It’s no secret that downtown Durham has become a vastly improved foodie destination over the past several years. But, y’all, there is seriously so much more happening lately – the explosion of cute cafes and wine bars and other signs of gentrification at its finest is just beginning. In a few years, this place is going to be insanely trendy – count on it!
The best part is that most of the restaurant development is locally driven, with a genuine connection to the many farms that surround the area. Fueled by passionate entrepreneurs and small business owners, all of this new stuff tends to have real ties to the community.
Recently, I finally got to eat at Toast, an Italian sandwich shop with paninis and the like, right in the heart of Five Points. How good was the goat cheese, honey, and cracked pepper crostini? So good – aside from the 30 minute wait. Do not go there at 1 p.m. on a weekday, folks! But go there.
Just down the street, Mateo tapas bar was getting ready for its opening night. The menu looks pretty much like perfection – so let’s hope it tastes as good as it sounds!
There’s been plenty of sweet stuff making its way onto the scene for dessert, too – with Rise Biscuits & Donuts (a spectacular combination concept), Monuts Donuts (tried the chocolate chai variety and approved), Ninth Street Bakery (which always smells delicious as we drive by), Scratch (poached egg & donut muffin heaven during brunch), Daisycakes and their brick & mortar location (with the best red velvet cupcakes), a new Cupcake Bar on the way (thank you, Jesus), the Cocoa Cinnamon coffee and chocolate bar about to open, TWO chocolate factories in Raleigh (Videri & Escazu) ready for touring, the owner of the superb Watts Grocery beginning a new venture with Hummingbird bakery, and the Parlour’s new ice cream shop getting funded, it’s safe to say there’s plenty of worthwhile temptations in the Triangle.
Plus, there’s got to be at least 40 food trucks in the area now, with some solid favorites like Chirba Chirba’s dumplings and the meatball subs at Valentino’s topping my list. Pretty much every week there’s some kind of gathering o’ trucks to enjoy, and I’ve also been meaning to check out the LoMo truck, which brings a traveling farmer’s market and local produce to your neighborhood on a rotating schedule. I should also mention that local food incubator the Cookery, which provides kitchen space for several start-ups, is planning on expanding to include a front of the house space, so its members can better serve the people.
There’s also a couple of new-to-me places that I’ve been told are must visits – the serene spaces at Straw Valley Cafe, the rotating goodies at Reliable Cheese Company, the cow-adorned Taqueria la Vaquita, and the healthy Indian grub at Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe.
Last but not least, two anticipated openings that Harold is most excited about: a new branch of Tobacco Road sports bar that’s going to be just down the street starting this fall, and the announcement that famed Raleigh BBQ spot the Pit just purchased a space in Durham. Side note: to much excitement, the very popular Lilly’s Pizza just did the same thing and opened for business closer to home this summer. Whoo hoo!
We’ve been trying to cook as much as possible, but all of this growth may make that goal difficult to stick with. Shout out to the Triangle Food Guy blog, which keeps track of foodie happenings on a regular basis.