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A restaurant with little dishes and a big heart

Bakus opens on Durham's Ninth Street


Adrian Taylor, owner of Durham's new tapas bar, Bakus, at 746 Ninth St., is not your typical restaurateur. His entire kitchen staff, from the chef de cuisine to the dishwasher, is salaried--rare in the restaurant business. He commits Bakus to monthly fund-raisers to benefit local nonprofits.

This month, for instance, Taylor donated space, food and service to the closing party for the American Dance Festival as it celebrated the end of its 70th season. ADF board members, dancers, artists and members of various food and art societies dined from a vegetarian buffet while sipping on home-mixed sangria. In further support of ADF, Taylor pledged a dollar to ADF for every ticket concert-goers brought in to his restaurant,

Even the tapas themselves make the restaurant into a kind of community institution. In their native Spain, the small dishes of appetizers encourage people to sit, socialize and talk about their thoughts and feelings.

"Food, as I see it, is a conduit for family gatherings, arguments, confessions and catching up," Taylor says.

Taylor's menu selections, which are derived mostly from Argentina and the Mediterranean, have evolved from the traditionally small, bite-sized portions to a three-bite-sized portion of roast fish, pork loin and Caribbean-infused marinades. And there are his variations on traditional sandwiches, such as the Gaucho Burger, which is served with a mango salsa.

Going beyond the Mediterranean, Taylor brings seasonal, international dishes to the tapas menu. For the summer and springtime, there are chicken and shrimp served with peanut sauces and hot peppers beside small cuts of sashimi. In the winter, African tapas will be served with an emphasis on hearty stews and sauces. Some of the winter choices might also include avocado-stuffed smoked fish, baked plantains and meats with whole leaves of flavor cooked in. Fall will bring East Indian tapas with curry dishes, tandoori-style main items and small plates of dal served with miniature naan.

Taylor didn't set out to be in the restaurant business. Durham was just a resting spot while he completed his first volume of poetry. Needing to support himself, he picked up several wait shifts at Vin Rouge, on Hillsborough Street in Durham. When one of the owners spied his resume--which included study at the Harvard Business School and work as a concept developer for Starbucks--he was lapped up to manage the restaurant.

That's when the restaurant bug bit. "I longed for a place where delicious food and wine would mingle with great conversation into a relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere," he said. "I realized that a tapas bar was just what I wanted, and felt Durham lacked."

Around Town

Vivo-Italian Market, 510 Glenwood Ave. South, opened its doors July 23. Expect to see a menu featuring such items as marinated rack of lamb, cioppino with oven-roasted seafood and a variety of pasta and ravioli choices. Breakfast and lunch offer market-style service of everything from frittatas to paninis, with a baker's case to rival that of "Little Italy." Vivo is the latest property of Rocky Top Hospitality--owners of Hi-5 and Michael Dean's and the soon-to-open Twisted Fork in Triangle Town Center ...

Porter's, 2412 Hillsborough St., separated only by one retail space from its sister restaurant, Frazier's, opened July 14. The restaurant offers a casual atmosphere with menu items including blue cheese stuffed burgers, short ribs and a daily fresh fish special. The kitchen is open through lunch and dinner and until midnight. The word on Frazier's is that it will be expanding into the space that still separates the two restaurants sometime within the next year ...

Shawn Doyle, who helped open Shaba Shabu late last year, has moved on to Wasabi, at Macgregor Village in Cary, which is expected to open any day now. One of the most intriguing features of this restaurant, besides the birch carpentry throughout, is what they call a "four seasons menu". Shawn says many of the ingredients on the menu are unusual items that restaurant goers might only find in larger cities. When asked what they were, the chef chose to keep the ingredients a secret until the restaurant opens ...

Meanwhile, at the Angus Barn all the way up on U.S. 70, Jim McGovern, a longtime employee, is now cellar-master for the wine cellar dining room. The special feature of the room is that each meal served there is paired with wines from the Barn's cellar, considered by Wine Spectator to be "one of the finest in the world."

Scott Howell, chef/owner of Nana's and then some, threw a little cold Perrier on a story going around that a new Nana's Cafe would be built in Franklin Wittenberg's condominium tower proposed for the former People's Security complex across from the Carolina Theatre. Howell underlines that he appreciates Wittenberg, but has not signed any deal with him. He adds, "I've got enough work lined up getting Pop's Chophouse in Raleigh off the ground." Completion of the Pop's in Raleigh is not expected for at least another six months.

Chapel Hill/Carrboro
The Chapel Hill Young Professionals are presenting a Back-to-School Bash Thursday, Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Spice Street in University Mall will be donating a portion of its sizable facility to hold the event for local young professionals to network, while benefiting Communities in Schools and disadvantaged children of Orange County. Attendees are asked to donate school supplies if possible. The bash will include appetizers, a variety of libations and a live DJ. Admission is $7 at the door and $5 in advance...

Uncle Charles' Trailer Park in Cole Park Plaza set up shop after Cafe La Ti Do closed some months back. From Joe DeBartolo, who brought you Valentino's and Tini's Tapas, Uncle Charles serves up home cooking with a trailer park feel. Expect to see items such as meatloaf, burgers, T-bone steak, rotisserie chicken and ... Swanson's TV dinners. For dessert: cheesecake! ...

Sage Cafe, off Weaver Dairy Road in Timberlyne Shopping Center, is a family-run operation with a menu that is nearly entirely vegetarian with the exception of a tuna melt sandwich. Homa Jahannia, mother of Ramin Jahannia, who runs the front end, runs the kitchen. Homa creates daily specials for lunch and dinner. A house favorite, for example, is Persian Eggplant Paradise, which includes fragrant spices, split peas, and saffron basmati rice. Other offerings are baked manicotti, grilled tempeh and a homemade tiramisu that might rock your world ....

West End Wine Bar, 450 W. Franklin St., just began what they call a "Rooftop Tour." A trip that started with a tasting of all things French will wrap up on Sunday, Aug. 17, at 5:30 p.m. with a four-course menu based on the food and wine of Italy. The dinners, which are seasonably light, will be held on the restaurant's rooftop patio--a great place to watch the sunset ...

Up the road a piece at the Fearrington House, chef Graham Fox will present a cooking retreat on August 10-11, dedicated to seafood and plate presentation. Participants will hone knife skills and construct a menu showcasing-shrimp bisque, gravad lox, grilled halibut and a final course of lavender brulee. For registration and rate info contact 542-2121 ...

The James Beard House has been busy lately inviting Triangle chefs to preside at their dinners in New York City. On July 17, a dinner was dedicated to the memory of Bill Neal, who opened La Residence back in the '70s. The five-course dinner and reception was prepared by five or so prominent chefs who worked under Neal, including Bill Smith, who currently runs Crook's Corner. Brian Stapleton, the chef at Carolina Crossroads in the Carolina Inn, accepted an invitation to be the next local chef to prepare dinner at the Beard House on Aug. 19. Some of the highlights of his menu will be sorghum and sea-salt cured smoked N.C. shrimp, coastal diver scallops served with a duck barbecue, and a praline ice cream Napoleon for dessert ...

Finally, toque's off to Andrea Reusing, chef/co-owner at Lantern, 423 W. Franklin St., who gave birth July 20 to a baby girl, Oona Cotton. She plans to turn the operations over to her brother, Brendan, and Sylvia Pahola, the front manager, but will still maintain some role in decision-making.

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