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Friday February 3rd

Ay Por Dios!, new Oaxaca-inspired restaurant, to open later this year

Many Chapel Hill residents and students are excited about a new restaurant opening on Franklin Street, pictured here on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
Buy Photos Many Chapel Hill residents and students are excited about a new restaurant opening on Franklin Street, pictured here on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.

Ay Por Dios! Mexican Bistro, an upscale Mexican fusion restaurant, will open on Franklin Street early this year.

The restaurant combines food from Oaxaca, a city in Mexico, and Spain, but also offers food from other cuisines, such as sushi.

Miguel Rebolledo, the executive chef, said Ay Por Dios! features dishes people enjoy eating at different restaurants in one place, including even Asian and Mediterranean foods.

“The food is going to be high-quality,” he said.

Edy Barahona, the owner and manager of Ay Por Dios!, said the restaurant is inspired by authentic Oaxacan food and culture. Oaxacan food is very natural, colorful and flavorful, he said. 

“You want to try real food? Go to Oaxaca," he said. "Don’t go to fancy restaurants in Mexico, go to Oaxaca."  

Barahona spent 30 days in Oaxaca, learning various recipes firsthand. He said he plans to bring recipes from the streets of Oaxaca to Ay Por Dios!, replicating the dishes from scratch. 

The restaurant offers a wide range of dishes, including multiple types of Oaxacan mole sauce, fresh seafood and tomahawk steak. Barahona said Ay Por Dios! is a family restaurant, but also caters to college students, offering more affordable options during the day.

What sets Ay Por Dios! apart from other Mexican restaurants in North Carolina, Barahona said, is that his entire culinary department received training from chefs from Mexico.

Barahona is also the owner of Kahlovera Mexican Bar & Grill in Meadowmont Village. He said that from his first year working there, he has received feedback from customers encouraging him to open a restaurant on Franklin Street.  

“It’s where everyone goes for a nice dinner," he said. "The best restaurants are on Franklin Street.” 

Rebolledo said the bar is a key feature of Ay Por Dios!. The restaurant has partnered with high-end Mexican tequila brand Clase Azul, a whiskey brand and various wine companies to create its drink menu, which Barahona said has a Miami-California aspect to it.

Cintia Vazquez, one of the restaurant’s managers, said Clase Azul is “one of the best tequilas out there,” and the artwork on the bottle is detailed and beautiful.

Customers have to purchase a certain number of tequila bottles to access the restaurant’s “private room," she said.

Barahona said that the private room features more intimate spaces where customers can bring their family and friends. 

Vazquez said the restaurant's interior design is inspired by Mexican culture and people who represent it, such as the renowned Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and Mexican mariachi-style singer Vicente Fernández.

“Every spot we have in the restaurant has been created with patience and a lot of detail,” Barahona said.

He also said when walking through the restaurant from the main entrance to the bathroom, customers will observe unique decorations inspired by different locations in Mexico and Mexican culture.

According to Barahona, the private room’s interior design is influenced by the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, and other parts of the restaurant feature decorations inspired by Mexico City.

Vazquez said Ay Por Dios! will be a different experience for customers than other Mexican restaurants in North Carolina. 

“In North Carolina, when you think about Mexican (food), you already know what you’re expecting," she said. "Your typical burritos, tacos, with cilantro and onions, rice and beans."

However, she said Mexican food is a diverse cuisine and Ay Por Dios! wants to bring Mexico, California and Miami to the Chapel Hill community.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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