We can’t wait for these beer projects, restaurants and food halls in 2018.

The Morgan Street Food Hall in Raleigh hoped to open at several points last year, but is now eyeing a summer 2018 unveiling. The project will feature up to 65 vendors, the most of any area food hall. Juli Leonard

An encore is never easy, and the Triangle’s 2017 is a tough act to follow.

Last year seemed to be something of a coming out party for our dining scene, the culmination of a decade of locked-in-a-room ambition, passionate farmers, creative chefs and space for big ideas. The rest of the country found us and marked Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill not just as some Southern shining star, but one of the great places to eat in America right now.

The spotlight is fixed and bright and everyone’s watching.

Here are some of the projects to keep an eye on, ones that will help shape how we eat in the years to come and those hoping to make a mark in the Triangle’s big moment.

Food halls – finally!

Last year was supposed to be the year of the food hall with some announced projects expected to open. Plenty of things happened in 2017, but food halls have not opened yet in the Triangle. But with multiple projects weeks or months from opening, we’re confident in declaring 2018 the Official Year of the Triangle Food Hall.

County Fare in Durham, though not strictly speaking a food hall, looks to be the first to open. The daily food truck rodeo in Durham’s Lakewood district plans to open in March. County Fare at 1920 Chapel Hill Road looks like a big ole red barn and will offer seating and a beer garden to patrons dining from the handfull of food trucks parked there daily.

The Morgan Street Food Hall in downtown Raleigh’s Warehouse District hoped to open last year, but is now eyeing an unveiling later this year. The project is led by Niall Hanley, owner of the Hibernian Irish Pub and Raleigh Beer Garden. It will feature up to 65 vendors, the most of any area food hall. The 22,000-square-foot space at 411 W. Morgan St. (which once housed the Jillian’s entertainment complex) has contracts with Cousins Maine Lobster (The food truck will open its first brick-and-mortar location), Carroll’s Kitchen, Raleigh Raw and City Sushi, among others.

The 48,000-square-foot Transfer Co. food hall is on pace for a summer opening, said Nick Neptune, who works with the project. Jason Queen, one of the leaders of the Transfer Company project, aims to bring healthy and affordable food to a stretch of East Davie Street deemed a food desert. The food hall’s main component is the Saxapahaw General Store, adding a grocery store to the area. It will be joined by Boulted Bread and Jubala Coffee, Locals Seafood and a Videri Chocolate factory. The space is still looking for a restaurant anchor to fill a 5,000-square-foot unit, as well as three other smaller spots.

In Chapel Hill off Franklin Street, the Blue Dogwood Public Market will open this spring, possibly as early as March, with 12 food stalls for local vendors. There are still a few more openings, but so far the market will include a wine and beer vendor, Chocolatay Confections, juicer Cold Off the Press, meat counter Left Bank Butchery and other small businesses.

The Durham Food Hall, originally planned for the city’s Lakewood neighborhood, announced it will move instead to downtown. The project by Durham native Adair Mueller and her partner Andrew Smith, will now open in the Liberty Warehouse Apartments in Durham’s Central Park area near the farmer’s market.

Booming downtowns

The western half of downtown Raleigh feels like a construction zone as the Dillon steadily moves towards opening this year.

The tallest point in Durham is the crane atop One City Center, the 27-story building that’s remaking the city’s skyline. A decade of invention, of gambles, of downtown success has attracted major development to previously forgotten blocks. These projects are moving in because the cities have changed, but will also be a major part of whatever comes next.

Both the Dillon and One City Center will bring thousands of square feet of new restaurant and retail space. Durham especially is running out of new places to put restaurants, and both markets remain hungry for new concepts. While anchored and mostly financed by luxury apartments, the success of these high rises will depend on the restaurants and shops that call them home, that draw residents and diners to darken their doorways.

So far the Dillon has announced an encouraging mix of projects, the homegrown coffee shop Heirloom and the latest location of beloved local grocer Weaver Street Market. But there also will be higher end restaurants aimed at the new downtown residents and those coming in from the suburbs, Barcelona Wine Bar and celebrated O-Ku Sushi.

There are few projects attached to One City Center’s ample square footage. One tenant will be Bulldega, the specialty market and grab-and-go purveyor that opened a block over two years ago. If the development of the Unscripted hotel next door is any indicator, the new skyscraper may offer more room for local voices. The Jack Tar dinerPour Taphouse and a forthcoming Neomande Deli occupy Unscripted’s ground floor.

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