What is the future of restaurant catering?
Nearly two years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, diners are more used to navigating menus on their phones, flashing vaccine cards and reheating take-out. Now, the choice of where to go out includes a new option: go out or not. We explore how COVID has reshaped the dining room, what it looks and feels like going out for a meal, and how the famous Triangle dining scene is evolving. Plus, we’ll tell you what new restaurants – and meals – are drool-worthy.
Diners will have a full plate in 2022, with dozens of restaurant openings and return visits to old favorites.
Here are some special dishes to discover for the new year:
Bolkogi has been one of the Triangle’s most popular food trucks for years. Upon joining Boxyard RTP, Joe Choi said he was able to add kimchi fries to the menu, which he was unable to do on the trucks. These fried waffle baskets are topped with marinated bulkogi beef, kimchi, cilantro and a fried egg.
“It represents who I am,” Choi said. “I grew up in Chicago eating hot spots and fries. I couldn’t eat kimchi at school because the kids made fun of me, saying it was too smelly. But I would make this dish at home with leftover fries and I would feel good. I have been eating it for a long time.
Cakes are known as slices and chips, but Plum puts pastry chef Emma Shank’s weekly creations for all to see in their original splendor, each piece being cut to order.
Most tables order desserts, said Shank, whose husband, Trent, is Plum’s chef. The cake is the best-selling, usurping banana pudding once they hit the menu in late summer.
In September, Shank put his own wedding cake on the menu, salted caramel frosting and gravy with a yellow cake. It’s impossible to predict what the flavor will be from week to week, but expect a seasonally appropriate slice.
Recently that meant eggnog cake with a cocktail, or spicy gingerbread with molasses topped with orange buttercream frosting, a lazy cheese topping. cream, a dusting of crushed gingerbread and whole gingerbread cookies resting gently on puffy rosettes.
Fonda Lupita gorditas
There’s no hotter restaurant in North Carolina than this Sanford Mexican eatery, than the online food publication Eater named as one of the 11 best places to open in the nation last year.
The restaurant is named after the mother of owner Biridiana Frausto, Fonda Lupita, and his specialty is his gordita. These freshly made tortilla pouches are grilled and then stuffed with steak, pork or stew.
Matt Fern has spent years crafting the perfect Reuben sandwich, and it’s hard to say he didn’t pull it off. Diners can choose from pastrami or corned beef, but the (ish) Cold cuts Reuben comes with apple cider-braised red cabbage in place of sauerkraut, bursting with sweetness and tang. The rye is custom made by Boulted Bread from Raleigh Bakery, especially for this sandwich, with a deep dark color and flavor without the caraway seeds.
Fern said he was still the top seller on a stunner menu. But don’t sleep on the soon to be blockbuster Green Egg and Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich of braised cabbage topped with Tabasco, town ham and scrambled eggs.
Old North Meats Fried Mushroom Sandwich
In this golden age of chicken sandwiches, this meatless wonder in the Durham Food Hall can best all. Owner Joel Schroetter smokes and then fries oyster mushrooms, making them as crisp and mouth-watering as any piece of chicken. The sandwich is topped with celery and shredded lettuce, grilled onions, and a homemade green goddess ranch.
This sandwich is a real treat.
Strong Arm Miso Caramel Brownie
Biting that brownie is like drowning in fudge. The Oxford bakery and sometimes the pizzeria is often the longest line at Durham’s Farmers’ Market, enticing fans with delicate pastries, seasonal pop pies and changing versions of brownies.
Here, the familiar flavor of salted caramel is enhanced by the miso. And the brownie itself has a dense sweetness that lives in two worlds, tapping into the illicit joy of licking off the rest of the brownie batter and chewing on a crisp wedge. It’s a beautiful thing that just happens to be a brownie.
Gym Taco Nacho Ride
This very popular food truck opened its first lighter and mortar last year and has another on the way. Co-owner Gamaliel Romero sort of pokes fun at the quesabirria taco trend, believing that the fried and soaked taco style is too fatty to eat as much as his heart desires.
But there is one Instagram Trend Gym Tacos adopted and perfected: nachos. With the opening of its North Raleigh sports bar, Gym Tacos added something it couldn’t from a food truck, nacho rides.
A good plate of nachos is as much a feat of construction as it is of cooking. The trick at Gym Tacos is to build a tray of nachos in a large metal box, layering crispy crisps, steak, shredduce, jalapenos landmines, and a river of queso. Once the can is removed, it’s a mountain of nacho mastery.
“We wanted to do something to get people’s attention,” Romero said.
Wonderpuff cotton candy, carnival style
When you order your carnival style cotton candy at the new Wonderpuff in Durham, what you are saying is you want to eat it immediately. Rather than a tub, the carnival-style controls arrive on a paper wand, the silky candy strands wrapped around and around and the air smelling of toasted sugar.
The main flavor is the raspberry mojito, but watch out for the blueberry waffles. It’s a cloud of joy on a stick.