Dec 12, 2022 - Food and Drink

10 best new restaurants in the Triangle for 2022

Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

We lost some great restaurants in the past year, but never fear: plenty of exciting new eateries have arrived on the scene.

Here is a list of the best of this year's newcomers, which we compiled by eating our way around the Triangle and talking with restaurant-goers.

Bright Spot Donuts, 1501 Sunrise Ave., suite 180, Raleigh

Photo: Lucille Sherman/Axios

From the moment you bite into one of the fried doughnuts at Bright Spot, it's immediately clear the small shop will become a frequent habit for the foreseeable future.

Created by the bakers behind the great Benchwarmers Bagels, Bright Spot's original glazed doughnuts transport us back to summers at the legendary Britt's Donut Shop on Carolina Beach.

  • In other words, they are doughnuts worth driving far distances to eat.

Yes, but: Bright Spot doesn't stop at glazed. It also offers chocolate glaze, sourwood honey, Boston cream and a variety of rotating flavors.

  • December's special eggnog glazed doughnut and squash-filled doughnut are both excellent.

Cheeni Indian Food Emporium, 1141 Falls River Ave., Raleigh

Photo: Brianna Crane/Axios

Located inside a nondescript shopping center in North Raleigh, Preeti Waas' all-day Indian cafe Cheeni is anything but plain.

  • Part-cafe, part-retail and part-teaching kitchen, Cheeni is one of the most distinctive dining spots in the Triangle's dining scene, operating not just as a spot to grab lunch but a gathering place for the community as well.

All of that wouldn't matter, of course, if the food wasn't remarkable. The menu is split between a lighter lunch fare and dinner courses. There's also a coffee bar.

  • Standouts include the hariyali whole fish, lamb vindaloo and its collection of tiffin (think light-breakfast items).

Fine Folk, 2409 Crabtree Blvd. #100, Raleigh

The coffee cheesecake at Fine Folk. Photo: Lucille Sherman/Axios

Owned by two chefs that have been in the Triangle's food scene for years, Fine Folk started out as a pop-up and later moved to its permanent home next to Union Special in the blooming Gateway Plaza.

Fine Folk's laid-back and non-pretentious vibes make it a great place for first dates, last-minute get-togethers with friends, and everything in between.

  • They do it all well: Fine Folk serves comfort foods like chicken and rice; the basics, like cheeseburgers; and fun, creative dishes, like the blackened trout with whiskey glaze.
  • Extra points for an excellent wine selection and dangerously delicious cocktails.

Glasshouse Kitchen, 5 Laboratory Dr., Durham

Glasshouse Kitchen features striking floor to ceiling glass windows. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

Research Triangle Park, home to huge offices and laboratories, is starting to become a bit of a food destination.

  • The park has slowly been adding restaurants and breweries — and now, thanks to the owners of Raleigh's Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing, it's got a true fine-dining experience with Glasshouse Kitchen.

Located next to a lab in the heart of RTP, Glasshouse might possess the most stunning dining room in the area, with soaring glass walls, modern lighting fixtures and a sleek bar.

  • It also tapped one of the area's best chefs in Savannah Miller, formerly M Tempura, to craft an ever-changing menu.

Gym Tacos, 3701 Hillsborough St., Raleigh

Photo: Lucille Sherman/Axios

Gym Tacos has long served some of the best suadero and carnitas tacos in the Triangle from a gas station parking lot on Six Forks Road.

But this year, it opened a brick-and-mortar location on Raleigh's bustling Hillsborough Street near N.C State University.

  • The spot is ideal for late night excursions and the quality of the food remains as high as ever.

Krill, 506 Ramseur St., Durham

The crab khao soi at Krill. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

2022 was a busy year for Giorgios Bakatsias, one of the most prolific restaurateurs in the Triangle's restaurant scene.

  • He opened several new concepts this year, but it was his eleventh restaurant, the East Asian-inspired Krill, that was perhaps most anticipated when it opened near Ponysaurus Brewing.

Krill was years in the making and its small-plate menu ranges from peking duck rolls and krill fried rice to crab khao soi and uni mussels with tamari egg tempura.

  • It all amounts to an intense flavor punch that is complemented excellently by its seasonally-changing cocktail list.
  • The concept did meet some early backlash, though, for what some critics considered stereotypical Asian decoration, Indy Week reported in August.

Longleaf Swine, 300 E. Edenton St., Raleigh

Photo: Lucille Sherman/Axios

It took longer than its owners expected, but the arrival of Longleaf Swine this year was one of the highlights of the Triangle's resurgent barbecue scene.

Longleaf is traditional North Carolina barbecue at its core, serving whole hog barbecue and stacking wood for smoking out front.

  • It also serves brisket, pork spare ribs and chicken and has crafted delicious vegetarian options, including the delicious collard green melt. Be warned: The pimento mac and cheese might change your life.

Beyond food, Longleaf Swine has built one of the most interesting restaurant spaces in downtown Raleigh, with a patio that is sure to be packed every night next summer.

💭 Lucille's thought bubble: My husband hails from Kansas City, and even though we've lived here for three years, he's mostly refused to acknowledge North Carolina barbecue.

  • That changed when we visited Longleaf for the first time, and he told me: “I would definitely recommend this place to my friends from Kansas City."
  • That, my friends, is the highest of compliments coming from him.

M Sushi Cary, 4 Fenton Main St., Suite 120, Cary

Chef Michael Lee at M Sushi. Photo: Courtesy of M Restaurants

Chef Michael Lee's seafood excellence no longer stops at the Durham County line.

  • The Durham chef, who is known for his four restaurants spread across downtown Durham's alleyways and nooks, opened M Sushi in Cary's glittering Fenton shopping development this year.

The move didn't compromise any of Lee's ambition, who has made a name for himself for picking up seafood flown in from Korea and Japan that meet his strict standards for quality.

QueenBurger, 359 Blackwell St. Suite 125, Durham

Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

QueenBurger was born during the pandemic as an experiment by the owners of the Kingfisher cocktail bar, who decided to start serving smashburgers on their back patio when their bar was shut down.

  • The burgers immediately proved they deserved their own place in Durham.

QueenBurger has been serving griddle goodness since September, when it opened next to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

  • The classic burger — complete with two beef patties, delightfully grilled onions, cheese, pickles and a tangy sauce — is greasy in all the best ways.
  • Bonus: The burger joint has a relatively cheap cocktail menu, with drinks starting at $8.50, and vegetarian and vegan burger options.

Rainbow Luncheonette, 911 N. West St., Raleigh

Photo: Lucille Sherman/Axios

This diner is what Raleigh didn't know it needed this year. Tucked in between Glenwood South and Capital Boulevard, it's a great spot for a quick breakfast, hungover brunch or late-ish-night, post-bar-hopping meal.

  • You can't go wrong at this place — they've got breakfast platters, biscuits and gravy and a steak dinner.

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