Durham Magazine June/July 2022

Page 32



300-plus businesses, organizations and people earned your votes. This is the definitive 2022 Best of Durham: PHOTO GR AP HY BY JO HN MICHAEL SIMPSON

Durham' s finalists

Alley Twenty Six and Saltbox Seafood Joint – both of which celebrate a decade in business this year – are perennial Best of Durham winners and 2022 James Beard Award nominees ost of us know our way around a plate of barbecue – many would say it’s the definitive cuisine of our state. Chef Ricky Moore has been on a mission to change our minds about that for more than a decade. “[North Carolina] also needs to be known for seafood,” Ricky says,

bigger fish

to fry





j u n e / j u ly 2 0 2 2

adding that many restaurants offer only a handful of familiar seafood options – and that’s what people have come to expect. “It’s going to be fried, and it’s gonna be flounder, shrimp and oysters, and maybe a stuffed crab.” His goal is to educate eaters and “open them up to trying things that they’re not culturally conditioned” to choosing off a menu, all while benefiting North Carolina’s fisherfolk. Ricky opened Saltbox Seafood Joint out of a 205-square-foot A-frame hut at 608 N. Mangum St. in 2012, four years after moving from Washington, D.C., back to North Carolina with his family. Customers ate at picnic tables out front, and there was just enough elbow room to butcher fresh fish and organize his prep station behind the walk-up window. Ricky’s inspiration came from continents away. While working in Singapore, he often ate at hawker centers – open-air food courts packed with “these stands of small little restaurants serving really delicious stuff. … I [realized then that I didn’t] want to do a full-service restaurant,” Ricky says. By scaling down, he could cook everything himself and perfect one type of cuisine. Those first few years were a rush. The adrenaline of building something all his own reenergized Ricky. “It put me in a place of creativity,” he says, after years as an executive chef became routine, working in kitchens from Paris to California. The former Army cook and Culinary Institute of America grad brought life and vitality to this small seafood shack. In an industry where new ventures are plagued by painfully brief life spans, Ricky tackled the duties of entrepreneur, chef, seafood buyer, marketing manager and face of the business. His efforts paid off in spades, as folks clamored in long lines for his hush-honeys, crab grits and, of course, any of his fresh catches of the day. After the 10-year lease expired last summer, saying goodbye to that tiny green-and-white shack “was emotional,” he admits. “I spent a lot of time in that little space and dedicated myself to [being] there … to really dial in the