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Best Sports Bar in Durham County

Tobacco Road Sports Cafe

Don’t let Tobacco Road Sports Cafe’s name fool you: By no means is this joint your quaint little coffee spot, and the owners themselves say it’s not exactly a sports bar, either. But if you’re looking to accompany your next MLB game with a delicious meal and fresh, locally brewed beer, Tobacco Road Sports Cafe is the way to go. With a commitment to quality food as well as support of local brewers, farmers, and fishermen, Tobacco Road Sports Cafe remains grounded in the local community. And with private spaces for reservation and catering options available, location is almost never a problem for those seeking to elevate their sports-watching experience — did we mention they’re doing takeout and delivery? —CEJ

Finalists: Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub, The Boot Room, Devine’s Restaurant & Sports Bar

Best Small Plates/Tapas in the Triangle

Mateo Bar de Tapas

Finalists: Humble Pie, Barcelona Wine Bar, Taberna Tapas

Best Veggie Burger in Durham County

Bull City Burger and Brewery

A good veggie burger is hard to come by, but if you’re looking for a great, healthful alternative to spice up your diet then Bull City Burger & Brewery has you covered. The brewpub, a partner to various local farming and food organizations, gives customers the option to build their own burgers with various toppings, add-ons, and sauces. There are two pre-designed veggie burger options and you’re free to modify and add toppings to your heart’s content. Sign up for the email list before your birth month and you’ll get a free birthday burger as well. —CEJ

Finalists: Only Burger, QueenBurger, Pure Soul

Best Cheap Eats in Orange / Chatham County

Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering

Finalists: Carrburritos, Cosmic Cantina, Armadillo Grill

Best Fries in the Triangle

Al’s Burger Shack

Finalists: Bull City Burger and Brewery, Heavenly Buffaloes, The Federal

Best Locally Made Mead in the Triangle

Honeygirl Meadery

Finalists: Honeysuckle Meadery, Botanist & Barrel, Starlight Mead

Best Chinese Restaurant in Wake County

Five Star

Downtown Raleigh’s Five Star is something of an institution. Open daily from 5 p.m. to midnight, it offers a hip, modern dining atmosphere with an extensive selection of Chinese, Chinese American, Thai, and even Taiwanese meals. Similarly, Five Star’s after-hours menu brings the late night hits, including Szechuan ribs and a wide array of dumplings for hungry night owls. And, of course, there’s a nice array of cocktails, sake, beer, and wine to pair perfectly with your dinner. —CEJ

Finalists: Taipei 101, Imperial Garden, Beansprout, Ni Asian Kitchen

Best Coffee Shop in Wake County

Jubala Coffee

Forget the big-box chains: you’ll find more nuanced drinks for your refined coffee-going taste buds with Jubala’s espresso tonic, blackberry coffee mule, or jasmine orange blossom latte (yum). The menu offers little-plate specialties for the sweet tooth. Strawberry shortcake waffle, anyone? (There’s also avocado toast if you want to be all healthy and what-not.) And the shop’s artisan sandwiches will fill you up come lunchtime, but not so much that you crave a nap. Sleek but not pretentious, hip but not smug, minimalistic but not obtuse, dual-location Jubala is still growing, with a third store in the works. Plus, what’s not to love about a coffee shop that doles out free espresso shots every Friday? —GW

Finalists: Sola Cafe, Fount Coffee + Kitchen, NoRa Cafe

Best Frozen Treats in the Triangle

The Parlour

Finalists: Goodberry’s Frozen Custard, Locopops, Two Roosters

Best Pie in Durham County

Foster’s Market

Finalists: Elmo’s Diner, The Refectory Cafe, Bean Traders

Best Caribbean or Cuban in the Triangle

Boricua Soul

Finalists: COPA, Carmen’s Cuban Cafe & Lounge, Spanglish

Best Chocolate in the Triangle

Videri Chocolate Factory

Finalists: Escazu, Mathew’s Chocolates, Fera’wyn’s Chocolate Cafe

Best Barbecue in Durham County

The Original Q Shack

In a state where BBQ is as divisive as college basketball, Q Shack is unique in its lack of regional allegiance. The restaurant prioritizes variety over loyalty to technique, boasting a menu that includes the best of every locale: Texas-style brisket, St. Louis-style ribs, and N.C.-style chopped pork available with both vinegar- and tomato-based sauces. The local, pasture-raised meat is smoked to perfection, then served either as a sandwich or piled high on a plate alongside a hefty portion of hushpuppies. Use the three-meat combo plate as an opportunity to sample styles from different regions—when you’re finished, you’ll realize the answer to “What’s the best brand of BBQ?” isn’t this place, or that place; the answer is simply, “Yes.” —LG

Finalists: The Pit Durham, Picnic, Backyard BBQ Pit

Best Steak in Orange / Chatham County

Bin 54

Finalists: Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill, FarmHouse Restaurant, Venable Bistro

Best Sushi in Wake County

Sushi Thai (Cary)

Finalists: Waraji, Sushi Iwa, City Market Sushi, Kai Sushi and Saki Bar

Best Seafood Restaurant in the Triangle

Saltbox Seafood Joint

Finalists: 42nd Street Oyster Bar, Locals Oyster Bar, Squid’s

Best Steak in Wake County

Angus Barn

Finalists: Sullivan’s Steakhouse, The Peddler, Rey’s Restaurant, Vinnie’s Steak House & Tavern

Best New Restaurant in Durham County


Finalists: The Honeysuckle at Lakewood, Lula and Sadie’s, Pure Soul

Best Locally Made Wine in the Triangle

Botanist & Barrel

Finalists: Chatham Hill Winery, Cloer Family Vineyard, FireClay Cellars

Best Breakfast in Orange / Chatham County

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen

It’s rare to find a breakfast spot that delivers on both quality and convenience. Picking up a quick morning bite usually involves going to a fast-food chain, and getting scratch-made food before noon often means committing to a lengthy sit-down affair. Enter: Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, eliminating the need to compromise on breakfast since 1978. Sunrise occupies a tiny building on East Franklin, offering exclusively drive-through service and a menu as ordinary and unassuming as its location. But its biscuit sandwiches shine in their simplicity—flaky dough, exquisitely fried chicken, maybe an egg and cheese, if you feel like it, but nothing more—and after you try one, you might start to wonder if Sunrise has remained a drive-through not just for customers’ convenience, but also to preserve the secrets of its inner sanctum. —LG

Finalists: Breadmen’s, Neal’s Deli, Village Diner

Best Indian Restaurant in the Triangle

Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe

Finalists: Viceroy, Sitar Indian Cuisine, Lime & Lemon Indian Grill & Bar

Best Donut in the Triangle


There’s a reason why, on weekend mornings, you’ll want to order your donuts from Monuts early. They’re in high demand nearly every day because Monuts donuts are not just donuts; they are an experience of creative flavors and combinations coming together. Offering both yeast-risen and cake donuts, the Durham breakfast spot has so much to choose from. Even with a more limited menu throughout the pandemic, Monuts provided a variety of tasty donut options, from the classic apple cider, to the bright strawberry lavender, to the decadent vanilla and pecan brownie crumble. They’re fluffy, they’re light– everything a donut should be, and a perfect way to start your day. —RS

Finalists: Duck Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Baker’s Dozen Donuts

Best Bagel in the Triangle

Everything Bagels (Durham Food Hall)

Ever since rainbow bagels broke the internet in 2016, bagelsmiths across the country have been racing to create their own viral sensations, revamping their menus with funfetti cream cheese, Dorito dry rubs, and enough food dye to kill your great-grandmother. So when I read that Everything Bagels was “avant-garde,” I assumed it was code for kitschy. Boy, was I wrong. The shop deviates from the norm in a way that’s refreshingly flavor-forward, offering creations like the PBLT (pork belly, greens, tomato, chili oil, and kimchi cream cheese on a cacio e pepe bagel) that are funky yet thoughtful, often featuring locally sourced ingredients and available with a vegan option. If you’re looking to take a colorful Instagram photo, try the purple sweet potato bagel with strawberry matcha cream cheese—the taste will be more satisfying than all the likes you get. —LG

Finalists: Benchwarmers Bagels, Brandwein’s Bagels, Big Dom’s Bagel Shop

Best Mexican Restaurant in Orange / Chatham County


Finalists: Fiesta Grill, Monterrey Mexican Restaurant, El Restaurante Ixtapa

Best Japanese Restaurant in Durham County

M Sushi

Finalists: Dashi, Kanki, Yamazushi

Best Bread in Orange / Chatham County

Guglhupf Bake Shop

Finalists: Weaver Street Market, Great Harvest, Wegman’s

Best Salad in the Triangle

Happy + Hale

Finalists: Chopt, V Pizza, Fount Coffee + Kitchen

Best Sushi in Durham County

M Sushi

Finalists: Shiki Sushi, Sushi Love, Sake Bomb

Best Sports Bar in Orange / Chatham County

Top of the Hill – TOPO

Finalists: Carolina Brewery, The Spotted Dog, Hickory Tavern

Best Irish Pub in the Triangle

Bull McCabe’s Irish Pub

Finalists: Hibernian Irish Pub & Restaurant, Doherty’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, James Joyce Irish Pub

Best Chinese Restaurant in Orange / Chatham County

Jade Palace

Finalists: Lantern, Gourmet Kingdom, Red Lotus

Best Chef in Wake County

Ashley Christensen

Finalists: Cheetie Kumar, Scott Crawford, Christy Griffith

Best Latin American Restaurant in Wake County

Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken

Finalists: Guasaca, Mami’s Latin Style Rotisserie Chicken, Centro

Best Coffee Shop in Durham County

Cocoa Cinnamon

Finalists: Joe Van Gogh, Bean Traders, The Oak House

Best Deli in the Triangle

Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering

Finalists: Eastcut Sandwich Bar, Neal’s Deli, Deli Edison

Best Latin American Restaurant in Durham County

Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken

Finalists: Luna Rotisserie & Empanadas, COPA, Boricua Soul

Best Southern Food Restaurant in the Triangle

Mama Dip’s

Finalists: Lucky 32, Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant, Pure Soul

Best Chinese Restaurant in Durham County

Happy China

Finalists: Shanghai, Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant, Orient Garden

Best Mexican Restaurant in Wake County

Gonza Tacos Y Tequila

Finalists: Los Tres Magueyes, Centro, Gringo A Go Go

Best Vegan-friendly Restaurant in Wake County

Irregardless Café

Finalists: The Fiction Kitchen, Fount Coffee + Kitchen, Bonafide Bakeshop & Cafe

Best Hot Dog in the Triangle

Snoopy’s Hot Dogs and More

Don’t come to Snoopy’s expecting to find veggie dogs or gluten-free buns. The grill’s menu hasn’t changed since the day it opened in 1978, save for the addition of chicken salad and vegetable beef soup; if you order one of Snoopy’s Famous Hot Dogs, it will be topped with mustard, onion, and chili (“unless you tell us differently”), and it will taste exactly the same as it did 30-odd years ago. Snoopy’s is the epitome of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and its adherence to Eastern Carolina tradition is mirrored by the undying loyalty of its customer base. —LG

Finalists: The Dog House, The Cardinal, Cloos’ Coney Island

Best Cheap Eats in Durham County

Elmo’s Diner

Finalists: Cook Out, Cosmic Cantina, Guasaca

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant in the Triangle

Elmo’s Diner

With its comfy booths, cheerful atmosphere, and palatable menu options, there’s no doubt that Elmo’s is an excellent spot to take the family. Even for adult-only parties, though, the diner’s kid-friendliness shines in its ability to bring out one’s inner child. You’ll find yourself ordering breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast, coloring with crayons and stacking packets of jam into little towers while you wait for your food. Grown-up dining conventions don’t exist here, and it’s awesome. —LG

Finalists: Pompieri Pizza, Honeysuckle at Lakewood, Kwench Juice Cafe Raleigh

Best Sunday Brunch in Durham County

Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Biergarten

A German-styled bakery, restaurant, and biergarten all in one, Guglhupf has much to offer. Though the pandemic forced Guglhupf’s owners to move dine-in seating outside, it in no way ruined the ambiance. The patio area is lush with cute decorations and plenty of seating under the cover of umbrellas. The menu offers both lighter veggie meals, like the avocado poblano panini, or a heartier meat-lover’s plate, like the pan-fried confit pork belly panini. No Sunday brunch would be complete without drinks, whether a delicious summer bliss latte with refreshing lavender, or a morning mimosa. If all that doesn’t fill you up, stop into the bakery before you leave: a fruit tart, maybe? An almond schnecke? Some black pepper parmesan bread? Whatever you choose, you’ll leave satisfied. —RS

Finalists: Monuts, Vin Rouge, Jack Tar & the Colonel’s Daughter, The Refectory Cafe

Best Bakery in Wake County

La Farm Bakery

Finalists: Boulted Bread, Union Special, Utica Bakery

Best Distillery in the Triangle

Durham Distillery

Finalists: Mystic Farm & Distilling Company, TOPO Organic Spirits, Lonerider Spirits

Best Sandwich in Durham County

Parker and Otis

Finalists: Toast, Eastcut Sandwich Bar, Old North Meats and Provisions, Pure Soul

Best Desserts in Wake County

Hayes Barton Café and Dessertery

Finalists: Lucettegrace, Bittersweet, Bonafide Bakeshop & Cafe

Best Burger in Orange / Chatham County

Al’s Burger Shack

Finalists: Wooden Nickel Pub, The Spotted Dog, Gov’s Burger and Tap, Buns

Best Chef in Durham County

Zwelibanzi Moyo-Williams (Zweli’s)

Finalists: Matt Kelly, Ricky Moore, Michael Lee, Nikolas Spaulding

Best Biscuits in Durham County

Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken Durham Downtown/ Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken Durham Southpoint

Finalists: Monuts, Debbie Lou’s

Best Locally Made Craft Beer in the Triangle 

Trophy Wife, Trophy Brewing

Finalists: Biere de Garde, Ponysaurus; Humidity, Fullsteam; Cloud Surfer, Trophy Brewing;Hop on Top IPA, Lynnwood Brewing Concern

Best French Restaurant in the Triangle

Vin Rouge

Finalists: Rue Cler, Coquette Brasserie, Jolie

Best Burrito in Wake County

Gonza Tacos Y Tequila

Finalists: Dank Burritos, Gringo A Go Go, Baja Burrito

Best Sandwich in Orange / Chatham County

Merritt’s Grill

Finalists: Neal’s Deli; Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering; Deli Edison, Steve’s Garden Market & Butchery 

Best Sports Bar in Wake County

Carolina Ale House

Finalists: Woody’s Sports Tavern & Grill, Tobacco Road Sports Cafe & Brewery, Sharky’s Place, Brickhouse Sports Pub

Best Draft Beer Selection in Durham County

Beer Study

Finalists: Fullsteam Brewery, The Glass Jug Beer Lab, Hi-Wire Brewing, Pour Taproom

Best Cheap Eats in Wake County

Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken

Finalists: Snoopy’s Hot Dogs and More, Char-Grill, Mami’s Latin Style Rotisserie Chicken

Best Sunday Brunch in Wake County

Flying Biscuit Cafe

Finalists: First Watch, Brigs at the Forest Restaurant, Fount Coffee + Kitchen

Best Cupcake in the Triangle

Nothing Bundt Cakes

Finalists: Small Cakes Durham, Gigi’s Cupcakes, The Cupcake Shoppe Bakery

Best Barbecue in Wake County

The Pit

Finalists: Sam Jones BBQ, Big Mike’s BBQ – Brew N’ Que, City Barbeque and Catering – Cary

Best Brewery in Durham County

Ponysaurus Brewing Co.

Finalists: Fullsteam Brewery, Durty Bull Brewing Company, Barrel Culture Brewing & Blending

Best Desserts in Orange / Chatham County

Maple View Farm Ice Cream

Maple View Farm Ice Cream is (almost) just as much about the view as it is about the ice cream itself. If you get there at dusk, you can sit on the hill right beside the farm and watch as North Carolina’s dramatic and deep sunsets drop over the sky. That’s not to say that the ice cream isn’t notable. From the classic flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, to the unique Turtle, Banana Pudding, and Devil’s Delight flavors, Maple View ice cream is creamy and refreshing. And even from outside, you can smell the heavenly waffle cones baking, ready to be served. —RS

Finalists: Guglhupf Bake Shop; Nantucket Cafe; Weaver Street Market; Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering; Matthew’s Chocolates

Best Restaurant in the Triangle

Angus Barn

Finalists: Salvio’s Pizzeria, MoJoe’s Burger Joint, Pizzeria Veritas

Best Greek/Mediterranean Restaurant in the Triangle

Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering

Mediterranean Deli is the Room of Requirement of the Franklin Street food scene. If you’re one of those people who hasn’t read Harry Potter, the Room of Requirement is a place that transforms itself into whatever you need it to be, a concept that Med Deli embodies in its unparalleled pervasion of nearly every corner of the food industry. Hoping to enjoy a leisurely sit-down meal? Order a fatayer or a falafel platter and plant yourself at a table. Looking to grab a healthful lunch to go? There are about 20 salads to choose from in the glass deli case. Need someone to cater your daughter’s bat mitzvah? Med Deli’s got you covered. Need ingredients to cook dinner? No problem—there’s a grocery store inside the restaurant. —LG

Finalists: Neomonde, Sassool, Taverna Agora

Best Pie in Wake County

Slice Pie Company

Finalists: Bittersweet, Bonafide Bakeshop & Cafe, Burney’s Sweets & More of Raleigh

Best Desserts in Durham County

Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Biergarten

Finalists: Mad Hatter’s Cafe and Bakeshop, Rose’s Noodles, Dumplings and Sweets, Dulce Cafe

Best Breakfast in Wake County

Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant

Finalists: Flying Biscuit Cafe, Brigs at the Forest Restaurant, Fount Coffee + Kitchen

Best Veggie Burger in Wake County

The Fiction Kitchen

Finalists: Burger Fi, Mike’s Vegan Cookout, Wilson’s Eatery

Best Brewery in Orange / Chatham County

Steel String Brewery

Finalists: Haw River Farmhouse Ales, Carolina Brewing, Craftboro Brewing Depot

Best Burger in Wake County

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

Finalists: Char-Grill, MoJoe’s Burger Joint, Abbey Road

Best Tea House in the Triangle

The Honeysuckle Tea House

If you grew up reading Magic Tree House, like I did, you’ve likely fantasized about finding a structure nestled in the forest that will transport you to a spot where everything is “absolutely still.” I’m delighted to inform you that this place exists in the real world, and it’s just a short drive from downtown Chapel Hill. An open-air farm stand tucked among the trees, Honeysuckle Tea House provides a peaceful oasis where guests can unwind with a locally grown cuppa while overlooking acres of berry fields, herb gardens, and tea beds. The venue also includes hammocks, a playground, and a stage where area artists perform live music. While I’m pretty sure Honeysuckle doesn’t have Magic Tree House’s time travel technology, the place is so tranquil that you probably won’t notice how many hours you’ve been sitting there until the sky gets dark. —LG

Finalists: Jeddah’s Tea, Pimiento Tea Room, Cha House

Best Mexican Restaurant in Durham County

Taqueria La Vaquita

Just as Nick Carraway felt the allure of the green light across from Jay Gatsby’s mansion in The Great Gatsby, I have always felt drawn to the 3-D spotted cow atop Taqueria La Vaquita. I drove by for years, wondering about it, and it wasn’t until this year that I visited—and found that all my expectations were met (and exceeded) in one bite of their pastor taco. Their food is traditional street tacos and no-fuss Mexican plates, and that’s what makes it so well-loved. There’s no fusion tacos or fashionable decor, just well-seasoned meats and red picnic tables being watched over by la vaquita. Best eaten with your Jarritos of choice. —SP

Finalists: Dos Perros, NuvoTaco, Cosmic Cantina

Best Vegan-friendly Restaurant in Orange / Chatham County

Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering

Finalists: The Spotted Dog, Sage Vegetarian Cafe, Vegan Flava

Best Late Night Meal in Wake County

Cook Out

Finalists: Raleigh Times, Waffle House, Char-Grill

Best Japanese Restaurant in Orange / Chatham County

Akai Hana

Finalists: Spicy 9, Iza Whiskey and Eats, Oiishi, Tokyo Express

Best Veggie Burger in Orange / Chatham County

The Spotted Dog

Finalists: Al’s Burger Shack, Sage Vegetarian Cafe, Buns, New Hope Market

Best Wings in Durham County

Heavenly Buffaloes

Once you discover Heavenly Buffaloes, self-dubbed “the wing joint you’ve been looking for,” your hunt for wing joints isn’t going to end, but it will take on a new meaning. You’ll no longer be searching for an establishment that sells killer wings; rather, you’ll be poking around the scraps in your gingham paper-lined tray, desperately seeking a wing joint—like, the bone kind of joint—that still has some meat clinging onto it. When you realize you’ve sucked the bones clean and want to order more, I encourage you to try the vegan wings, which are just as succulent as the chicken. —LG

Finalists: M Kokko, Chicken Bee, Grub

Best Pie in Orange / Chatham County

Mama Dip’s

Finalists: Weaver Street Market, Cup-A-Joe Hillsborough, Pop’s Pizzeria  & Ristorante, Bestfood Cafeteria (Siler City)

Best Chef in Orange / Chatham County

Vimala Rajendran

Finalists: Andrea Reusing, Christian Patterson, Gabe Barker

Best Wings in Orange / Chatham County

Heavenly Buffaloes

Finalists: Wooden Nickel Pub, Wings Over Chapel Hill, The Spotted Dog

Best Food Truck in the Triangle

Chirba Chirba

Finalists: Bulkogi, Arepa Culture, Succotash Food Truck

Best Juice Bar in the Triangle

Raleigh Raw

Finalists: Clean Juice, JuiceKeys, Kwench Juice Cafe

Best Late Night Meal in Orange / Chatham County

Cosmic Cantina

Finalists: Time Out, Linda’s Bar and Grill, The Northside District

Best Wings in Wake County

Woody’s Sports Tavern & Grill

Finalists: V Pizza, Apex Wings, Sharky’s Place

Best Late Night Meal in Durham County

Cook Out

A few months into the pandemic, I started to see the neon Cook Out sign as a beacon of hope. As once-24-hour grocery stores closed at 8 p.m., independent joints shut down before midnight, and even gas stations reduced their hours, Cook Out remained open into the wee hours of the morning. For me, a waitress who didn’t get off work until late at night and had no energy to cook for myself, Cook Out’s accessibility was a godsend. And how lucky was it that my only option was also an incredibly delicious one? —LG

Finalists: Cosmic Cantina, Heavenly Buffaloes, Parts & Labor

Best Brewery in Wake County

Trophy Brewing Company

Finalists: Bond Brothers Beer Company, Lynnwood Brewing Concern, Raleigh Brewing Company

Best Breakfast in Durham County

Elmo’s Diner

Finalists: Monuts, Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Biergarten, True Flavors Diner

Best Biscuits in Orange / Chatham County

Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen

Finalists: Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken Carrboro, Mama Dip’s, Neal’s Deli

Best Bakery in Orange / Chatham County

Guglhupf Bake Shop

Finalists: Weaver Street Market, Bread & Butter Bakery and Cafe, Phoenix Bakery

Best Burrito in Durham County

Cosmic Cantina

Cosmic Cantina lives up to its name in a number of ways. Its burritos are of cosmic proportions—the “mini” will keep you full for hours, and the “giant” is longer than your forearm—and biting into one is an otherworldly experience, briefly transporting you from Earth to a celestial state of serenity. Cosmic is universally adored, boasting a customer base that knows no bounds; on a given evening, you might find yourself standing in line with a college student, a construction worker, and a chemical engineer. And like the cosmos, Cosmic shines brightest at night: as other restaurants lock their doors, crowds flock to Cosmic, satisfying their midnight munchies with Mexican fare that’s nothing short of heavenly. —LG

Finalists: Taqueria La Vaquita, NuvoTaco, Ex Voto

Best Italian Restaurant in the Triangle

Mothers and Sons Trattoria 

Finalists: Gocciolina, Bella Monica, Pulcinella’s

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant in the Triangle

Mediterranean Deli, Bakery, and Catering

Finalists: Neomonde, Sassool, Sitti

Best Outdoor Dining in the Triangle


Finalists: Taverna Agora, Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing, Pure Soul

Best Sunday Brunch in Orange / Chatham County


Finalists: Crook’s Corner, Carolina Inn, Venable Bistro, Village Diner

Best Wine List in the Triangle

Angus Barn

Finalists: Barcelona Wine Bar, Herons, The Oak House, Vita Vite, Bulldega Urban Market

Best Steak in Durham County


Finalists: Vin Rouge, The Durham Hotel, Metro8

Best Biscuits in Wake County

Flying Biscuit Cafe

Finalists: Bojangles, Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken Brier Creek, Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken Morrisville

Best Latin American Restaurant in Orange / Chatham County

Luna Rotisserie and Taproom

Finalists: Fiesta Grill, Monterrey Mexican Restaurant, Que Chula Craft Tacos & Tequila

Best Barbecue in Orange / Chatham County

Allen & Son BBQ

Finalists: The Pig, Hillsborough BBQ Company, City BBQ, Big Belly Que

Best New Restaurant in Orange / Chatham County

Cham Thai Cuisine

Finalists: Napoli, Iza Whiskey and Eats, Nomad

Best Burger in Durham County

Bull City Burger and Brewery

Finalists: Only Burger, Burger Bach, QueenBurger

Best Pizza in Orange / Chatham County

Italian Pizzeria III

The Triangle’s pizza scene is increasingly dominated by fancier joints, so it’s heartwarming that our readers continue to see the value in a casual, family-run spot that peddles as much geniality as it does authentic Italian fare. A Franklin Street staple since 1980, Italian Pizzeria III—IP3, to locals—touts warmth over sophistication, is owned by two brothers who will welcome you with a spirited Ciao!, and won’t scoff when you ask if they sell pies by the slice. If you’re a student feeling swallowed up by the vastness of UNC’s campus, or just someone missing a homey environment, skip the coffee shop and head to IP3. —LG

Finalists: Napoli Pizzeria & Gelateria, Pizzeria Mercato, Coronato Pizza

Best Locally Made Liquor in the Triangle

Conniption American Dry Gin, Durham Distillery

Finalists: Conniption Navy Strength Gin, Durham Distillery; TOPO Organic Vodka; Oak City Amaretto

Best Draft Beer Selection in Wake County

Raleigh Beer Garden

Finalists: Flying Saucer, House of Hops, Black Dog Bottle Shop

Best Coffee Shop in Orange / Chatham County

Caffe Driade

My first visit to Caffe Driade lasted five hours. This wasn’t entirely voluntary—the guy I was dating dropped me there while he went to run an errand, and then he forgot about me, or his phone died, or something—but that’s not to say it was an unpleasant experience. I actually can’t think of a better place to be stranded. After the barista gave me a French press, a scone, and a cigar (on the house), I wandered around the wooded area behind the shop, then returned to the patio to chat with customers and sit under trees strung with little lights. Though Caffe Driade is located off East Franklin, its secluded venue makes you feel like you’re miles away in some kind of magical forest. My boyfriend may have forgotten where I was, but after a while, I did, too. —LG

Finalists: Cup-A-Joe Hillsborough, Joe Van Gogh Chapel Hill, Open Eye Cafe

Best Sandwich in Wake County

Village Deli

Finalists: V Pizza, Mookie’s New York Deli, Southern Craft Butchers, Bonafide Bakeshop & Cafe

Best Bakery in Durham County

Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Biergarten

Finalists: Ninth Street Bakery, Loaf, Mad Hatter Cafe + Bakeshop

Best Japanese Restaurant in Wake County


Finalists: Kanki, O-ku Sushi, City Market Sushi

Best Locally Made Cider in the Triangle

Bull City Ciderworks

Don’t tell my co-workers, but I don’t really like beer that much. This makes breweries difficult. Thankfully, I have friends who will indulge in my drink of choice, and go with me to Bull City Ciderworks’s Durham shop to try an array of flavors like sweet tea or habanero and strawberry. And if I’m at a bar or browsing the cider section at Harris Teeter, their classic “Off-Main” cider is often available, and always tasty. —SP

Finalists: Botanist & Barrel, Chatham Cider Works, Dingo Dog Brewing Co.

Best Sushi in Orange / Chatham County

Akai Hana

Though I adore Akai Hana and eat there all the time, I wasn’t sure what to spotlight in this blurb, so I read about 200 online reviews in efforts to pinpoint what makes the Carrboro restaurant so special. My Yelp investigation didn’t provide me with an answer, but it did validate my struggle in articulating the magic of Akai Hana; for years, customers have been sharing a sentiment that essentially amounts to, “I don’t know why, but this is the best sushi I’ve ever had.” The fact that Akai Hana doesn’t have a gimmick or specific claim to fame makes its win all the more impressive. —LG

Finalists: Spicy 9, Oishi, Mr. Tokyo Japanese Restaurant, Kurama

Best Burrito in Orange / Chatham County


Carrburritos has held a solid grip on this category for 10 consecutive years, undoubtedly due to the aptly named mejor (“best”) burrito, the magnum opus of the California-style Mexican joint. Encased in a warm, pliable tortilla, the mejor is assertive in both size and flavor, featuring fresh, house-made fillings that are skillfully distributed in a way that retains their integrity while allowing you to get some of each in every bite. Pro tip: get a side of flour tortilla chips (they throw you a couple in the bottom of the burrito bag, but you’ll want more) and ask for ramekins of the frutas and fresca salsas (they’re free). —LG

Finalists: Cosmic Cantina, Fiesta Grill, O’Ya Cantina

Best Draft Beer Selection in Orange / Chatham County

Beer Study

Finalists: Wooden Nickel Pub, House of Hops Pittsboro, Steel String Brewery

Best Pizza in Durham County

Pizzeria Toro

Pizzeria Toro, or as most people around town just call it, ‘Toro,’ invites special experiences. Warm, twinkly lighting sets the stage for the neighborhood restaurant, which has an attentive staff and open kitchen, making it the kind of romantic spot you want to take shelter in during the winter months, or dip in and linger at during the summer. Thin, crispy crust is the foundation for a dozen-plus pizza varieties with white and red sauce bases and rich, complex flavors. Toro was closed for much of the pandemic and recently reopened, to much Durham relief and delight. —SE 

Finalists: Pompieri Pizza, Pie Pushers, Hutchins Garage

Best Pizza in Wake County

Salvio’s Pizzeria, Cary

Finalists: V Pizza, Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, Pizzeria Veritas

Best Bread in Durham County

Guglhupf Bakery, Cafe & Biergarten

Finalists: Ninth Street Bakery, Loaf Durham, Jewish for Good at the Levin JCC

Best Vegan-friendly Restaurant in Durham County

Happy + Hale

Finalists: Goorsha, The Refectory Cafe, Pure Soul, Earth To Us

Best Bloody Mary in The Triangle

Jack Tar & the Colonel’s Daughter

Finalists: Acme, Mason Jar Tavern, Parts & Labor, Flying Biscuit Cafe, Clouds Brewing

Best New Restaurant in Wake County

Sam Jones BBQ

Finalists: Pool’side Pies, Pimiento Tea Room, Fount Coffee + Kitchen, Bonafide Bakeshop & Cafe

Best Bread in Wake County

La Farm Bakery

Finalists: Boulted Bread, Yellow Dog Bakery, Union Special

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