Our roundup of soon-to-be and recently opened restaurants at Eastgate Crossing
By Hannah Lee
Restaurants across Chapel Hill continue to open doors more than two years into the pandemic – sometimes because their concepts adapted to the new normal, but more often because owners saw no other choice but to forge ahead. There’s no better example of this than what’s currently happening at Eastgate Crossing. The popular shopping center anchored by Trader Joe’s continues to be the spot in the Blue Hill District, and there are several whispers about big names slated to fill some vacant spots. Here’s what’s new and notable:
Kipos Greek Taverna: It’s no surprise when Giorgios Bakatsias announces he’s opening a new restaurant. The visionary restaurateur just has a knack for these things. But when the sign came down in April 2020 outside of his West Franklin Street restaurant, a fixture of downtown Chapel Hill for seven years, it caused quite the speculation that Kipos, like so many other eateries, was folding. You could practically hear the collective sigh of relief when he just relocated and reopened down the road into space formerly occupied by Babalu Tapas & Tacos – tucked away in a corner spot of Eastgate. Its new garden patio, which Giorgios describes as a romantic “secret garden,” was obviously a major draw. Not only is it intimate like a village tavern in Greece, but having an outdoor patio plays a major factor in people’s choice to dine out nowadays.
Rise Southern Biscuits & Righteous Chicken: There’s no stopping the nation’s fastest growing biscuits and fried chicken concept. We are shocked, though, that it did take this long for the Durham-based franchise to open its first Chapel Hill location (and its first Triangle shop to open in four years). Nevertheless, we’re grateful its buttermilk biscuits and signature doughnuts made its way into town. The new location brings its updated concept, which integrates a heated locked system perfect for contactless online ordering. We are saddened that CEO and founder Tom Ferguson passed away in February before he could see his 17th Rise location come to fruition. The prolific industry leader in our local restaurant scene knew the value of close partnerships and friendships and always strived to lift up others.
Aldi: But wait … this isn’t a restaurant? No, it’s not. But have you had Aldi croissants? This growing German grocer is likely going to be major competition for the already popular and super affordable Trader Joe’s. Koopy, an online coupons and deals aggregator, says that Aldi is about 16% cheaper than TJ’s. The Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Design Commission unanimously approved plans for the 24,884-square-foot Aldi back in June 2021. The lot has sat vacant since its former occupant, Stein Mart, announced Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2020. Orange County records show Aldi signed a 10-year lease.
Shake Shack: Gourmet burgers. Shack sauce. Crinkle-cut fries. *Drools for a second.* The burger chain is interested in renovating the vacant 3,000-square-foot outbuilding formerly occupied by Zoe’s Kitchen, which closed in 2019. A project developer with Kite Realty that owns the location asked the Community Design Commission to approve a series of changes to the building’s exterior (including expanding the patio) and parking lot. The proposal featured dark green brick on the front facade, accented by black window, door and skylight frames. Variegated panels alternating between green and white would be used on the other sides of the building. Commissioners were broadly supportive of the project but called for a second review. They asked the developer to bring back a more lush landscaping plan and ideas for concealing the building’s mechanical systems.
Snooze, An A.M. Eatery: Don’t hit the snooze button on this one. This Denver-based breakfast chain might very well be making its Triangle debut in Chapel Hill. Kite Realty’s site plan for Eastgate Crossing has plans for the brunch spot to open in a 4,200-square-foot space with a 1,623-square-foot patio between CorePower Yoga and Birkenstock. Officials at Kite Realty have not yet responded to Chapel Hill Magazine for additional comments, but it’s on the agenda to discuss at the Community Design Commission’s next meeting on March 22. If it’s approved, we’re in for boozy brunches featuring bloody marys, eggs Benedict and pancake flights … the stuff that breakfast dreams are made of.
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