I could hear the panic in my friend's voice. "Bandido's in Carrboro is closed!" she wailed into the phone. "So is Patio Loco on Franklin Street! What is going on?"
Indeed, the demise of just one such restaurant in Chapel Hill causes pain for my most Tex-Mex-loving friend (who hails from neither Texas nor Mexico, but who has eaten enough guacamole in my presence to earn citizenship in Avocado Land). She is still mourning The Flying Burrito, which closed in October.
But there's good news for her, and the rest of us fans. First, the Flying Mayan—The Flying Burrito's signature dish—lives on. You could order it today at Gulf Rim Café (111 N. Churton St., Hillsborough, 245-0040, www.gulfrimcafe.com), which used to be The Flying Fish, which used to be owned by Phil Campbell, who also used to own The Flying Burrito. (I know, it gets confusing.)
The current owners of Gulf Rim, Joe and Andrea Tullos, come from New Orleans. Their menu spans the "Spanish-influenced fare of the Yucatan Peninsula to the cultural melting pot of New Orleans to the tropical flavors of the Florida Keys." Think red beans and rice, Cuban sandwiches, fresh fish, and even jerk Cornish game hens. They kept The Flying Mayan, a vegetarian burrito filled with black beans and sweet potatoes, as a tribute to Campbell.
And soon, the Flying Burrito will reopen, thanks to a good neighbor. Jim Duignan, who owns Ba-Da Wings (764 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, 960-0656, www.badawings.com) took over the space and bought rights to the recipes. He's renovating, and hopes to reopen in early March. He plans to keep the menu similar, but add small-plate seafood offerings.
Patio Loco, however, did shut down in December, and the property is up for lease. And Tony Sustaita, who owns Bandido's, confirmed that he reluctantly closed the doors at his Carrboro establishment. The reason is plain ol' competition, he said: "Too many Mexican restaurants in the area, and more opening every day." There are still four Bandido's locations in the Triangle: Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and two in Durham. Then he told me he has something new planned for Carrboro: a Cajun restaurant called Crawdaddy's Cajun Café. He's gutting the former Bandido's space to "start over from scratch" with a new menu and a small stage for live music—a "very funky, very fun, vibrant restaurant." He plans to open Jan. 14.
The new year also brings changes elsewhere. The Underground Restaurant, beneath Goodnight's Comedy Club (861 W. Morgan St., Raleigh, 828-5233, goodnightscomedy.com) has closed. The owners of Goodnight's, Brad and Shannon Reeder, are turning that space into The Old Bar Restaurant and Bar, to open Jan. 12. They also plan to upgrade their in-house restaurant, The Grille at Goodnight's.
In Durham, 2007 turns out to be the third and last year for SIPS Coffee & Tea (2501 University Drive, 401-8032, www.sipscoffeeandtea.com); it is closing as of Jan. 12.
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