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New restaurants come to Chapel Hill and Carrboro, expand palates

A set table awaits the arrival of new customers at the grand opening of Ay Por Dios! on Thursday, Sep. 28, 2023.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro have a diverse set of dining options, ranging from food trucks to restaurants with cuisines across cultures. 

Since the start of this year, a number of new restaurants have opened in the area, adding interesting flavors to the area’s well-known classics. Here are some of them.

La Montaña, 370 E. Main St. Suite 170, Carrboro

In every corner of La Montaña there is a unique story, and every piece of its decoration, especially the bamboo wall panels, is reminiscent of the childhood of Yung Nay, the owner and chef. 

The restaurant opened on Oct. 9 and was inspired by Nay’s life transitioning from the mountains of Pleiku, Vietnam, to his Latin-influenced upbringing in the United States. It is also a dedication to Nay’s father.

La Montaña offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and special beverages.

One signature drink Nay recommends is the "Fallen Spirits of Pleiku," which is made with rice powder and green tea. It is created to honor Vietnamese veterans.

Nay said he wants the restaurant to be a source of support to the community, whether that be providing more opportunities for those involved in the food industry or providing a peaceful place for customers. 

“Hopefully we can ease the difficulty that everybody's going through life with, with a meal and a drink and things like that,” Nay said

Raising Cane’s, 101 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

Raising Cane’s, a fried chicken chain restaurant, opened in Chapel Hill on Nov. 7

The restaurant is most known for its signature fried chicken tenders, but they also offer sides, including fries, Texas toast and coleslaw and their signature Cane's sauce. Customers order on the first floor and eat on the second floor.

Raising Cane’s has over 700 restaurants worldwide, but the Franklin Street establishment is their first standalone location in North Carolina.

The restaurant is a popular stop on game days and the weekends, and the line often snakes out the door. On Saturday, the restaurant was populated with customers who were in town for the UNC men’s basketball game against Florida State University

Garcia Apolinar Salgado and Ricardo Flores Morales, who drove over two hours for the game, ordered the 3 Finger Combo and the Caniac Combo. 

“I like the chicken,” Salgado said

They said their experience was pleasant and they would recommend others try it as well.   

Ay Por Dios!, 431 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

Inside Ay Por Dios!, customers are greeted by an explosion of color and intricate decorations adorning the walls — ornate tiles, portraits and folk art. The air is filled with lively Mexican dance music. 

The restaurant opened on Sept. 28 and serves upscale Mexican cuisine, including different types of mole, fresh seafood and steak. 

According to the restaurant manager Lucas Linares, their customers are mostly older couples, but the restaurant also serves college students with more affordable options during the day. 

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“We try to bring a good atmosphere and good vibe,” Linares said

Snooze Eatery, 1800 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill 

On Nov. 8, Snooze Eatery, a new breakfast restaurant, opened in Chapel Hill’s Eastgate Crossing shopping center. 

In 2006 they opened their first restaurant in Denver, Colorado and have since expanded to new locations across the U.S.

Snooze opens at 6:30 a.m. and serves unconventional takes on typical breakfast foods, such as blueberry danish pancakes and pork chile verde eggs benedict.

Many of the menu items are made with sustainably-sourced ingredients, according to their website. 

Tonya’s Cookies & Bake Shop, 400 S. Elliott Road, Chapel Hill

On South Elliott Road stands a new cookie shop, Tonya’s Cookies & Bake Shop. The establishment was inspired by owner Tonya Council’s personal memory and appreciation of her grandmother’s culinary skills at her restaurant, Mama Dip's Kitchen.

Council grew up working at her grandmother’s restaurant, which motivated her to sell cookies that resemble the taste of her grandmother’s pecan pies. 

Tonya’s Cookies has a wide menu ranging from their signature pecan crisp cookies to cakes and pies. 

There are also other newly opened restaurants near Chapel Hill such as Bombolo, which serves pasta and other dishes, and locally owned bar and art gallery Lapin Bleu.

Each new restaurant adds something new to the local community, allowing customers to get adventurous and taste the unknown.

@dthlifestyle |