The Top 10 Restaurant Openings of the Triangle in 2023

Top 10 Restaurant Openings in 2023 cover photo, photo of Linda holding wine glass

2023 has been an exceptional year for the Triangle’s dining scene, with a plethora of new restaurants that have taken the culinary experience to new heights. It was a tough task to narrow down the top 10, but after much savoring and deliberation, I present to you my selection of the best 2023 restaurant openings in the Triangle.

1. East End Bistrot – Raleigh

Prepare yourself for a fine dining experience like no other at East End Bistrot. Located in the heart of Raleigh, this elegant establishment offers a culinary journey that is worth every penny for a splurge. From the meticulously crafted dishes to the impeccable service, East End Bistrot delivers a truly unforgettable dining experience.

For me to make it for a weeknight dinner from my little apartment in Carrboro, I’d have to sit in traffic for about 1.5 hours one way to get there. Let me tell you, I did it twice and I would do it many more times because dinner here is JUST THAT GOOD. The food? 10/10. The service? 10/10. The ambiance? You guessed it, 10/10. I’ve been following Chef Will around the Triangle for 5ish years now. He’s quite talented.

We loved everything we ordered on our most recent visit. The crab soufflè with lobster butter was perfection. The Hawaiian Tombo Ahi tickled a part of my brain that hadn’t been tickled before (in a good way). As someone who misses guava and cheese pastries from Miami year-round, the guava cheesecake soothed my achy heart. Craving an amazing steak? Also amazing here.

East End Bistrot
2020 Progress Ct suite 110, Raleigh, NC 27608

2. Cheeni – Durham

I have been a friend, follower, and fan of Preeti Waas since I first met her in 2018. She hired me to grab photos of her cookies and jams. I’ve since loved watching her grow and spread love through her food through the years! From cookies and jams in farmers’ markets to hosting cooking classes in 2019, to opening brick and mortars in Raleigh, to a James Beard nomination. And now, as of November 2023, a brick-and-mortar in Durham!

Indulge in the vibrant flavors of Indian cuisine at Cheeni, the new gem in Durham’s dining scene. With a menu inspired by the diverse culinary traditions of India, Cheeni takes you on a flavorful adventure. From aromatic curries to tantalizing street food, every bite at Cheeni is a celebration of authentic Indian flavors. I especially loved the fish curry during my last visit.

Cheeni Durham
202 Corcoran St Suite 100, Durham, NC 27701

3. Pho Thien Phat – Cary

Craving a delightful bowl of pho? Look no further than Pho Thien Phat in Cary. This cozy spot is a haven for pho enthusiasts, serving up steaming bowls of rich and aromatic Vietnamese noodle soup. With a menu featuring other Vietnamese classics as well, Pho Thien Phat is a must-visit for lovers of Southeast Asian cuisine.

Pho Thien Phat
6404 Tryon Rd, Cary, NC 27518

4. Zweli’s Ekhaya – Durham

Sugarface and I checked out Zweli’s Ekhaya in Durham twice in one week! Chef Zweli (of Zweli’s Kitchen) opened an upscale elevated Southern African concept in Downtown Durham. We had dinner and then a few days later we returned for brunch.

Dishes we loved which was basically everything we tried: Dovi cauliflower, Cassava Fries with Jollof aioli, butternut squash croquettes, seafood curry (it was halibut when we went and gosh was it good), and for brunch, the Shakshuka and Chicken Kabobs.

We also had Bota Brulee twice. It’s a classic African porridge with bruleed top. I wish I could have been transported to my couch with a blanket while eating that warm, gooey hug in a mug.

Zweli’s Ekhaya
 4600 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd Suite 26, Durham, NC 27707

5. Bombolo – Chapel Hill

This tiny but mighty sibling-owned Chapel Hill restaurant opened in February 2023, and the Chapel Hill dining scene has been even more blessed ever since. This restaurant has refused to be neatly categorized by any one and I love that. I’ve had an outstanding NOLA barbecue shrimp, lobster pot, fried chicken, Khao Sois, and pasta here. See what I mean about not fitting in a box? Truly, one of my favorite restaurants in Chapel Hill. (As a food blogger who lives in Carrboro and drives often for food around the Triangle, I’m so grateful that Bombolo is in Chapel Hill.)

764 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

6. Little Bull – Durham

photo of birria dumplings (photo by Linda Nguyen of Linda Eats World)

Little Bull, owned by Mexican-American and Mexican Immigrants, with Executive Chef Oscar (of Cortez Seafood Raleigh fame), has been making waves since its opening, even catching the attention of the New York Times in their “36 Hours in Durham” feature. Chef Oscar Diaz’s mission with Little Bull is to offer nostalgic, sincere, comfort food inspired by “the palates of first-generation immigrant kids.” As a first-gen Asian kid myself, I love this. I love the ceviche here, the birria dumplings, the bone marrow, and the puri puri chicken! Here’s my Instagram Reel from their opening.

Little Bull
10 N Mangum St, Durham, NC 27701

7. Saap – Cary

Get ready to explore the flavors of Laos at Saap. This charming restaurant offers a menu filled with traditional Laotian dishes crafted with love and attention to detail by famed Chef Lon (previously of Bida Manda). Saap opened in November around the same time as their neighboring Cary Park reopened! Making dinner at Saap after or before a stroll through the new Cary Park the perfect date itinerary.

We ordered: Nam Khao (crispy coconut rice lettuce wraps), papaya salad, chicken curry, Pad Lao, and morning glory. I’d happily order all of that again. (I asked for a little chili oil for the Pad Lao because I like heat.) I grew up eating a lot of water spinach/morning glory and this is the second time I’ve ever been able to order it from a restaurant!

370 S Walker Street, Suite 100, Cary, North Carolina 27511

8. Q Noodle – Cary

Peppercorn soup dumplings, noodles, and and more dumplings! Overhead photo of Q Noodle Spread, taken by Linda Nguyen with iphone.

The best soup dumplings in the Triangle? I found them here at Q Noodles in Cary. You can get an assortment of these soup dumplings, but my favorite is the peppercorn soup dumplings! Also, loved their minced pork hot and sour noodle soup and their Yibin spicy dry noodle with minced pork. I bet you, you’ll have no problem finding a handful of dishes to love.

Q Noodles
1026 Ryan Rd, Cary, NC 27511

9. Bonjour Banh Mi – Morrisville

I’m so glad  Bonjour Banh Mi is here for when I’m feeling homesick for Vietnam 🇻🇳 . I’ve been searching for a banh mi dac biet (traditional banh mi with Vietnamese cold cuts and a heaping slather of pâté and house-made mayonnaise) all around the Triangle, and Bonjour Banh Mi and answered my plea 🙏🏼. I loved meeting the owner, Tri, a Vietnamese immigrant who wants to introduce more Vietnamese food outside of banh mi and pho to the Triangle. Here’s a video featuring Bonjour Banh Mi I posted to my Instagram.

Bonjour Banh Mi
2121 TW Alexander Dr Suite 111, Morrisville, NC 27560

10. Seraphine – Durham

Last, but certainly not least, Seraphine in Durham is a culinary haven for those seeking refined flavors and a sophisticated dining experience with New Orleans influence. As a Texan girl who spent a lot of time in Louisiana before moving to North Carolina, I’m so happy! My siblings-in-law all live in NOLA, so Seraphine is automatically a place of comfort for me. I’ve never seen boudin offered in North Carolina before and after chatting with a lot of NC locals, I’m learning that a lot of people have never had boudin here! My dining partners at Seraphine needed an introduction. (Boudin is made from a blend of ground meat cooked down with onions, peppers, seasonings, and cooked rice. This completely cooked mixture is then stuffed into a casing like a sausage.) If that doesn’t sound like your jam, Seraphine also has amazing pork chops, oysters, gnocchi, and beignets! Here’s a video featuring Seraphine on my Instagram.

324 Blackwell St Suite 4, Durham, NC 27701

There you have it, friend! My Top 10 Restaurant Openings in 2023 in the Triangle. From fine dining to vibrant street food, these culinary gems are sure to tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving more. Embark on a gastronomic adventure and explore the diverse flavors that the Triangle has to offer. Follow me on Instagram and TikTok for more prolific content about North Carolina! Happy New Year!