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NC Triangle: Three New Restaurants to Open


Varmint
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My friend Charlie Deal (eGullet Society member "detlefchef") has been just a little bit busy of late. Opening a new restaurant usually causes the owner, manager and chef to lie awake at night, going over mental checklists of every detail that must be addressed to make the establishment ready for the public and critics alike. That's child's play for Charlie, as he's opening not one, not two, but three new restaurants in the Triangle region, and he's acting as owner, chef, and manager of all three!

Deal came to North Carolina from Santa Cruz, CA in 2002 in an attempt to escape the out of control real estate market -- yes, he wanted to buy a house. After a brief stint selling wine, Deal found himself partnering with legendary local restaurateur, Giorgios Bakatsias. Bakatsias, who runs Parizade, Vin Rouge, Spice Street and George's Garage, has long been known for his style and focus on trendy culinary concepts. Deal, on the other hand, is a chef first, but with a broad fundamental understanding of restaurant management.

The three restaurants, Jujube and Bin Fifty-Four in Chapel Hill and Grasshopper in Durham, represent Deal's first North Carolina ventures with

The first restaurant to open will be Grasshopper, which will focus on small plates of dumplings, noodles and other Asian dishes. It's a dim sum meets "Asian tapas" sort of place. There will also be Vietnamese sandwiches, some soups, and a few light entrees on the menu. Deal loves Vietnamese food, so those flavors should be prominent. The bar is a focal point of the place, and Deal has developed some interesting and exotic cocktails to put on the menu. Grasshopper is expected to open in the next week or two, just in time for the return of the Duke students. I'll be surprised if Grasshopper doesn't become the new place to be seen in the Ninth Street area of Durham.

Chapel Hill's Jujube will be similar to Grasshopper, but slightly more upscale and with a more expansive menu. Located in the Glen Lennox shopping center on Highway 54, Jujube should be opening in the next month or two.

Finally, Bin Fifty-Four brings back the upscale steakhouse to Chapel Hill, something the town has lacked for quite some time now. This is how Deal described the concept to me:

We hope to bring the concept of the steakhouse to the next level, offering more interesting appetizers (crumbled blue cheese on a wedge of iceberg does not a salad make), and treating vegetables and other non-steak items with dignity (I have an aversion to paying $7 for boiled brocolli with powdered hollandaise). The steaks will also be carefully selected and in many cases will be dry aged prime. Some cuts just don't do as well prime (filet for instance), so it won't be exclusive. We're more into taste than labels.

I've seen this space (which is right next to Jujube), and it is gorgeous, with lots of natural wood surrounding you. Deal informs me that Chapel Hill residents have been clamoring for a steakhouse for some time, and Bin Fifty-Four will hopefully satisfy their needs.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention dessert. I asked Deal what his plans were for dessert, and he informed me that they'd be simple. Here's one dessert he's working on: a compote of nectarines with thai basil, lemon juice, and pernod, served with ice cream. Hell, that may be simple to execute, but it's a far more intelligent dessert than what you'd find in 95% of the Triangle's restaurants.

I'll report back here when these restaurants open.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Thanks Varmint,

I've been riding my bike past Grasshopper for almost a week now looking for signs that they're open. And Charlie has graciously put up with my random email queries about menu items, so I tried not to bug him too much about an open date. I for one can't wait for each of these to open.

Charlie, our hopes are with you as you struggle with everything from inspections and city officials to suppliers and cooks.

Bryan C. Andregg

"Give us an old, black man singing the blues and some beer. I'll provide the BBQ."

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Hey all, thanks for the interest. Dean, thanks for the kind words. BTW, you're really got to see Bin these days, they've been putting varnish on the woodwork and it is completey busting out! It is staggering how much better good wood looks with a coat of finish. We just got the booths in last Friday, so it's really taking shape.

At anyrate, all inspections at Grasshopper have been falling into place to allow us to open next Tuesday (16th). Only a completely unexpected snag would prevent that (currently knocking on wood). I'm about as excited about Grasshopper as I've been about any other place I've done. Talking to the waitstaff about the menu reminded me of how much I love this food.

Anyone who cares should feel free to stick their head in and have a look over the next week. It's looking pretty cool and we got the tunes fired up the other day.

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We'd all love to hear a bit more details on the food itself, if you get a chance (HAH!) to describe it.

As far as publicity, this story from today's Raleigh News & Observer is about as good as it gets. I particularly like the photo of Charlie looking like he's in the middle of a tai chi exercise -- just click on the "More Photos" button in the story.

This is as much buzz as any restaurant gets around here, so we're all hopeful that all three restaurants work well.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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What powers are those?

Seriously, Charlie is smart, very smart. He knows what works, what sells, and what's hot. He knows cheap food and high-end dining. Ultimately, he and Giorgios Bakatsias decided that the better scenes were in Durham and Chapel Hill. I really can't argue with him. I wish they'd have a place in Raleigh, but you also have to remember that Bakatsias hasn't had a restaurant outside of Durham and Chapel Hill in ages.

Let's just hope that these 3 restaurants work out and we'll get Charlie to open a high end Mexican place here! Now that would be a dream come true!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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What powers are those? 

Seriously, Charlie is smart, very smart.  He knows what works, what sells, and what's hot.  He knows cheap food and high-end dining.  Ultimately, he and Giorgios Bakatsias decided that the better scenes were in Durham and Chapel Hill.  I really can't argue with him.  I wish they'd have a place in Raleigh, but you also have to remember that Bakatsias hasn't had a restaurant outside of Durham and Chapel Hill in ages. 

Let's just hope that these 3 restaurants work out and we'll get Charlie to open a high end Mexican place here!  Now that would be a dream come true!

Power--you are the king of all Triangle dining! :wink:

I guess what I meant is that while we have some wonderful places in Raleigh--Vin for example, Durham is really the top notch restaurant burg in our Triangle. I am not opposed to driving for a nice meal, I'm just jealous. (Plus other reasons why I think Raleigh is way cooler, and other things that are not for this forum)

-----------------

AMUSE ME

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I'm new to the area, coming from the DC/VA/MD board. I live next door to 9th street so I really should try grasshopper. I hope they'll let me take out their vietnamese sandwiches. Grilled pork vietnamese sandwiches are to die for.

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I am so ready to come back and try these restaurants. The combination of these three could be the spark in the Triangle that I, and many others, have been waiting for.

I've been cooking all summer and have been eating my way through the best of NYC's restaurants, so when all these places finally open, it would be very cool if some eG'ers in the area could get together and have a mini-inauguration to celebrate detlechef's newest openings.

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Hey all, just thought I'd give an update. This weekend we invited some friends in to practice on. To be honest, we would have hoped to be in the kitchen for several days prior, but late inspections held that up. Thus, we'd barely fired the woks up for the first time on Saturday night. Though we're encouraged by most of what we served, we feel it best that we take a few more days to iron out the kinks.

So, the upshot is that Wednesday (or possibly Thursday) will be the opening date rather than Tuesday. Sorry for the delay, but we just really want it to be right before we open up.

Oh, and yes, you can get sammies to go (but we only serve them until 5pm).

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I was one of the lucky friends who had a chance to sample on some of the interesting food coming out of the kitchen on Saturday, and I think folks will be very, very pleased with Grasshopper. It has a very intelligent menu, offering dishes that you won't find in the area. Plus, it's a pleasant space. I'll wait awhile after they open to give a thorough evaluation of the food, but no one should be disappointed.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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  • 2 months later...
I know that Grasshopper and Bin 54 have been open for some time now.  Has anyone visited these places?  Any reports?

Detlefchef, could you give us an update?

Grasshopper has been, honestly, a struggle. I'd like to say that it's been great from the outset, but... A few weeks ago, I went in and made a major personnel change in the kitchen and focused all my efforts there in order to right the ship. I'm pleased with the results now and think that we're finally headed in the right direction. Certainly there have been a mistep here and there since then, but I can honestly say that we're doing a good job now. Dishes we were doing poorly have either been fixed or eliminated and the good comments are starting to vastly outnumber the bad.

We added a fryer to the line, so we can finally serve Cha Gio which are really tasty Vietnamese spring rolls that you wrap with lettuce and herbs before dipping in a sweet, tangy, fish sauce.

The fact that I've been able to babysit Grasshopper so much of late speaks volumes about the crew at Bin 54 and specifically the chef Dale. He's an absolute professional and has built a strong and exacting crew around him. Honestly, my chest puffs up when I talk about it because we built the place with our hands and I think it is a beautiful space. I also think the food is stellar. Certainly it's no place to go if you're not in the mood to loosen the purse strings, but you'd be surprised to find out that our food cost is (as percentage of what we charge) significantly higher than the industry norm. The attitude that we had was that we didn't want to cut any corners on the food. That people would rather spend an extra $20 on an already expensive night out if it meant that nothing would be overlooked. Our GM, Brett has also built a really great beverage program that's way cooler than any I've seen at other steakhouses.

As for Jujube, it's finally near. We've finally gotten to a stage where we can put the needed energy towards the project and hope to open it within a few weeks.

I hope this didn't sound like an advertisement, but you did ask for an update.

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I know that Grasshopper and Bin 54 have been open for some time now.  Has anyone visited these places?  Any reports?

Detlefchef, could you give us an update?

Grasshopper has been, honestly, a struggle. I'd like to say that it's been great from the outset, but... A few weeks ago, I went in and made a major personnel change in the kitchen and focused all my efforts there in order to right the ship. I'm pleased with the results now and think that we're finally headed in the right direction. Certainly there have been a mistep here and there since then, but I can honestly say that we're doing a good job now. Dishes we were doing poorly have either been fixed or eliminated and the good comments are starting to vastly outnumber the bad.

I took my family to Grasshopper this past weekend when we were in town for a parent's weekend and we all were very pleased.

The server was personable and knowledgeable and each dish was well-received.

I particularly enjoyed the seafood curry but the dumplings were also good as was the firecracker shrimp. The vegatable greens were also full of flavor.

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  • 1 month later...

Well, for one reason or another, Charlie Deal (aka "detlefchef") has decided to break his ties with Giorgio Bakatsias. As a result, Charlie will be the sole owner and operator of Jujube, whereas Bakatsias will run Grasshopper and the wildly successful Bin 54. This was a very amicable situation.

I spoke with Charlie today, and he informed me that Jujube will be opening next week. He's excited that he'll be able to put all his efforts into one restaurant, where he'll have tons more space to cook than what he had with Grasshopper. Expect the food to be top-notch, too.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Deal informs me that Chapel Hill residents have been clamoring for a steakhouse for some time, and Bin Fifty-Four will hopefully satisfy their needs.

Funny, when I first arrived in Chapel Hill in the mid-1970s, the only restaurants around, with the exception of Villa Teo, were steakhouses. There must have been four or five of them on Highways 54 and 15-501. I can't remember the names of all of them but they all had the "shrimp cocktail, followed by the iceberg lettuce and then the ribeye steak with a baked potato and texas toast" thing going on. Then La Residence opened and modernity arrived in North Carolina. At about that time, A Southern Season also opened and you could get fresh croissants flown in on Fridays.

In Charlotte, that tradition lives on at the Ranch House, which I occasionally visit when I am in the mood for a retro experience.

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  • 1 month later...

I went to nosh at Jujube on Tuesday before the Dook-Carolina game. I will try to seperate my disappointment from the outcome of the game with my dining experience, but keep in mind both events happened on the same nite.

Jujube was packed before the game and I think it was evident that the waitstaff was a little green when it came to handling such a big crowd. We had a rotating crew of three waiters while eating at the (admittedly very cool bar). Beers were ordered and did not arrive, some beers were evidently sold out, so other beers were ordered and then did not arrive, and then other beers arrived. All the beers were good and very pleasantly priced so this wasn't a huge problem, but it was a little exhausting (note: one of these beers was comped, which was nice).

The appetizers (shrimp and pork dumplin's and veggie spring roles) were really sharp. The dumplings held together well and were savory without being too strong. I am guestimating that I could have eaten 10-12 before having to tap out.

I had the beef short rib for dinner. It made a great sauce, fell off the bone, meat tasted almost like an Asian pot roast and it was cheerfully presented...a solid plate. It was different than what was advertised on them menu for short rib presentation, but it wasn't disappointing...

My partners in crime had the prawns and a mixed vegetable dish, both of which were finished off to very positive remarks.

Look forward to going back when I can take my time on the dishes and drinks.

William McKinney aka "wcmckinney"
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Perhaps a mod wants to split off its own thread for JuJuBe. It seems to warrant its own space.

And a damn shame about that game. At least Carolina fans can count on having better food even if they admittedly have a worse basketbal team.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Perhaps a mod wants to split off its own thread for JuJuBe.  It seems to warrant its own space.

And a damn shame about that game.  At least Carolina fans can count on having better food even if they admittedly have a worse basketbal team.

Perhaps we can start a new thread about who's got a better hoops team? Or at least, who's the last team between the two to cut down the nets at the end of the season.

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