Where to Eat in NC's Triangle
Chef Ricky Moore leads the way around Raleigh-Durham restaurants
Down in the Raleigh-Durham area, chef-owner of Saltbox Seafood Joint (2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. Durham) Ricky Moore focuses on cooking inspired by his native Carolina coast and its roadside fish shacks and camps.
Born and raised in the coastal town of New Bern, Moore cooked for the U.S. Army before attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Before returning to North Carolina, where he opened his first restaurant in 2012, he cooked in Washington, DC at places like Vidalia and Equinox, then in Chicago at Frontera Grill, Charlie Trotter’s, and Tru. In addition, he worked at two-star Michelin-rated Apicius in Paris, Le Cerf in Alsace, and Daniel in Manhattan, among others.
Moore, who, in 2020, was nominated for James Beard's “Best Chef: Southeast,” prioritizes North Carolina foodways specific to the shore, which can mean having to educate his customers about fish you won’t always find on a menu. He says he considers himself a “bonefish evangelist” in reference to small native finfish usually fried whole, bone-in. According to Moore, it's an African-American right of passage to enjoy these little delicacies. Want to learn more about his style of cooking? You can check out the Saltbox Seafood Joint Cookbook.
In addition to his namesake restaurant, Moore recommends a handful of eats near home.
If you are in the Triangle and looking for a splurge in a beautiful country setting, — a Relais & Chateaux property — Fearrington is the place. The Fearrington House Restaurant (230 Market St., Pittsboro) has welcomed guests to the Fearrington Farm homestead since 1980. The restaurant, run by James Beard-nominated chef Colin Bedford offers seasonal tasting menus that nod to the traditions of the American South with ingredients sourced from local farms and on-site gardens. In addition, food and beverage director Todd Chatterton brings experience from Eleven Madison Park and oversees the dining room and an award-winning wine list.
At his diner and cocktail bar, Jack Tar and The Colonel’s Daughter (202 Corcoran St., Durham), chef Gray Brooks prioritizes a living wage for his staff by adding 20 percent to the check. The restaurant is located on Downtown Durham’s central corner on the ground level of the renovated Unscripted Hotel, formerly known as the Jack Tar Motel, hence the name of the diner. Gray’s grandfather owned a diner in Durham.: With Jack Tar & The Colonel's Daughter, Gray is continuing that tradition by updating the diner with farmers market ingredients and making everything from scratch — including the benne seed buns for its burger that Eater Carolinas named one of the best in Triangle.