Greg Cox’s 2009 List of Triangle’s Best Restaurants

Greg Cox, the News & Observer’s restaurant critic, released his list of top restaurants last Friday, and I think I may be in nearly complete agreement with his choices.  He selected Andrea Reusing’s Lantern as the restaurant of the year, and when you consider the national acclaim this Chapel Hill establishment received this past year, along with the fantastic food Reusing puts out, this honor was well deserved.

He only had 20 restaurants on his list last year.  Dropping out were Jibarra, which closed and then reopened downtown, Red Palace (closed), Jujube and Second Empire.  New to the list are Allen & Son, China Palace, Dos Toquitos Centros, Il Palio, J. Betski’s, Margaux’s, Panciuto, Saint Jacques, and Zely & Ritz.  Panciuto and J. Betski’s were on last year’s “Top Newcomers” list.

He also chose Poole’s Downtown Diner, Ashley Christensen’s one year old baby, as the newcomer of the year.  As you know, I’m certainly biased towards Ashley, as she’s a good friend, but the food she puts out continues to be superb (and the service is actually quite decent).

As for the top 25 restaurants, I can’t really quibble with any of the places on the list (and I love that he included Allen & Son.  I’m thinking that we need to come up with a top 25 “cheap eats” places that would be separate from the high end establishments.  Gret did something like this last year with his list of Best Bargains, but we need to expand this list to 25 places.  Or maybe an assortment of a top 3 “Best in Class” for each type of place.

Anyhow, and this may shock many readers, but I’m in agreement with Cox’s list.  It’s really hard for me to think of Margaux’s as one of the best places in the Triangle anymore.  It’s good, but not good enough.    And Saint Jacques can’t keep a cook longer than a couple of months.  Other than that, however, strong work, Greg.

Greg Cox’s Top 25 Restaurants in the Triangle — 2009 Edition


Allen & Son

Bin 54

Bloomsbury Bistro

Bonne Soirée

China Palace

Dos Taquitos Centro

Elaine’s on Franklin

Enoteca Vin



Four Square


Il Palio

J. Betski’s

Magnolia Grill





Saint Jacques


Vin Rouge


Zely & Ritz

Top 10 Newcomers

Poole’s Downtown Diner



Maximillians Pizza Kitchen


The Mint

Rockwood Filling Station

Posta Tuscan Grille


Watts Grocery


9 Responses to Greg Cox’s 2009 List of Triangle’s Best Restaurants

  1. Josh says:

    Many thanks for republishing the list. The layout on the N&O site is so poor I couldn’t bring myself to read all the way through it.

  2. Sarah says:

    I love Jujube. I’m sad and shocked that it is no longer on the list. And I’m surprised Coquette is not on the top newcomers list. Perhaps they are too new to be considered for the list.

  3. Varmint says:

    It’s always tough to do a top 25 list, as hard choices must be made. Dropping a place like Jujube is probably less of a matter in a change in quality (Charlie Deal is too good of a chef to let that happen) as it is a situation where Greg Cox wanted to recognize other establishments. Some places, like Magnolia Grill, Nana’s, Bloomsbury, and Fins will probably always be on his list, as they are high end places with consistent food and service. It’s when you get into the mid-price range, where there’s a ton of competition, that restaurants will come and go.

    As far as Coquette is concerned, they haven’t been reviewed by the N&O yet, so I suspect that’s the cut-off for being “new” — places first reviewed in 2008. That’s why Poole’s made the list, even though it opened in December of 2007.

  4. ac says:

    Thanks for posting this on here… Somehow I missed it! I have not been to quite a few of these, so I will be sure to add them to my list to visit.

  5. I disagree about The Mint, I didn’t enjoy my meal there – reviewed it on my site. Apparently a good number of people on urbanspoon agree with me. However I’m not really in a position to judge as I’m not in the target bracket of the pricey places. Especially with the current economy and the unemployment rate in North Carolina now! One disappointing meal at a $30+ a plate place really makes me question the worth of giving it another shot somewhere else. I always love cheap, authentic eats.

  6. Jeff says:

    I work within stumbling distance of the three on W. Franklin. Late new year’s res: eat at all three in 2009. Also, there is little better than a pound of A&S and a big bourbon sour (or bottle of malbec). And one more thing, the taco truck that can be found Thursday-Sunday evenings in the parking lot of the little Latino grocery that used to be Johnny’s on Main Street in Carrboro has better tacos than Dos Taquitos Centro.

  7. Charlie says:

    To me, it seems odd to list Dos Taquitos Centro over the original Dos Taquitos. Centro is more expensive, with a menu 1/4 the size (and perhaps this is just a peeve of mine, but Centro doesn’t provide free chips/salsa, which is blasphemy for latin eateries). Centro is great, I love going there, but it’s not better than the original. It’s funny to me, that several that I’ve talked to while eating at Centro, have never eaten at the original location.

  8. sarah says:

    I was just wondering the other day if Saint Jacques was still in business. I don’t see how anyone could work there. The owner unbelievably obnoxious. The atmosphere is great, the food is excellent, but if that guy is around it’s hard to relax and digest it. He makes a point of coming around and preening, bragging about himself. Very unpleasant!

  9. s kelley says:

    so where is a fun place to eat a fabulous brunch and where a five year old is welcome

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