In the Local Palate’s 2023 Restaurants Issue, our state-by-state guide highlights the new restaurants that have emerged since 2022. Here, local writer Jenn Rice showcases 12 new restaurants in North Carolina.
Rocks + Acid Wine Shop | Chapel Hill
Paula de Pano, an advanced sommelier and all-around wine extraordinaire, brings one of the most anticipated openings of 2022 to Chapel Hill: a wine shop with core principles that boil down to “basic human kindness.” Originally from Manila, de Pan came to the United States when she was 23 and quickly entered the world of wine after attending the Culinary Institute of America.
Her resume entails Eleven Madison Park, an esteemed three-Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City; most recently, she was beverage director at the Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, North Carolina, a Five Diamond, Relais & Chateaux property. And every step of the way, de Pano has worked to break down stuffy wine culture.
“I manage each sale,” she notes, as Rocks + Acidisn’t organized by grape varietals or country, or region but by category: bubbles, orange wine, and rosé and reds. “I’m very big onlabels—I eat with my eyes,” she says. The space is organized to encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and taste something new and exciting. “I have muscle memory on where thebottles are,” she says with a laugh.
De Pano personally handpicks each wine that sits pretty on the wine walls—always small production (less than 10,000 cases) and from family-owned estates. DePano leads many conversations with “Do you know how this wine is made?” She’s eager to spiel about the winemaker and the juice in the bottle as if it’s a good friend, waxing that “wines are living things, too.
”The décor is wine bottles decked out on the walls, offering a gorgeous backdrop to the casual tasting room, whereas Pano has a fun by-the-glass menu to nudge people into something new, like an orange wine from Slovenia—plus ongoing classes, like pairing champagne and french fries and one on“anything-but-boring” varietals. There are also nonalcoholic wines, beer, spirits, and snacks, like charcuterie, cheeses, caviar, and conservas.
Make Rocks + Acid Home Pairings
Can’t Miss at Rocks + Acid
You can mix and match from de Pano’s offerings of wine and snacks; here are a few pairings that are particularly palate pleasing
Shellfish Conservas with Barrialto Aranzá or Pomalo Pet Nat
De Pano suggests grabbing tinned mussels, razor clams, and scallops—and a bottle of BarrialtoAranzá from the Jerez region of Spain, which she notes is a dry wine made from a sherry grape. It’s like “wine’s version of spritzing lemon on [shellfish conservas],” she says. Or pop a bottle of Pomalo Pet Nat from Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. “It’s a wine I like to have if going to the beachwith conservas packed,” she says. “Think preserved Meyer lemon with salt.”
Spanish Cured Meats with Josep Foraster Trepat
The salty, porky flavor profiles of cured meats like salchichón, jamón Serrano, and Ibérico sausage will be a dream next to Josep Foraster Trepat, a Spanish wine with just enough spice that can also be slightly chilled
Caviar with Bubbles
De Pano loves bubbles from the Côte des Blancs, such as Philippe Glavier La Grâce d’Alphaël Extra Brut and Browne Trading Company Siberian Supreme caviar. Or the Minière F&R Influence Brut Champagne and Browne Trading Company Galilee Prime Osetra caviar is always a good idea.
Reach for a white wine that’s low ABV (alcohol by volume)—nothing too overpowering, as the vibe is slow and steady wins the race at a picnic. Look for a skin-contact wine that will give a nice texture and work well with the tomato-based sauces, and seek out wines near the sea, as they’ll boast salt and minerality.
Spanish cured meats and…
Salty and porky meats warrant a red wine that has enough flavor but not a lot of tannins—plus you don’t want a high-alcohol wine. De Pano suggests seeking a fruit-dominant wine with cherry and cranberry flavors. Spanish wines tend to have a dusty aroma that complements smoky cured meats so well.
“Caviar has a briny, shellfish quality to it,” De Pano says. “You need bright acidy to cut through fishiness but also to accentuate the flavor profile with the brightness” so you get the saltiness and not the fishiness. Splurge with a Blanc de Blancs or seek a sparkling wine with a higher percentage of Chardonnay.
Restaurants in North Carolina on Our Radar
La Bodega by Cúrate | Asheville
This all-day cafe, wine bar, and the market is the latest evolution of Cúrate, a complete immersion into the Spanish culinary world and best described by chef and owner Katie Button as “a healing bear hug of Spanish culinary possibilities.” Pop by for chef Matt Brown’s traditional and inventive pintxos (you can watch him make them in his asparagos blancos video)—at the top of the list is anchoas en mantequilla, toast topped with solid butter slices and Cantabrian anchovies, a bite inspired by Hermanos Vinagre in Madrid.
Longleaf Swine | Raleigh
After endless pop-ups and permitting issues, Adam Cunningham and Marc Russell finally opened Longleaf Swine in November 2022 in the former Oakwood Cafe space. “We cook what we want to cook,” says Cunningham, noting a variety beyond the expected staples at barbecue spots. Must-orders are pulled pork from pasture-raised hogs, ab otherworldly Smashburger made of leftover brisket trimmings, and a brisket melts with muenster cheese, horsey sauce, pickles, and onions—along with pastry chef Tsu’s remarkable mini chocolate chess pie.
Tastee Diner | Asheville
Chef Steven Goff, along with Sam Goff, his wife, morphed a 75-year-old diner in West Asheville into a modern-day locals’ spot with “comfort food for the curious and adventurous.” Goff is an advocate for bringing awareness to community issues, offering a sustainable and living wage in the workplace, and utilizing whole animals in inventive ways. The chili, he notes, “is a treasure trove of bits and pieces,” and Shipley Farms chopped cheese is “pretty straight bodega style” with two grass-fed local beef patties, sautéed onions, mornay, herbs, and cheddar.
El Toro Bruto | Charlotte
Chef Hector González-Mora plowed through 500-plus breakfast tacos in less than an hour at a former Chilito pop-up, warranting permanent status inside Resident Culture South End—with sit-down dinner service in the mix. “It might sound alarming, but a true taco lover will know that lengua is the king amongst the meats,” says Gonzalez-Mora. “The flavor and texture is unique; we do it Jalisco style and serve it in medallions—accompany that with bacon-wrapped jalapeños and you will kill your hunger with satisfaction,” he adds.
Little Chango | Asheville
Inside the vibrant yellow-hued eatery in South Slope, chef and co-owner Iris Rodriguez is busy in the kitchen with hopes of bringing more diversity to Asheville’s culinary scene. “I want to challenge the conception of what people think Hispanic food is—there’s a vast array of flavors, traditions, and techniques,” she says. The menu is set with palatable dishes from the owners’ heritage, such as ropa vieja, a time-consuming dish made with Cuban-style shredded flank steak and sofrito black bean mash, topped with sweet plantains and queso fresco.
Glasshouse Kitchen | Durham
Glasshouse Kitchen is proof that the power lunch is not dead. Situated in Research Triangle’s AgTech Campus, the gorgeous greenhouse-like structure, tricked out in greenery, serves as the only full-service restaurant in the area. “As someone who used to work in the Research Triangle area, I was inspired to create the contemporary and approachable dining experience that I always longed for,” says owner Sara Abernethy. Chef Savannah Miller brings seasonality to life by way of vegetable-forward dishes and decadent pizzas, like the perfectly seasoned lamb pizza with harissa and fresh kale.
Jimmy Pearls | Charlotte
Chefs and owners Oscar Johnson and Daryl Cooper started the journey with Jimmy Pearls, a “Virginia Soul Spot,” in 2020, recently returning to a brick-and-mortar space inside the Market at Seventh Street. The duo is committed to educating diners on Tidewater cuisine, showcasing their Virginia roots, one delicious bite at a time, starting with Uncle Gene’s fish sandwich, a nod to Cooper’s uncle and grandmother.
Kipos Hellenic Cuisine | Wilmington
“Wilmington was such a natural place to extend the Kipos brand—to North Carolina’s vibrant and welcoming coast,” says Giorgios Bakatsias, owner of Giorgios Hospitality Group. “It’s a real treasure for North Carolina seafood, which aligns perfectly with the beauty and simplicity of Greek cuisine.” Chef George Delidimos, a native of Greece, leads the kitchen with fresh, vibrant dishes like grouper with roasted tomato and fennel, octopus with oregano and lemon, and Kakavia, an ancient Greek fish soup from the Ionian sea, crafted with local shellfish.
North Carolina Restaurants Worth Watching
Ekhaya | Durham
We don’t have a specific date yet, but Zweli and Leonardo Williams, the team behind Zweli’s, plan to open the first known Zimbabwean restaurant in the country on the American Tobacco Campus, with cuisine from Bantu communities from around Africa, served shared plate/tapas style.
Las Ramblas | Raleigh
Named for the famed “Las Ramblas” boulevard in Barcelona, this old world/new world Spanish kitchen from Giorgios Hospitality Group and executive chef Brian Jenner opened for business in mid-January—grab a reservation and save room for Basque-style cheesecake from pastry chef Ashton Stephen.
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