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1. Black Twig Cider House
2812 Erwin Road, Durham
This new restaurant in Durham features the largest selection of cider in the Southeast, more than 80 on draft and bottled. Co-owner Matthew Benson’s love for cider started while traveling Spain’s Basque region a decade ago. He’s brought the communal spirit of the beverage to the cider house. He also brought a Txotx, a traditional Spanish cider barrel, and the only one in the United States. Patrons sample featured ciders directly from the barrel’s spout. The restaurant serves locally sourced Firsthand Foods sausages with a variety of toppings
2. Dashi Ramen
415 East Chapel Hill Street, Durham
Izakaya is the Japanese word for pub. This bi-level eatery in downtown Durham offers sake, cocktails and innovative small plates upstairs, or patrons can enjoy ramen downstairs. The concept was born from a Japanese pop-up restaurant at The Cookery, a culinary incubator. Demand was so high that The Cookery’s website crashed—so the owners of both ventures partnered together to open Dashi Ramen. Keep a lookout for special culinary events featuring guest chefs.
3. Page 158 Books
158 S. White St., Wake Forest
This local bookstore changed ownership in 2015 and its mission is to keep print alive through events including author signings, book and cookbook clubs and cocktail-infused events. Once known as Storytellers Book Store, the new shop maintains the same literary commitment to the community. Located in Wake Forest, it’s a charming place to find a summer read. Just ask owner Suzanne Lucey for a recommendation.
4. Gray Squirrel Coffee
300 E. Main St., Carrboro
Tucked inside the YesterYears Brewery, this artisanal coffee roastery is the real star of the space. Specializing in small batch roasts, the coffee company was founded by Shaw Sturton who learned the trade in California. Offering a minimal menu of espresso drinks and locally made baked goods, Grey Squirrel prides themself on quality not quantity. Grab a drink or pick up a bag of beans.
5. Southern Peak Brewery
950 Windy Rd., Ste 100, Apex
Apex’s newest addition calls itself a neighborhood brewery. What exactly does that mean? Owners Nathan Poissant and Ken Michalski wanted to avoid an industrial-style venue and instead embraced a more tavern-like feel where people can linger with friends inside or outside on the patio. The selection of brews nods toward the town’s history: Puffing Devil IPA is named after the first steam-powered locomotive, while 1911 Black Lager commemorates the great fire of that year.
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