The Skinny on the Top Four Favorite New Restaurants

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Cucciolo Osteria

Owner/chef Jimmy Kim is from Seoul, South Korea. He lived in Switzerland most of his childhood and came Durham to attend Duke University for undergrad as well as for his master’s, which he received from the Fuqua School of Business. Cucciolo Osteria opened last July at 601 W. Main St., Ste. C, with a 70-seat dining room, including 15 seats at the bar. There’s also limited patio seating for up to eight.

Owner/chef Jimmy Kim is from Seoul, South Korea.
Photography by Beth Mann

Appetizers range in price from $7 to $18; pasta dishes from $13 to $19; and entrees from $19 to $40. “Our goal from the beginning [was] to serve simple, authentic Italian food made well,” Jimmy says. Cucciolo is best known for its pasta dishes, like the Spicy Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce Rigatoni, Black Truffle Tajarin and Walnut Pesto Tagliatelle; the butter chicken is another fan favorite. Jimmy hints that the popular Cacio e Pepe will be back on the menu for the summer, and he encourages guests to save room for the tiramisu. “We put a lot of effort and time to make this classic dessert the right way,” he says. Another tip: Order family style so that your party can share and taste various dishes.

New for this summer, Jimmy and his team are nearing completion on a private dining room – with its own entrance and bathroom – which can accommodate up to 40 people and features paintings by Duke Arts students that were designed for the space.

Eastcut Sandwich Bar

The former Family Garden center at 3211 Old Chapel Hill Rd., now Eastcut Sandwich Bar, still has some of the feel of its past life, with plenty of surrounding greenery and a greenhouse that’s been converted into a beer garden backyard patio. Co-founders Brad Bankos and Steve Wuench – who have backgrounds in culinary and restaurant marketing, and management consulting, respectively, and share a passion for food and entrepreneurship – saw an opportunity to create a casual restaurant that offers “scratch-made food at a value price point, with a full and fun liquor program [that is] in a neighborhood setting.”

Super Tuscan Chopped Salad, Spicy Gabagool sandwich, Greens & Grains salad with an adult slushie and a draft beer at Eastcut Sandwich Bar.

With 55 seats indoors and 55 seats on the front porch and patio, and another 80 seats on the back garden patio, there’s plenty of room to spread out. It’s a relaxing spot to gather with friends or colleagues after work, and the restaurant offers bingo the first Tuesday of the month and trivia the third Tuesday of the month.

Sandwiches and salads range from $6 to $14, and some of the more popular sandwiches are the Spicy Gabagool, the Buff Chick and the Burger, but the rotating specials are also pretty hot. If you’re with a group, start with an order of Mozz Sticks or Crispy Brussels to share, and go for the “Flight to Sandwich Utopia,” a dine-in-only option with three, full-sized sandwiches ($18). The frozen alcoholic slushies (like the Prickly Pear Margarita and Cherry Cola Bourbon Slush) have become big hits, but the restaurant also provides a wide and interesting variety of craft beers on draft or in cans. If you want to skip the booze, try its house-made classic and seasonal lemonades, including mint, rosemary, basil, local strawberry and cherry, among other varieties. Even if you’re stuffed, you’ve gotta try the huge sea salt chocolate chip cookies.

East Durham Bake Shop

Ali Rudel and Ben Filippo opened the brick-and-mortar iteration of East Durham Bake Shop (Ali sold her pies out of their Old East Durham home prior) in March 2018 after years of working in local food industries. The shop at 406 S. Driver St. is located in a beautifully renovated building that housed the Seagroves Grocery Store at the turn of the century, as well as a watch repair shop and a second-hand shoe store. Inside, you’ll step right up to the counter to place your order – coffee and beverages range from $1.85 for drip coffee up to $4.75 for a specialty drink; pastries and baked goods range from $1.25 for a cookie up to $5 for a seasonal fruit galette; soup, salad and savory pies are in the $4 to $6 range and can be paired for a lunch special discount. (They are working to expand the lunch menu, too.) If you’re looking for a whole pie ($25), be sure to order in advance.

Cookies, scones, pies and muffins are among the many sweet options at East Durham Bake Shop.
Cookies, scones, pies and muffins are among the many sweet options at East Durham Bake Shop.

Regulars know all about the tuffets – a brioche knot of the bake shop’s own invention with cardamom, honey, cashews and a hint of rosewater. And always grab a slice of whatever fruit pie is available. Because they only use ingredients that are in season, you may not see the same pie again till next year. And if you’re not into coffee, try a tea latte. “We work with two other local, woman-owned tea companies, Arteao and Jeddah’s Tea, and we regularly add new tea specials to the menu,” Ali says.

Before you order, check out the “Just Because” board next to the register – a pay-it-forward system where visitors to the shop purchase an item to dedicate to someone. “They range from humorous to sweet and sincere and have the power to brighten a bad day,” Ali says.

When you’re all settled up, take your pick from 25 seats indoors – complete with a large communal table and cozy window seat with a children’s library – or one of a dozen seats outside among a small garden of edible and native plants. “For us it’s all in the details,” Ali says. “Our goal is to create a peaceful environment for connecting with friends and loved ones, working, studying and getting to try classic pies and pastries as well as creative interpretations that come from seasonal and local ingredients.”

Hutchins Garage

Started by a group of familiar Durham restaurant folks – Owner/Operator Tracy Hancock, Owner Malachy Noone (also of Bull McCabes and Viceroy), Owner Harvey Gray and Head Chef Michael Morrone – Hutchins Garage is at 402 W. Geer St. in the historic Hutchins Auto Supply building in the Warehouse District near the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Tracy Hancock of Hutchins Garage with their Spicy Vodka pizza.
Tracy Hancock of Hutchins Garage with their Spicy Vodka pizza.

The spot is quickly becoming a staple of food scene on this side of town as more businesses spring up in the area. The patio, set far back from the street, is inviting, all the more so when the big garage door is opened to reveal the fun and Instagram-worthy interior. Intriguing specially crafted cocktails and curated beer and wine selections (check their social media feeds for updates to draft lists) provide plenty of options for pairings with their pizzas, which range from $11 to $16, but can go higher with additional toppings.

“First timers should consider the margherita pizza,” Tracy says, “or one of the composed pies, like the Spicy Vodka. Fourteen inches round, cut into six slices, it’s difficult to not eat most of one yourself, so you may need to order two.” Another good sharing option is the slightly thicker, rectangular Grandma-style pizza, which the restaurant has become known for. “But save room for the house-made tiramisu,”  Tracy says.

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Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is the assistant editor at Durham Magazine. Born and raised in Winston-Salem, she attended UNC-Chapel Hill and double majored in broadcast journalism and German. She enjoys good beer, ice cream and morning runs.

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