9 Hours in Cary, Apex, and Morrisville

(By Curt Fields)

I need coffee for this. And food. 

That means I need La Farm. 

And so, the day begins with multiple cafe Americanos and a tomato cheddar scramble, which set me up with sufficient energy to navigate the mini-Triangle within the Triangle: Cary, Apex, and Morrisville.

From there, I journey to Cary’s Chatham Street and its assortment of shopping destinations. Whether you’re looking for high-end clothing on the cheap at a consignment shop (The Perfect Piece) or the perfect thing to tie the room together (Cooper’s Furniture), you’ll probably find it there.

Lunchtime looms, and I’m off to Corbett’s Burgers & Soda Bar. The family-owned joint serves only a handful of burgers, hot dogs, and grilled cheese sandwiches, embodying the quality-over-quantity ethos. The grilled pimento cheese is tempting, but I cast my lot with the Sodalicious Burger. It arrives hot, juicy, and inviting. It doesn’t take long to devour. On the way out, I stop by the wall cases of sodas and pick out a few offbeat flavors and brands for my father. Watching him alternate between delight at seeing a brand from his youth and consternation at flavors such as “sweet corn” is always fun.

With beverages for him sorted out, it’s time to get some for me. Bond Brothers, here I come. This great brewpub produces quality beers in varying styles. (Its location-less sorta-sister brewery, Ancillary* Fermentation, is just as good but a little harder to track down.) Of course, Bond Brothers beer is no secret, hence the usually buzzing taproom, with locals and beer hounds enjoying pint after pint—and, when the weather’s good, the outdoor tables. 

After a sojourn there, I’m off to downtown Apex. I find a parking spot and leave the car to walk about the thriving hub of antiques shops and boutiques—mostly window shopping, to be honest, because no matter how much I may fall in love with that art deco dresser, there just isn’t any space in the apartment.  

While there, I pop in for a quick snack at Daniel’s, an ever-popular Italian eatery. Not hungry enough for one of the menu’s pasta dishes, but wanting a bit of food before hitting my next destination, I opt for a slice of raspberry white chocolate cheesecake. Never a bad choice.

From there, it’s on to Brüeprint Brewery, which, when picking a beer-drinking spot, is also not a bad choice. The Brue Scarlet and Pale Brue Eyes both go down easily.

My decision-making skills are put to the test at Cipher Escape, where you’re locked in a room with a few friends and given a time limit to puzzle your way out of it. Secret codes. Hidden locks. Trick doors. Numerical clues. Red herrings. After several beers. 

Dinner beckons at Carmen’s Cuban Cafe & Lounge. I did not grow up in Florida, but I lived there long enough to consider myself at least half-Floridian—which means, among many other things, that I developed an appreciation for Cuban cuisine. And since Cuban cuisine can be difficult to come across in North Carolina, Carmen’s is my destination whenever I need a fix. A plate of empanadas Cubanas followed by one of picadillo is more than I need but exactly what I want. An after-dinner espresso provides the energy to make it home and a satisfying conclusion to a high-mileage day.

Landmark: Maynard-Pearson House

Where to Get a Cup of Coffee: La Farm Bakery

Where to Visit with Friends: Bond Brothers

Where to Walk Your Dog: Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

Where to Spend the Night: The Mayton Inn



160 East Cedar Street, Cary, 919-378-9493, postmastercary.com

Contemporary Southern cuisine can mean a lot of things. At Postmaster, it means putting a piece of honeycomb cereal on an oyster with apple mignonette. Actually, that was a few menus ago. These days, Postmaster is offering baba ghanouj with Benchwarmers’ za’atar bagel chips and muffuletta steak tartare with burnt shallot aioli and an olive-caper relish. Which is to say, the young restaurant from veterans of Ashley Christensen’s team might be the most adventurous eatery in a town not particularly known for adventurous cuisine. It might also be the best.

Note: We’ve highlighted our pick for the best of each category below. 


Academy Street Bistro

200 South Academy Street, Cary, 919-377-0509, academystreetbistro.com

There’s a dinner menu, but check out Academy for lunch and stick with a combination of appetizers. Maybe a serving of crab cakes plus a grilled brie. On Tuesday, martinis are only $5; on Wednesday, mules (Moscow, Kentucky, Caribbean) are $6.

Andia’s Homemade Ice Cream

10120 Green Level Church Road, #208, Cary, 919-822-1866, andisicecream.com

Three words for you: Lemon. Basil. Sorbet. There are other flavors at Andia’s Homemade Ice Cream, of course—delicious varieties of ice cream and sorbet that are sure to please your palate. But we repeat: Lemon. Basil. Sorbet.  

Ashworth Drugs

105 West Chatham Street, Cary, 919-467-1877, ashworthdrugs.com

Where else can you fill your prescriptions and also get what Cary Magazine describes as “the best hot dogs in town”? Ashworth serves up some serious 1950s diner vibes. 

Banana Leaf

1026 Ryan Road, Cary, 919-468-9958, bananaleafcary.com

Banana Leaf’s quality far outstrips the picturesqueness of its strip-mall location. There are the usual Chinese-menu classics, such as General Tso’s chicken, but don’t just stick to the tried-and-true. Give the Vietnamese Triple Country Flavor Beef a try. 

Brew N Que

1222 Northwest Maynard Road, Cary, 919-799-2023, brewnquenc.com

Brew N Que is part BBQ joint, part bottle shop—and the brainchild of food truck owner Mike Markham. Start off with the Redneck Nachos or the BBQ egg rolls. Then chow down on a BBQ platter or a sandwich such as The Big Cheesy (grilled pimiento mac and cheese, barbecue, sweet pickles, and sauce). It’s a small room, so get there early or be prepared to wait.

Carmen’s Cuban Cafe

108 Factory Shops Road, Morrisville, 919-467-8080, carmenscubancafe.com

About five minutes from the airport, you’ll find generous portions of lechon asado and plantains. If you’re feeling adventurous, stop by Tuesday evenings for salsa lessons with the Mambo Dinamico Dance Company. 

Corbett’s Burgers & Soda Bar

126 Kilmayne Drive, Cary, 919-466-0055, corbettsburgers.com

A straightforward, family-owned burger joint that’s not as fancy as some places you’ll find, Corbett’s can more than hold its own with selections such as the Gouda Morning Burger or the Sodalicious Burger. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth stopping by to peruse the cases with more than 250 varieties of soda.

Dame’s Chicken and Waffles

823 Bass Pro Lane, Cary, 919-234-0824, dameschickenwaffles.com

The Cary outpost of this Durham legend takes chicken and waffles to the next level. 

Daniel’s Restaurant & Catering

1430 West Williams Street, Apex, 919-303-1006, danielsapex.com

This Apex favorite has been serving pastas, pizzas, and desserts for almost a quarter-century, all in a relaxed atmosphere with prices nearly as pleasing as the food. Word to the wise: Make reservations. And don’t leave without getting the raspberry white chocolate cheesecake.

Good Harvest

1104 Ledsome Lane, Cary, 919-977-3836, facebook.com/goodharvestnc

This Chinese restaurant has sisters in Flushing and Brooklyn, New York, as well as stores dotting China. Good Harvest is all about seafood, with specialties such as Golden Pepper Crisp Fish and the signature Crunch Fish Pot. 


100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary, 919-447-4000, theumstead.com/dining

Five-star (from Forbes), five-diamond (from AAA) restaurant Herons, in the upscale Umstead Hotel and Spa, is a great choice for a special-occasion meal. Expensive? Of course. But you eat like a king.

Himalayan Range Nepalese Restaurant

910 Northeast Maynard Road, Cary, 919-378-9586, himalayanrangenepalirestaurants.com

Don’t let the low-key strip-mall setting fool you: this place brings outsize Nepali flavor in big portions. The Gobi Manchurian appetizer, with savory battered and fried cauliflower in a zesty sauce, will knock your socks off. 

Kathmandu Kitchen

1275 Northwest Maynard Road, Cary, 919-535-3026, kathmandukitchencary.com

Triangle newcomers are sometimes surprised by the surfeit of excellent Indian and Nepalese choices in Cary. One of the newest is also among the best—Kathmandu Kitchen, which opened in August 2018. Kathmandu succeeds on the strength of its momos, noodle-dough dumplings stuffed with a vegetable- or chicken-based filling. We also recommend the olive garlic naan. 

La Farm Bakery

4248 Northwest Cary Parkway, Cary, 919-657-0657, lafarmbakery.com

The chance to sit and savor the smell of fresh bread and French press coffees is reason enough to visit La Farm. Of course, the excellent fruits of this authentic French bakery’s labors are another. Lunch and dinner selections range from quiches to sandwiches to seafood specials. On Sundays, it’s worth braving the crowds for brunch. 

Maximillians Grill & Wine Bar

8314 Chapel Hill Road, Cary, 919-465-2455, maximilliansgrill.com

Will and Margie Hennessee purchased Maxmillians in 2015 after working there for almost twenty years, serving a globally inspired, locally sourced menu. It’s difficult to suggest a dish, as the offerings change regularly. 

Mithai Indian Cafe

744 East Chatham Street, Suite F, Cary, 919-469-9651, mithaius.com

North Carolina’s first manufacturer of artisanal Indian confectioneries, Mithai has been making Indian and Bengali sweets since 2004. You’ll find classics like walnut chocolate burfi in addition to vegan options like matcher laddu, kaju kati, and boondi ladies. 

Nazara Indian Bistro

1945 High House Road, Cary, 919-694-5353, nazaranc.com

Come for dinner, stay for dessert at this upscale Indian eatery. Regulars love the lamb seekh kabab and beet tikki mango chaat. If you can’t take the heat, ask your waiter to tone down the spice; Nazara brings the fire. 

Pizzeria Faulisi

215 East Chatham Street, Cary, pizzeriafaulisi.com

Amber Faulisi learned to make pizza at home in an electric oven while her husband, Zach, spent nights as a chef at The Durham. In 2017, the couple upped their game with Pizzeria Faulisi’s wood-fired Napoli oven. With flour from Boulted Bread, they produce perfectly charred crusts surrounding smooth Wisconsin mozzarella. 

Pro’s Epicurean Market + Cafe

211 East Chatham Street, Cary, 919-377-1788, prosepicurean.com

In the heart of downtown Cary, Pro’s Epicurean puts a fun spin on Italian fare, from a rotating charcuterie collection to its bruschetta of the day. 

The Provincial

119 North Salem Street, Apex, 919-372-5921, theprovincialapex.com

Taking a simple-is-best approach, The Provincial has a seafood-focused menu that takes quality ingredients and lets them do the work. The results are outstanding dishes like the marinated yellowfin tuna poke taco and sesame sriracha mayo. 

Scratch Kitchen + Taproom

225 North Salem Street, #127, Apex, 919-372-5370, scratchkitchenandtaproom.com

From the folks behind The Mason Jar Tavern, Scratch offers a robust tap list heavy on local brews and a from-scratch—hence the name—menu that reads like a more interesting version of pub food: street corn with truffle aioli, jalapeño cornbread, shrimp and grits with miso ginger-garlic sauce, and so on. 

Smokey’s BBQ Shack

10800 Chapel Hill Road, Morrisville, 919-469-1724, smokeyshack.com

Smokey’s takes the Switzerland approach to saucing, marrying—in its own words—“the tangy cider vinegar boy from the east and that sweet tomato gal from the west.” Don’t be scared off by the lines. Good ‘cue is worth the wait.


1388 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary, 919-678-3449, totoposfoodandtequila.com

All of the standard Mexican restaurant menu items are here, capably prepared. But as much as the food, the real attraction is the extensive tequila list—more than eighty of them. Flights make it easy to sample a good amount without dying.


301 South Academy Street, Cary, 919-670-5000, verandahcary.com

Verandah gets its name from a time before air conditioners, when families gathered outside to dine on fresh, local food under covered porches. The menu seeks to recreate that, from the seasonal medley of smoked tomatoes, brussels sprouts, kale, mushrooms, beets, and lentil puree, to sweet-tea-brined grilled pork chop with collard greens and molasses apple butter gastrique.


Bond Brothers Beer Company 

202 East Cedar Street, Cary, 919-459-2670, bondbrothersbeer.com

Bond Brothers is a relatively young brewery, but it’s quickly become known as one of the Triangle’s best. IPAs, barrel sours, whatever style you want, they probably have a quality version of it. At the Cary taproom, there are more than a dozen beers on tap, running the gamut from Belgian strong golden ales to dark lagers to saisons to stouts to session IPAs. 

Brüeprint Brewing Company

1229 Perry Road, #101, Apex, 919-387-8075, brueprint.com

There are fourteen beers on tap, and you’ll have to try to find one that isn’t a winner.  

Cotton House Craft Brewers

307 Academy Street, Cary, 984-333-0500, cottonhousecraft.com

This brewery sits in a Victorian home originally built to house Cary High students; much of the original architecture is still intact. Cotton House gets its hops from its farm in Liberty and has developed special varieties with the state Department of Agriculture. 

Fortnight Brewing Company

1006 Southwest Maynard Road, Cary, 919-342-6604, fortnightbrewing.com

With brews such as the Blood Orange Blonde, Coffee Amber, and a cask-only English breakfast stout, Fortnight knows exactly what your taste buds want. Using recipes inspired by owner Stuart Arnold’s native England, the brewery has created quite a portfolio. 

Local Bar

2901 US 64, Apex, 919-303-7014, localbarapex.com

One Yelp reviewer called this a North Carolina bar that can make your Cheers fantasies a reality, and, sure, that sounds about right. They have pool tables, darts, and a large outdoor area where you can grill your own dinner. 

Naughty Penguin Hard Cider

1220 Copeland Oaks Drive, Morrisville, 984-333-0801, naughtypenguincider.com

A nano-cidery that uses locally sourced apples to create its hard cider batches, Naughty Penguin is open seven days a week and is dog-friendly. 

Pharmacy Bottle + Beverage

120 East Chatham Street, Cary, 919-234-1098, pharmacybottlebeverage.com

Occupying the renovated site of a former pharmacy next door to The Cary Theater, this downtown spot has sixteen taps with the option of eight-ounce pours and beer flights. Large sliding glass windows open up onto Chatham Street and outdoor picnic seating. 

Salem Street Pub

113 North Salem Street, Apex, 919-387-9992, salemstreetpub.wixsite.com/salemstreetpub

SSP owners Jenny and Jared Duckart wanted to create something like they used to frequent in their hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania. With nine local beers on tap and more brews in bottles, plus a wide array and burgers and sandwiches, SSP is an ideal spot to get together with friends. 


215 East Chatham Street, Cary, 919-588-3063, sidebarnc.com

A downtown Cary neighborhood bar with classic cocktails (Corpse Reviver #2), house cocktails (Bruleed Greyhouse), staples (the sidecar, of course), and a few beers and wines.  

Southern Peak Brewery

950 Windy Road, #100, Apex, 919-623-0827, southernpeakbrewery.com

This brewery focuses on German styles, lagers, and IPAs. Open since 2016, Southern Peak has already turned out some award winners, including the Boxcar Belle German Lager, the Midnight Conductor Baltic Porter, and the Tropikol IPA.

Triangle Wine Company

575 New Waverly Place, #103B, Cary; 3735 Davis Drive, Morrisville, 919-307-3966, 919-462-1912; trianglewineco.com

Triangle Wine Company is known for its vast array of beer and wine selections. You can also sample a pint or glass while you shop.


Alexander Eton

1251 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary, 919-454-0829, alexander-eton.com

This isn’t your grandfather’s suit shop. With a blend of contemporary styles and unique patterns, Alexander Eton brings tasteful flare to menswear.

CBD American Shaman

916 NE Maynard Road, Cary, 561-420-4834, cbdamericanshaman.com

While we wait for North Carolina to catch up with saner parts of the country and make weed legal, you can at least stock up on your CBD oils, lotions, and pet treats.

Cooper’s Furniture

820 East Chatham Street, Cary, 919-467-2401, coopersfurniturenc.com

Cooper’s has sold high-quality furniture in Cary since 1929, offering a wide-ranging inventory of all the top brands. If you want it, it’s probably here. 

Downtown Apex


You won’t find a quainter, more welcoming small-town district than Apex’s. A downtown revival that began in 1995 has helped land it in the National Register of Historic Places. Today, antiques and other specialty stores make for an easy afternoon of shopping fun. Downtown Apex hosts a number of year-round events, including holiday-themed festivals, Founders Day in March, a large Pig Fest in June, and the Apex Music Festival in September.

Downtown Cary Food and Flea

Ashworth Village, Cary, dtcfoodandflea.com

Crafters and craft beer, food trucks and folk-singers, and assorted artisans form the foundation of this street market on the second Sunday of each month.

The Perfect Piece

200 East Chatham Street, Cary, 919-460-9841, facebook.com/theperfectpiececary

If you can’t find the, um, perfect piece at this eleven-thousand-square-foot building in downtown Cary, you’re not really looking. This home décor and gift store focuses on furniture sold through the store’s consignment inventory as well as vendors who occupy booths around the showroom.


The Cary Theater

122 East Chatham Street, Cary, 919-462-2051, thecarytheater.com

The town of Cary purchased and renovated the town’s first indoor theater, built in 1946. Today, a new marquee graces its brick facade, which fronts a multi-use facility showing vintage films interspersed with live acts.

Cipher Escape

250 Dominion Drive, Morrisville, 919-378-9362, cipherescape.com

What better way to discern what your friends are made of than to be locked in a room with them while trying to beat the clock and escape? 

Fred G. Bond Metro Park

801 High House Road, Cary, 919-462-3970

This 310-acre suburban oasis, owned and exquisitely operated by the town of Cary, is a sprawling jewel for pleasure-seekers of any age. A community center and senior center near the park’s entrance sponsor year-round activities and are also available to rent. Numerous running and walking trails spiral throughout the premises and beyond—renovations underway will ultimately connect the park to the American Tobacco Trail and Umstead State Park. A 1.5-mile course encircles Bond Lake, where you can enjoy fishing or spend the day on a boat, kayak, or canoe rented from the boathouse (at least in April through October). Scattered among the sweeping greenspaces are shelters to reserve for gatherings, seven athletic fields, a challenge course, an amphitheater, and a playground. There’s even a compost educational center and a screened porch with rocking chairs overlooking the lake.

Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve

2616 Kildaire Farm Road, Cary, 919-387-5980, hemlockbluffs.org

A 140-acre oasis of peace featuring roughly three miles of trails. It was created in part to help preserve the Eastern Hemlock trees located on the property. 

Koka Booth Amphitheatre

8003 Regency Parkway, Cary, 919-462-2025, boothamphitheatre.com

Named after a former Cary mayor, this performing arts venue sits along the north bank of Symphony Lake in Regency Park. Perennial events such as the Fourth of July celebration, the summer Movies by Moonlight series, and the N.C. Symphony Summerfest concert series always attract a crowd.

Triangle Rock Club

102 Pheasant Wood Court, Morrisville, 919-463-7625, trianglerockclub.com

Whether you’re a seasoned climber or a newbie looking to learn the ropes (see what we did there?), you’ll find the right challenge among this facility’s twenty-seven-thousand square feet of climbing walls. 

Triangle Table Tennis Center

2900 Perimeter Park Drive, #200, Morrisville, 919-388-0272, triangletabletennis.com

Tucked away in commercial Morrisville is the largest table tennis center in the country, with twenty-five thousand square feet of professional playing space lined with forty tables to rent. There’s a fitness area, locker rooms, and robots (robots!) to practice against. The center also houses the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, which we just learned is a real thing. 

The Umstead Hotel and Spa

100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary, 919-447-4000, theumstead.com

The brainchild of Ann Goodnight and her husband, SAS founder and CEO Jim Goodnight, this five-star hotel is the most luxurious in the Triangle, if not North Carolina. The serene atmosphere extends to every inch of this pampered property. 

Wakemed Soccer Park

201 Soccer Park Drive, Cary, 919-858-0464, northcarolinafc.com

One of the best facilities of its kind in the country, WMSP boasts eight well-manicured grass soccer fields and plentiful parking. The main stadium has a seating capacity of nearly ten thousand, and it’s home to the North Carolina Football Club and the North Carolina Courage.

Comment on FINDER at backtalk@indyweek.com. 

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.