2017 Maggy Awards: Restaurants

Jay Spungin, right, a partner at Tazza Kitchen, says the staff puts on a “rock show” every night, entertaining customers with delicious food, great service and an open kitchen. Introducing the rest of the band: bar manager Tony Hasanaj, left, chef Chris Easton on drums, and pizza chef Bradley Massey, sitting on counter.
The Winners

Best new restaurant

Tazza Kitchen

Hickory Tavern
Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar

Best appetizers

TIE: The Mason Jar Tavern and Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits

Rudy’s Pub & Grill
Tazza Kitchen

Best cocktails

The Mason Jar Tavern

Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits
Rudy’s Pub & Grill

Best bakery

La Farm Bakery

Once in a Blue Moon Bakery & Café
Stick Boy Bread Co.

Best barbecue

City Barbeque

Danny’s Bar-B-Que
(Big Mike’s) Brew N Que

Best breakfast

Brigs Restaurants

Toast Café
La Farm Bakery

Best burger and fries

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

Best date-night restaurant

Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen

Peak City Grill & Bar

Best seafood

Dean’s Seafood Grill & Bar

Bonefish Grill
The Full Moon Oyster Bar
and Seafood Kitchen

Best steakhouse

Angus Barn

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Best pizzeria

Mellow Mushroom

Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits
Anna’s Pizzeria

Most kid-friendly

Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits

Mellow Mushroom

Best Asian restaurant


Àn Asian Cuisine
Yuri Japanese Restaurant

Best Mediterranean restaurant

Greek Fiesta


Best Italian restaurant

Daniel’s Restaurant& Catering

Lugano Ristorante
Enrigo Italian Bistro

Best Indian restaurant

Cilantro Indian Café

Nazara Indian Bistro
Kababish Café

Best Mexican/Latin American restaurant

Los Tres Magueyes

Restaurante Mexicano
Totopos Street Food & Tequila
Fiesta Mexicana
Restaurante Mexicano

Best neighborhood bar

Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits

Doherty’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
Rudy’s Pub & Grill

Best outdoor dining

Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits

Tazza Kitchen
Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen

Best craft brewery

Bond Brothers Beer Company

Aviator Brewing Company
Fortnight Brewing Company

Best New Restaurant

Tazza Kitchen

Tazza Kitchen in Cary takes center stage with its win for Best New Restaurant.

There’s plenty to please fans including a wood-fired seasonal menu with influences from Italy and California, an all-North Carolina beer tap, and innovative cocktails.

But the restaurant’s biggest asset is its staff, including partner and general manager Jay Spungin and bar manager Tony Hasanaj, says Tazza chef Chris Easton. Nightly they create a great atmosphere that resonates with customers, he says.

“We like to imbue our staff with the idea that every time somebody comes in our door, they’re coming into our home — that we’re throwing a party for them,” Easton added. “That’s the ‘rock show’ that we talk about. We want people to have fun; we want people to feel entertained.”

— Amber Keister

➨ Tazza Kitchen also won honorable mentions for Best Appetizers and for Best Outdoor Dining.

Best Pizzeria

Mellow Mushroom

Rock bands have groupies. Mellow Mushroom has Shroomies, the dedicated fans who have voted it Best Pizzeria every year since 2011. We reached out to marketing director Sidney Julich, to see what feeds that popularity.

“We try to provide a fun, groovy vibe that appeals our Cary Shroomies,” she said. “We also feel strongly about being an integral part of our community. We have fundraisers for the YMCA, SPCA, March of Dimes and local charities, and sponsor school teams like Green Hope basketball and Panther Creek football.”

What’s new? The Ribeye Pie, with an olive oil and garlic base, all-natural grilled, shaved ribeye steak, Portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, provolone, feta and mozzarella.

And The Great White, with sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, feta, seasoned ricotta, fresh basil and mozzarella, Roma tomatoes and onions.

What’s coming in 2017?

“We have a really cool menu that we’re launching in the New Year. But don’t worry, you’ll still be able to get all your old Mellow favorites! We’re making a few tweaks to keep our food the freshest and highest quality you can get.

“Mellow Mondays are going to be huge in 2017 as well,” Julich said, with pizza, kids’ meal, and craft beer specials.

Best Burgers and Fries

Five Guys Burgers & Fries

The winner in this category for the tenth straight year, Five Guys is famous for its well-done-only, never-frozen burgers, and fries cooked in no-cholesterol peanut oil.

“The beauty of the Five Guys concept is that we do not try to be a lot of things; rather, we focus on doing just three things excellently — burgers, fries and hot dogs, period,” said spokesman Mike Ruffer. “Keeping that critical focus allows us to offer a very consistent product every day.

“Everything we use is fresh. Nothing has ever been frozen, our beef is shipped to us within days of when it is made, and the potatoes are cut twice daily.

“Last but not least, we offer consistent and excellent service,” Ruffer added. “We aren’t perfect, yet for a long 10-year run like this, consistency is key.”

As to Five Guys’ claim that there are 250,000 ways to customize a Five Guys burger, Ruffer said, “I’ve never tried to count them! But we do have 15 different toppings and sauces, so if you do the math … every sandwich is customized by the customer.”

Best Cocktails

The Mason Jar Tavern

Blood Orange Margarita, left, and the Loaded Bloody Mary from The Mason Jar Tavern.

Blood Orange Margarita, left, and the Loaded Bloody Mary from The Mason Jar Tavern.

You can accomplish a lot in a couple of years — just ask Jonathan Pierce. This time last year, his Mason Jar Tavern in Holly Springs was voted Best New Restaurant in the Maggy Awards.

Since then, he’s expanded into an equally-successful second location in Fuquay-Varina, with a staff steadfastly cranking out the food and drinks locals love.

“We’re so thankful for the way the community has embraced and supported us,” said Pierce.

Best Bakery

La Farm Bakery

Contributed photo by La Farm bread

Contributed photo by La Farm Bakery

La Farm Bakery put Cary’s food scene on the map, and our readers know it: The bakery’s been on every Maggy list since we started this fun in 2006, even as it’s garnered national fame.

Of all the yummy joy that is La Farm, owners Lionel and Missy Vatinet say its most popular products are still the breads, from the signature La Farm Bread to the traditional crusty baguette.

Master baker Lionel uses locally-grown, organic flours, giving his breads the best in flavor and nutrition.

“We’re really excited about all this from every perspective; by working with these grains we’re able to share the most nutritional and flavorful bread with our community,” Missy said. “We feel a sense of honor to be able to showcase the best, in each loaf, that represents the same passion for great quality grains our farmers, millers and science community have strived for, for all of us.”

Great news for La Farm lovers is a new production bakery in downtown Cary; Missy adds, “And soon we’ll have more to announce about our growth in the Triangle in the coming year.”

Best Craft Brewery

Bond Bond Brothers Beer Company

Cary may not have an Abbey Road, but Bond Brothers brewers, from left, Andy Schnitzer, Jay Bond, Whit Baker and Jeremy Bond, would still like everyone to come together for good beer.

Cary may not have an Abbey Road, but Bond Brothers brewers, from left, Andy Schnitzer, Jay Bond, Whit Baker and Jeremy Bond, would still like everyone to come together for good beer.

Meet the Bond brothers, making their first appearance on the Maggy Awards list!

What began as a group of brewers competing in homebrew competitions has become a brewery, taproom and beer garden hit that’s part of Cary’s downtown revitalization.
The brewers?

  • Jay Bond, former Yadkin Valley vineyard manager and “compost wrangler” at Compost Now;
  • His twin brother Jeremy Bond, a freelance illustrator and former foreman at a gasket company;
  • Whit Baker, once upon a time a high school chemistry teacher, a certified beer judge, and beer Cicerone; and
  • Andy Schnitzer, bon vivant about Western Wake, aka a sociable guy of good taste.

“We love providing a taproom that helps to bring the community together,” said Jay. “We also enjoy the development and the ‘market research’ involved in the process of making beer.”

Bond Brothers offers a variety of unique beers on tap, from IPAs and stouts to Berliner Weisse and cream ales; a robust barrel sour program; guided brewery tours; and a kid- and dog-friendly environment. There’s even a running club!

“Our slogan is Old School Classics, New School Originals,” Jay said. “To complement our traditional-style ales, we apply the science of brewing in new and unique ways to produce the most innovative, forward-thinking brews in the area.”

Best Indian Restaurant

Cilantro Indian Café


After earning a few Maggy honorable mentions along the way, this year Cilantro takes the lead as Best Indian Restaurant, thanks to readers in love with its chicken tikka masala, butter chicken, Moroccan hummus, and karahi dishes.

The food hails from the Northeast region of India, particularly the state of Bihar, and is full of fresh vegetables and herbs purchased from local farmers markets.

What makes the Cilantro story even better is the struggle behind it for husband and wife team Mustafa Ansari, who holds a degree in business management, and Tabassum Rahmen, with a master’s degree in education.

Cooking their personal meals on the grill at a between-jobs gas station gig, the duo began fielding requests from customers wanting to sample the chicken biryani.

Income-less for months, feeding their children leftovers from the gas station, they opened the restaurant in February 2014 without enough cash to even make change.

“Our customers are the reason we feel that it was all worth it,” said Rahmen. “When we see them satisfied, we look at each other and smile.

“We love to cook, we love to invent new dishes, we love to see our customers content. We’ll continue to devote ourselves to Cilantro as long as our customers love it.”

Best Date-Night Restaurant

Lucky 32

Lucky 32’s Peanut Butter Pie

Lucky 32’s Peanut Butter Pie

Put down the phone and smile at the person across your table. It’s date night!

Lucky 32 is the destination for date-night couples, for great food and service that offers a getaway from the bustle of real life.

With a menu that changes every six to eight weeks, food here is seasonal and sourced locally, so it has that fresh from the garden taste.

“Many people are foodies and appreciate the seasonal changing menu,” said general manager Shane Garrity. “Just as many people come here because they love the professional service and the ambiance.”

Can’t get away just yet? Try this recipe for one of Lucky 32’s most popular desserts:

Peanut Butter Pie
Serves 8

12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup smooth peanut butter
¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 16-ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed
10 tablespoons chocolate chips
1 9-inch graham cracker pie crust
½ cup chocolate syrup
½ cup finely chopped peanuts

Add cream cheese, peanut butter and powdered sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer. On medium speed, blend until mixture is light and fluffy.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the Cool Whip into the peanut butter mixture. Add chocolate chips and gently blend using the rubber spatula.

Pile filling into pie crust and place in freezer to harden overnight. Serve with chocolate syrup and nuts on top.


Best Asian Restaurant


When CM readers are feeling adventurous, they head to Sushi Thai for a best-of-two-worlds fix that’s good enough for the restaurant to maintain
a spot on the Maggy list every year since 2006.

If you’re new to sushi, here’s a primer:

  • California roll: Crab stick (imitation crab made from cooked fish), avocado, cucumber, seaweed, sushi rice, roe and sesame seeds.
  • Second visit: Try a raw yellowfin tuna roll with rice and seaweed.
  • For the adventurous: Unagi, or barbecued eel, a soft meat with a smoky barbecue flavor, served warm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *