Chefs from Mateo, Nana’s, and Scratch are 2015 James Beard Award semi-finalists

I just spotted the list of nominees for the prestigious culinary award over at WRAL. I had to double check that I wasn’t looking at last year’s nominees, seeing as how two of the Durham chefs are repeats from last year:

  • Best chef in the southeast: Scott Howell of Nana’s
  • Best chef in the southeast: Matt Kelly of Mateo
  • Best pastry chef: Phoebe Lawless of Scratch

I can personally vouch for the quality of all three of these establishments. Check ’em out.

Heavenly Buffaloes is amazing and you should eat food from there

OK, I’ll be frank with you: I’ve ordered from Heavenly Buffaloes about once per week since its opening about two months ago.

The humble wing shack off Broad is the latest venture of Dain Phelan and his wife Jennifer, who are probably best known for (surprise) Dain’s Place (which, as awesome as it is, was even awesomer when they briefly served brunch. Boy, I miss that…).

I mentioned the restaurant’s opening in a DNO&E a while back, but I’ve been meaning to write a proper blog post with pictures. The problem, though, is that once I had the food in front of me, I couldn’t stop shoving wings into my face long enough to grab my camera.

Until now.

Basically, it works like this: there’s a shack. The people in there make wings. If you call them up, they’ll bring wings to you. And the wings are really good.

After tasting probably everything on the menu, I think I’ve perfected my order. This feeds three people (or two, if one is (like me) basically a Neanderthal):

  • 7 Sweet Thai Coconut Chili (sweet, coconutty, peanuty) (left)
  • 7 Chipotle Barbeque Wings (spicy, tangy, kind of hint of smoky sweetness) (center)
  • 7 Heavenly Buffaloes (dry rub, moderately spicy, crispy) (right)

Don’t forget… the fries. Especially don’t forget the fries.

  • Sweet potato fries with the mesquite BBQ dry rub (the rub is crucial!)
  • Idaho potato fries with the garlic parmesan dry rub

Regular orders of fries are huge, and those are half orders pictured above (you may be able to sweet talk them into selling you half orders of the fries, but no guarantees – it’s not on the menu). Also, get some extra ranch for the fries. You’re welcome.

Aside from wings and fries, they have vegan wings, which I actually liked. They’re little slices of tofu with the normal wing seasoning on them, and I found them plenty tasty (albeit not especially wing-like in texture or shape). You can also order beer, with a credit card, delivered directly to your door. Which is kind of great.

Heavenly Buffaloes is open long hours: from lunch right on through to midnight most weekdays, and all the way through to 3 a.m. on the weekends, which (combined with its proximity to Duke) should make a lot of college students happy. And, more importantly, it makes me happy.

If you stop by for lunch, there are a couple of picnic tables on which you can eat outside, but this really is a takeout / delivery joint; don’t expect even a Saltbox level of ambiance here.

So, if you’re in the market for some wings, I don’t think you can do better around here. Carpe Durham and Joe both seem to dig the place, too.

Monuts is moving to the old Magnolia Grill building, Pizzeria Toro is re-opening this week

Well hey, I guess things are going well for Monuts, as they’re moving to a much larger building! The structure on Ninth St. that used to house Magnolia Grill (and which was damaged by fire earlier this year) will be their new home.

I’m personally a bit bummed to see Monuts leaving downtown, but it’s great to see that they’re expanding, and I’ll gladly ride the few extra blocks to get my bagel sandwich fix. It also sounds like they’re planning to keep something going downtown, at least for a while. According to the H-S:

Monuts still has three and a half years on the East Parrish Street lease, and Gillespie said they have a few ideas for how to use the location, but haven’t decided yet.

Also from the same article, the H-S confirms that Toro is reopening “by Saturday.” Not much to add at this point, beyond… well, welcome back, guys.

FOOD NEWS: Pizzeria Toro slated for July re-opening, Dashi gets location, Fullsteam on TV

A couple of downtown restaurant odds and ends for ya:

First up, following many months idle and with little fanfare, Pizzeria Toro has announced its return:

You can make that two wood-fired pizza options come late July, when the outstanding Pizzeria Toro, closed by a fire in November, is slated to reopen.

Toro’s been closed for months following a kitchen fire, and its return is definitely welcome.

By the way, I’m also pretty well impressed with Pompieri (from the BCBB crew) which opened during Toro’s absence. More better pizza options are good for everybody – now one of you guys needs to start delivering!

Next, Dashi – the upcoming noodle bar which is a joint venture of Toast’s Billy and Kelli Cotter and the Cookery’s Nick and Rochelle Johnson – has a final location. The restaurant will be near Rue Cler on W. Chapel Hill St, near the intersection with N. Mangum.

And finally, Fullsteam is going to be featured in this week’s episode of “Brew Dogs,” which airs tonight (Wednesday) at 9:00 p.m. on the “Esquire” cable network (or, alternately, whenever you feel like it on the Internet).

Read more here:

DCM names general manager

Durham Central Market has named its general manager. They’ve tapped Leila Wolfrum, who was operations manager at Burlington’s Company Shops Market co-op prior to taking the gig.

Also: their future home at WCH/Kent is really progressing, and the site is looking dramatically different as the walls are starting to come up. I’ll try to grab some snaps for you guys soon.

Toro Dreams of Spaghetti was pretty sweet! Next week: Toro Dreams of Chupacabra!

As discussed previously, Pizzeria Toro has been out of commission following a fire in early November. With no restaurant at which to work, the staff decided to keep busy by hosting a charity event for PORCH at the Cookery in the interim.

We found a sitter and headed over for the 8:00 p.m. seating (we live like three blocks from The Cookery, so this location always makes me especially happy). When we arrived, lots of people from the 6:30 seating were still hanging out, enjoying some signature drinks (and even Ponysaurus on tap!) at the bar. In the background, a movie was playing on the projector with the sound muted.

I got some crazy hibiscus champagne thing at the bar (cause I have high blood pressure) which was pretty good. The SO started with a margarita, but somehow managed to trade it for some crazy bitter concoction (the details of which escape me at the moment). I’m kicking myself for forgetting to circle back around to try the Ponysaurus, but maybe next time.

Upstairs, there was a dude with meat. Lots of meat! He was shaving tiny little slices of some kind of ham, which was super yum. Problem: the meat slices were really tiny! Solution: scoop up a whole lot of them!

Before the dinner proper kicked off, Cookery owner Nick Hawthorne-Johnson and the Pizzeria Toro owners (mostly Gray Brooks) opened with some touching words both about the restaurant and about the role they want to play in the community. PORCH was represented as well.

Food! ‘Twas good: salad, two varieties of spaghetti (one with marinara, one with anchovy sauce), garlic bread, and some seriously kicking meatballs. Afterwards, hot cocoa, coffee, and cookies were to be had on the patio. Temps were in the 30’s, so bundling up beside the fire or heaters was a must.

TL,DR: it was neat! I highly recommend that you check out the “Toro Dreams of the Chupacabra” followup, which is scheduled for Monday, Dec 9, and will feature Mexican street food (including goat, of course). This time, proceeds will go to Urban Ministries of Durham.

The Science of Beer slated for September 12 at the Museum of Life and Science

OK, check this out: the Museum is hosting “The Science of Beer” in two weeks. We take the kid up there to play all the time (it’s a great place for younguns), but the museum also hosts these “after hours” events which can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. There will be food trucks, and, of course… beer. From local breweries. Like fifteen of them.

I’d actually read about this a while back, but for some reason I thought it was just an exhibit rather than a full blown celebration. After seeing the rundown today over at Carpe Durham, my interest is definitely piqued.

Food truck rodeo slated for Sunday, Duke reveals on-campus truck lineup

First up, Durham’s big food truck rodeo is slated for this Sunday, September 1. The event is scheduled to start around noon at Central Park, and should run until 4:30.

60 trucks? Wow. It’s astounding to me how quickly this scene has exploded in the area; I remember when the only truck I knew of was just some dude in a taco / Indian truck outside of Sam’s every now and then. Durham’s “FTR” was the first in the area, but Raleigh is home to a similar event as well.

WRAL’s presently calling for a beautiful day with highs in the 80’s and no rain, but the rodeo will go on rain or shine should the forecast change.

In other food truck news, we have Duke’s fall food truck lineup. A limited number of trucks can apply for permits to actually set up in lucrative positions on campus, and according to The Chronicle this year’s trucks are:

The seven trucks approved for this year are Baguettaboutit, Captain Ponchos, Chirba Chirba Dumpling, Fosters on the Fly, Gussy’s, Humble Pig and Parlez-Vous Crepes—all of which provide meals rather than snack food.

The Chronicle article laments the loss of one of last year’s favorites, LoYo.

After Sunday, Honey’s has wi-fi no more

One of the first posts I made on this site several months ago mentioned that Honey’s was on the way out, and its final weekend of operation is now officially upon us:

“We are officially closing the doors at 3 p.m. on Sunday,” said Buck Dickerson, owner of the 24-hour diner that has been serving the Bull City for more than 50 years.

I have eaten at Honey’s exactly once in my 7 years living in Durham. I found it to be exactly as expected, and noted that it was a good option if I ever were to wake up at 3 a.m. with an inexplicable appetite for grease. Sadly (or happily), no such scenario has occurred, and now that Honey’s is leaving I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do if and when the inevitable does happen.

So, hey – this seems like a market opportunity. Who wants to step up to the plate and start a 24-hour diner? Maybe hire a good executive chef and up the ante a bit? I bet I’d partake in that.