House is the second location for this soon to be local boba tea chain and also serves up some tasty rice plates. Ko*an has refreshed the beautiful ex-An dining room and is on my To Eat list. All in all some VERY impressive new restaurants for the area.
Looking back at 2019 for the NC Triangle dining scene makes for a pretty impressive timeline, check out the full list of what I was tracking for 2019! It was a damn good year for new restaurants in the Triangle and I ate out a lot in 2019 to try and keep up with all the action. Although I admit it would have been great to see more out of Durham. But I think after a couple of very busy years in 2016 and 2017, the Bull City needed a breather and Raleigh picked up the slack. With all the new work-live developments opening up in Raleigh, restaurants had to follow. So what to expect in 2020? Beyond a lot of NC barbeque, we will have to wait and see! And I’m working on my Best New Restaurants for 2019 list so stay tuned readers…