What can be said about 2020 other than, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya! Given the unprecedented COVID pandemic we endured during this past year, it’s been a challenge to focus on positive events and milestones in the Triangle food scene. The tough reality is that we still have four to six months of difficulties to manage, even with vaccines slowly being distributed and light at the end of the tunnel. It’s usually at this time of the year, I choose the best new restaurants that opened up but in all honesty I’ve had a hard time writing and reviewing for this food blog over the past 10 months given the seriousness of the times. But I did pull together a list of new restaurants that opened up in 2020, let’s give those brave souls a round of applause! At the very bottom of the list, I’ve also pulled together the restaurants that we have sadly lost in 2020 and I imagine that list will get longer in the upcoming months. 🙁
Some of the bright spots for me in this difficult year have been:
- The Durham Food Hall finally opening up at the start of the pandemic. They are going to do some interesting things.
- Bowstring Pizza and Brewyard in Raleigh which has an awesome industrial space and fun patio areas
- The fantastic Hawkers Asian Street Fare in Chapel Hill which is putting out some really tasty SE Asian dishes
- Seol Grille in Cary which is bringing a super modern take on Korean barbeque to the Triangle
Restaurants adjusted their menus by shortening them and focusing on simpler items that were comforting and worked well as take-out. Virtually every restaurant had to beef up their online ordering and delivery options to survive. QR code online menus and not accepting cash were the keys to creating contact-less dining experiences. And the industry expanded its outdoors dining by taking over sidewalks and streets, along with domes and pods to keep guests separated. It’s pretty amazing that all these creative efforts have kept a good chunk of our restaurants afloat while we fought the COVID pandemic.
And hopefully by mid 2021, we will be getting back to our new normal, I imagine I’ll be at the tail-end of the vaccination schedule but fingers crossed for everyone else. Looking into the crystal ball, I’m excited for the upcoming Boxyard RTP, a community spot built up with shipping containers. I experienced a similar development in New Mexico (Green Jeans Farmery) when I visited in early 2019. Both Sam Jones Barbeque and Lawrence Barbecue will be making some great smoked meats in 2021, another bright spot! DiFara’s Pizza Tavern along with Hank’s Downtown Dive will be opening up soon in the same little plaza off of Chatham Street in Cary. And while I’ve still seen some opening activity in Raleigh and Chapel Hill, Durham seems to have been very quiet, so hopefully things will pick up there. Fingers crossed for Saint James Seafood which has had to endure both a gas explosion AND a pandemic, wow.
So pat yourself on the back, we survived 2020, hooray! And with all the construction cranes still up in the Triangle, I have tremendous faith that our food community and area will bounce back with some positive energy this year.
Ron at NC Triangle Dining