2021 Maggy Awards: Restaurants

Buoy Bowls owner Derek Sharpe steers his business, above, fueled by a daily Surf’s Up acai bowl.

Best new restaurant

MC Modern Asian Cuisine

V Pizza
TIE: Daybreak / The Peak on Salem

Best takeout

Ruckus Pizza Pasta & Spirits

Salvio’s Pizzeria
Daniel’s Restaurant & Catering

Best delivery

Salvio’s Pizzeria

Johnny’s Pizza
Ruckus Pizza Pasta & Spirits

Best food truck

Buoy Bowls

Cousin’s Maine Lobster
Mr. A’s Beignets

Best appetizer

Ruckus Pizza Pasta & Spirits

Tazza Kitchen
TIE: Pro’s Epicurean / Crosstown Pub & Grill

Best cocktails


Tazza Kitchen
TIE: Scratch Kitchen & Taproom / Ruckus Pizza Pasta & Spirits

Best bakery

La Farm Bakery

Once in a Blue Moon Bakery
Great Harvest Bread Company

Best dessert

Andia’s Homemade Ice Cream

Asali Desserts & Café
Rudy’s Pub & Grill

Best barbecue

City Barbeque

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

Best breakfast

First Watch

Famous Toastery

Best burger and fries

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

Five Guys
Salem Street Pub

Best date-night restaurant


Lucky 32
The Provincial

Best coffee

Fount Coffee + Kitchen

Crèma Coffee
Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea

Best seafood restaurant

Skipper’s Seafood & Smokehouse

Full Moon Oyster Bar
Blind Pelican

Best steak house


Angus Barn
Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Best pizzeria

Anna’s Pizzeria

Johnny’s Pizza
Ruckus Pizza Pasta & Spirits

Most kid-friendly restaurant

Ruckus Pizza Pasta & Spirits

Mellow Mushroom

Best Asian restaurant

Sushi Thai

OSHA Thai Kitchen & Sushi
Sushi Iwa

Best Mediterranean restaurant



Best Italian restaurant

Daniel’s Restaurant & Catering

Lugano Ristorante
Enrigo Italian Bistro

Best Indian restaurant

Cilantro Indian Cuisine

Nzara Indian Bistro
Himalayan Grill & Bar

Best Mexican/Latin American restaurant

Gonza Tacos y Tequila

Mi Cancun
Totopos Street Food & Tequila

Best specialty diet

Clean Juice

Diced Gourmet Salads & Wraps

Best healthy dining option

Diced Gourmet Salads & Wraps

Clean Juice

Best neighborhood bar

Doherty’s Irish Pub

Crosstown Pub & Grill
Amberly Local

Best outdoor dining

Ruckus Pizza Pasta & Spirits

Tazza Kitchen
Lucky 32

Best craft brewery

Bond Brothers Beer Company

Fortnight Brewing Company
Vicious Fishes Brewery

Buoy Bowls

Best Food Truck

Apex-native Derek Sharpe thought he was going surfing in San Diego with a friend, back in 2004. He wasn’t expecting a life-changing moment. After a morning at the beach, the two young men stopped for acai bowls — frozen pureed acai berries topped with fresh fruit and honey.

“It was like love at first bite, is what I say a lot, because it was literally the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life,” he said.

Surf’s Up acai bowl

Fast-forward to October 2016, when he opened the first Buoy Bowls food truck. After 4 years, a few mistakes and a lot of successes, Sharpe now owns four Buoy Bowls trucks, has about 30 employees, and is working on franchising his concept. He credits much of that success to social media and being able to engage with customers.

“We’re in a digital era, and if you don’t have a social media presence, you’re non-existent,” Sharpe said.

It helps that the photogenic acai bowls are supremely Instagrammable. There are also contests and giveaways like “Tag Us Tuesdays,” when a randomly selected customer wins a free bowl in exchange for posting a photo.

The other key to his business success is the appeal of his product. Years later, Sharpe still loves acai bowls and eats one every day.

“Surf’s Up is my favorite bowl. It’s our acai blend, but we add peanut butter, and we use almond milk instead of coconut water or apple juice. Then I add goji berries and local bee pollen to it. Surf’s Up is my favorite for sure, every day.”


Skipper’s Seafood & Smokehouse

Best Seafood Restaurant

Even though Skipper’s was voted Best Seafood Restaurant, they’ve recently added some turf options to their surf menu. Skipper’s Seafood recently added “Smokehouse” to their name, and this wasn’t an afterthought. Chief smoke maker James Johnson is the bearded brainchild behind the idea.

Proteins like pork, chicken and turkey are all first-rate, but it’s the transcendent beef brisket that’s the star of the show.

“A lot of love goes into it,” said Johnson, a Garner native who grew up watching his father cook whole hogs. “We take quality meat and hit it with smoke. It cooks at 225 degrees for about 12 hours.”

Skipper’s added 450 square feet in the back of the restaurant to accommodate two Southern Pride wood-burning, gas-fired smokers.

Johnson embraces a Central Texas-based approach to cooking barbecue.

“There are a lot of Eastern-style titans in the area, but we’re hitting all our proteins with a smoke-forward process.”

Try the fall-off-the-bone St. Louis-style pork ribs. Just keep plenty of napkins handy.

“We use a simple rub along with salt, pepper, paprika and a little brown sugar for caramelization,” Johnson said.

While the current pandemic caused the restaurant to pump the brakes somewhat on the smoked provisions, you can get your fill on Mondays and Thursdays. Go early for the brisket, which sells out quickly. Future plans include adding smoked wings and house-made sausage.


Fount Coffee + Kitchen

Best Coffee Shop

Fount Coffee + Kitchen opened in December 2018 and quickly gained a reputation for great coffee, wholesome food and a welcoming atmosphere. Katie Kilgore, who grew up in Apex, owns the cafe with her husband, George, and another couple, Shawn and Kristen Preissner.

“Our core values are excellence, intentionality and joy, and our team really seeks to serve and care for people,” said Katie Kilgore. “I think when people come in, they feel drawn to the space, because they’re drawn to the people and the experiences and the interactions that they have here. They feel known, and they feel cared for.”

The Maggy-winning cafe serves Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee alongside a substantial menu of smoothie bowls, salads, open-faced toast “stacks,” baked goods and small plates. Fount’s dishes are gluten-free and made with ingredients that are sustainably sourced and nutrient-dense.

In the spring, the team launched an online ordering system that works in concert with curbside pickup. Even though the cafe doesn’t have a drive-through, Fount was able to offer contactless service.

“(We were) trying to get creative, to come up with different ideas to better serve people with their new pattern of life being at home more, whether that’s batching up different products, take-and-bake things like our cookies,” said Shawn Preissner.

“We were also really excited to provide box coffees on behalf of the community who donated them to frontline workers and health care workers. That was a great campaign to be a part of.”


The owners of Fount Coffee + Kitchen are, from left, Shawn and Kristen Preissner, and Katie and George Kilgore.

MC Modern Asian Cuisine

Best New Restaurant

Michael Chuong

The winner of the Best New Restaurant Maggy has been elevating the downtown dining scene all summer. You can thank the culinary wizardry of chef and restaurateur Michael Chuong.

MC Modern Asian Cuisine, opened in February at the historic Jones House, which most recently housed the farm-to-table bistro Belle. The 2,200-square-foot Queen Anne-style cottage was originally constructed in 1896.

The restaurant’s focused, Asian-inspired menu features seasonal ingredients, fresh seafood and Instagram-worthy, artfully presented dishes. The restaurant’s menu changes weekly, giving Chuong the freedom to present guests with something different each time they come in.

“This place has my name on it, so I need to take time to be present and work closely with staff to ensure we provide excellent food and service,” said Chuong, a 36-year veteran chef.


Salvio’s Pizzeria

Best Delivery

Long a favorite with pizza-loving Maggy voters, this bona fide New York-style pizzeria wins kudos for its prompt and friendly delivery service.

Situated in a commonplace strip mall, this locally owned establishment conjures quality pie, pasta, stromboli, calzone and more. For stellar gourmet pizza, choose Mediterranean chicken; Carolina hamburger; or white with spinach, Roma tomatoes, feta cheese and extra virgin olive oil.


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