A few glimpses of normalcy have crept back into the world.
At this point last year, North Carolina was in Phase One, which meant indoor dining rooms could begin serving guests for the first time since the pandemic began. Despite that, many of the Triangle’s most popular restaurants stuck with takeout and outdoor dining and used their interiors for prep.
But for all the takeout and patio picnics that have sustained many restaurants over the past year, it’s the dining room that separates having a meal and having an experience. It’s those spaces, be it a fine dining room or dive, where we can live, eat and drink and be transported into someone’s vision of hospitality.
With low COVID-19 case counts and increasing vaccinations, many of the holdouts have invited diners back inside. Some are institutions, restaurants that launched the modern Triangle dining scene, while others hoped to find their first footing in a very slippery year.
Here’s a roundup of old favorites and new projects that have opened or are set to open their dining rooms for the first time in at least a year.
106 E. Main St., Durham. 919-593-0560 or facebook.com/106main
A cherished dive on Main Street in Durham, 106 Main survived on retail beer sales and to-go cocktails but reopened this spring.
300 W. Hargett St., Suite 50, Raleigh. 919-307-8914 or tableraleigh.org
The popular pay-what-you-can cafe in Raleigh launched a major expansion before the pandemic. Starting in June, the larger A Place at the Table will resume indoor service and unveil a larger menu, with waffles and grits. The indoor dining room will reopen June 15.
110 E. Main St., Carrboro. 919-929-2263 or acmrecarrboro.com
This longtime Carrboro favorite hasn’t stopped pivoting for a year. After holiday meal packages, patio seating, weekly meal-kits, Acme reopened its dining room in May.
331 W. Main St., Durham. 919-973-1675 or arcanadurham.com
This Durham cocktail bar remained closed for one year and one month, but reopened in April.
320 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill. 919-969-1125 or thecrunkleton.com
One of North Carolina’s most influential bars stayed dormant for much of the last year, but reopened this spring after North Carolina allowed bars to reopen indoors.
415 E Chapel Hill St., Durham. 919-251-9335 or dashiramen.com
This Durham ramen shop set up a block of outdoor tables and packed up ramen kits to-go. This month it reopened its upstairs izakaya as it eases in to dine-in service.
530 Foster St., Suite 1, Durham. 919-908-9339 or durhamfoodhall.com
Conceived as a place to bring people together, the Durham Food Hall spent its first year only being a place to pick up meals. On May 24, the Durham Food Hall opened its inside for dine in customers for the first time, meaning burritos, bagels, wood-fired pizzas and crab rolls from more than a half dozen vendors could be eaten indoors.
3211 Old Chapel Hill Rd., Durham. 984-439-1852 or eastcutsandwich.com
This popular Durham sandwich shop will gradually ease into dine-in in three phases, opening up its front porch this month, followed by its large tented garden and finally a spaced-out dining room. Customers haven’t seemed to mind, the owners said, but dine-in brings back a solid beer list and spiked slushies.
14 W. Martin St., Raleigh. 919-833-6886 or garlandraleigh.com
After a few weeks of take and bake meals, Garland built a patio oasis on Martin Street. It braved the winter with heaters and in April opened its dining room to guests for the first time in more than a year.
180 E. Davie St., Raleigh. 919-714-9014 or oakcitymeatball.com
This Raleigh lunch favorite took a long pandemic break, but has recently reopened for dinner service.
610 N. Person St., Raleigh. 919-594-1605 or oakwoodpizzabox.com
Diners are used to pizza in a takeout box, so Oakwood’s legion of fans have been happy to grab their slices to-go. This Person Street pizzeria hasn’t opened up indoors, but on sunny days does serve a handful of seats from its front window. For an expanded dine-in option, check out Oakwood’s new “Little Pizza Box” inside Durham’s Ponysaurus brewery.
426 S. McDowell St., Raleigh. 919-832-4477 or ac-restaurants.com/pooles
Perhaps Raleigh’s most famous restaurant, a table at Poole’s isn’t an easy get. Typically walk-in only, Poole’s is currently only seating by reservation.
110 S. Churton St., Hillsborough. 919-732-6261 or panciuto.com
The heart of Hillsborough’s dining scene, Panciuto has been closed for the past year, except for a few months of meal kits and the pandemic spin-off project Hillsborough Bakeshop. After renovations, it reopened in May for reservation only and created a new service model that limits interaction between servers and diners.
5625 Creedmoor Rd., Raleigh. 919-787-1855 or relishraleigh.com
Like many restaurants, Relish relied on its outdoor tables for much of the last year and kept the dining room closed. With falling case counts and rising vaccinations it reopened at the end of April.
938 N. Blout St., Raleigh. 919-977-4321 or stanburyraleigh.com
In the winter, Stanbury set up heaters and a canopy and fans flocked to the popular Raleigh neighborhood restaurant. After closing for renovations, the Stanbury is now open indoors for walk-ins only.
205 E. Franklin St., Raleigh. 919-322-1499 or standardbeerandfood.com
This Raleigh micro-brewery opened in the winter with just picnic table seating and pop-up food trucks. This month it reopened a newly renovated dining room that adds more seats to what was once a grocery space.
2409 Crabtree Blvd., Suite 102, Raleigh. 984-200-3094 or unionspecalbread.com
This star bakery is also a popular cafe for lunch and weekend brunch and for whenever the craving hits for soft serve ice cream in a croissant cone. The dining room will reopen in June.