Founders of Gonza Tacos y Tequila to Open New Concept: Macondo


Opening this Fall in Raleigh

Just received news this week that Gonza Tacos y Tequila founders, Gonza Salamanca and Carlos Rodriguez, have announced their newest venture, Macondo Latin Cuisine, opening fall of 2019 in Sojourn Glenwood Place Apartments in Raleigh. Macondo will feature small tastes of traditional Latin flavors that will rotate seasonally. The vision says co-founder Carlos Rodriguez “is a straight forward simple culinary driven menu but with highly complex flavors.”


Founders Carlos Rodriguez (Right) & Gonza Salamanca (Left)
(Photo by Trish Witek, Witek Marketing)

“This was an opportunity for us to go back to our Colombian roots and the food we grew up on,” says co-founder Gonza Salamanca. “Latin food is so much more than tacos, and by bringing the unique ingredients of South America to the Triangle, we hope to showcase the incredible foods Latin America has to offer.”

They have partnered with renowned Colombian Chef Santiago Macías, of award winning i Latina in Buenos Aires, as a menu consultant. Gonza Tacos y Tequila Executive Chef Jose Miguel is also adding his unique and creative South American culinary skills to the new venture.

“After seven years, Gonza Tacos y Tequila has its own identity, and is highly successful, so we didn’t want to stray too much from that concept,” says Rodriguez. “With Macondo we are able to start the next chapter and showcase in a direct way, our South American background.”

Macondo’s interior will also be a departure from Gonza Tacos y Tequila with the creative help of the talented team at New City Design Group.  The bar will be a main feature in the restaurant, offering Latin inspired craft cocktails to further enhance the South American experience. Patio seating will also be available.

To stay up on their progress follow them at:

Twitter: @MacondoNC
Instagram: @MacondoNC
Facebook Page:



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Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Opens at DPAC this Tuesday!

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The cast of Road Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (photo by Joan Marcus)

Grab your golden ticket! This Tuesday, February 12th the Bull City will get just a little sweeter when “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” opens at DPAC!

The musical tells the story of Willy Wonka, world famous inventor of the Everlasting Gobstopper, who has just stunned the world by announcing he will allow a few lucky winners to visit his mysterious factory where he makes all his magical confections. Charlie Bucket and four other golden ticket winners embark on a mesmerizing, life-changing journey through Wonka’s world of pure imagination.

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The Cast of Road Dah’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (photo by Joan Marcus)

The production features scenic and costume design by five-time Tony Award® nominee Mark Thompson, lighting design by four-time Tony Award nominee Japhy Weideman, sound design by Andrew Keister, projection design by Jeff Sugg, puppet and illusion design by Obie and Drama Desk Award winner Basil Twist, orchestrations by three-time Tony Award® winner Doug Besterman and music supervision by Nicholas Skilbeck.

The hit Broadway musical features songs from the original film, including “Pure Imagination,” “The Candy Man,” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” alongside a toe-tapping and ear-tickling new score from the songwriters from Hairspray.

Jessica Cohen

Jessica Cohen – Plays the role of Veruca Salt

In preparation for the productions arrival in Durham I spoke to Jessica Cohen, who plays Veruca Salt, to learn a little more about what theater goers can expect from the show. Jessica was trained at the San Francisco School of Ballet. She danced with both the Northern Ballet in London and Sarasota Ballet in Florida before making the transition to musical theater and touring with her first musical “American in Paris” as well as landing a role with “Cats” on Broadway.

What was it that made you make the jump from ballet to performing in musicals?
I’ve loved performing in front of an audience ever since I was little. I also loved ballet and to develop that into a career you have to start early. So when I was young I decided to pursue ballet and there really wasn’t time for both that and other forms of theater as ballet is a full time commitment. But my love of acting, singing and never left  and while I love ballet over time I felt that I still wasn’t fulfilling my dream. So I took acting classes and vocal lessons at the Florida Studio Theatre while I was with the Sarasota Ballet and then the opportunity for a role with “American in Paris” happened for me, which was perfect because that role did actually involve some very technical ballet.

How do you approach your character Veruca Salt?
I like to think that I am a nice person in real life so when it comes to playing Veruca I kind of approach her as my alter ego. She really is a villainous character in this production, more so than in the book or movie. So when it comes time for her demise you are actually sort of glad to see her downfall.

What is it like playing a character that is a child?
It is a lot of fun! Of course we are still playing the characters as if they are children. And while the backstory of each child contestant is similar to the original, they have a few twist and have been updated a bit. Like my character, Veruca, she is actually spoiled a Russian Ballerina in this production. Choosing to have all of the children, except for Charlie played by adults helps set these other characters apart from Charlie. It is a smart tool in the production and helps the audience see the contrast between the innocence and goodness of Charlie’s heart in contrast to the other children.

Is the musical very different from the movie / book?
The basic story line is the same and all of your favorite songs are there. The sets are of course modified a bit from the movie to adapt it to the stage, but we still convey the same setting and even have the glass elevator and of course the famous Oompa Loompas. Of course I can’t give to much away about that as that is part of the magic of the show you will just need to wait and experience for yourself!

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” opens at DPAC on Tuesday, February 12th and has performances through Sunday February 17th. For tickets visit:

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New Raleigh Coffee Shop: Pine State Coffee


Larz Robison of Pine State Coffee in Raleigh, NC

There’s a new coffee shop located just north of downtown Raleigh! Pine State Coffee recently opened up in a little brown building located at 1614 Automotive Way, sharing the space with the Farmers Collective and a future bottle shop. It’s a cool space, with great coffee and best of all it is owned and operated by local legend Larz Robison. When Larz isn’t behind the bar at Pine State or roasting up their delicious coffee beans you can find him out and around the Triangle on his bike or on foot running as he logs miles training for his next half marathon or triathlon!


Pine State Coffee – Raleigh, NC

Pine State roasts all of their coffee on site and serve up some great coffee and espresso drinks at the bar. They also have cold brew coffee, tin roof teas, and have plans to offer draft beer in the future. If you need a little grub to go with your morning cup or afternoon respite they also get daily deliveries of fresh baked good from Strong Arm Baking along with veggie burritos from Umma Foods (formerly Kimbap).

I think Pine State Coffee is a great addition to the downtown Raleigh Coffee scene and I’m excited to see what they do with their space. They are currently open daily from 7am-2pm and I highly recommend you pay them a visit!

Pine State Coffee
1614 Automotive Way
Raleigh, NC
Instagram @pinestatecoffee

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Places to Get Pizza for your Super Bowl Party – 2019 Update!

Pie Pushers – Durham, NC

Each year I like to plan ahead and think about where I will get pizza and beer to enjoy during the Super Bowl. I know that creating a list of “great pizza” places can be very subjective since everyone has their own criteria and favorite styles, but there really are some great places in the Triangle no matter what your tastes are. Below is a quick list of my favorite places for a pie (in no particular order).

2019 list of places to get a great pie for the Super Bowl:


Oakwood Pizza Box – Raleigh

Oakwood Pizza Box
Frank’s Pizza


Johnny’s Pizza – Wake Forest

Wakefield / Wake Forest
Johnny’s Pizza
Dante’s Italiano


Pizzeria Toro – Durham (photo courtesy @pizzeriatoro)

Pie Pushers
Pizzeria Toro
Hutchins Garage


Pizzeria Mercato – Carrboro (photo courtesy @pizzeriamercatonc)

Chapel Hill / Carrboro
Capp’s Pizzeria
Pizzeria Mercato
Napoli Pizza

Johnny’s Pizza

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“Miss Saigon” on stage at DPAC Through Sunday!


The National Touring Company of Miss Saigon (Photo Matthew Murphy)

Although it has been around for almost 30 years now, this past Tuesday at DPAC was my first time seeing “Miss Saigon“.  As I understand it, the musical has been updated a bit by current director Laurence Connor so you may notice a few changes if you are familiar with the original production by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. However, the central story, inspired by “Madam Butterfly” remains the same.

The musical tells a love story with a tragic path, set in war torn Vietnam. It revolves around the relationship between Kim, a Vietnamese villager (played by the talented Emily Bautista) who has made her way from the country to Saigon after the death of her family. Kim ends up working at a brothel “Dreamland” under the management of “The Engineer” serving US soldiers. It is here that Kim meets a Marine named Chris (played by Anthony Festa). The two form an unlikely bond and fall in love only to be torn apart by the fall of Saigon and the evacuation of Americans from the country. Fast forward 3 years and Kim is struggling to survive having been left behind and left to raise Chris’s son that he doesn’t even know exists.


The National Touring Company of Miss Saigon (Photo Matthew Murphy)

I don’t want to give away too much of the story from the second act and spoil it for others. Needles to say, this is not a particularly happy story, but it does have moments highlighting the enduring human spirit and the will to survive and provide a better life for those that we love. I’ll admit the brothel scenes are a bit brutal and degrading at times when you let it sink in that this sort of human trafficking was very real during the way, but your spirit is lifted with the focus on the love that develops between Chris and Kim when they first meet.

While the actors do a commendable job playing challenging roles and  with the vocals, the real highlight of this production are the elaborate sets and lighting. With its big budget sets and flashy designs that one would expect of a Broadway spectacular,  complete with a helicopter scene depicting the evacuation from the American Embassy when Saigon Falls.

Miss Saigon can certainly make you uncomfortable at times. Exploitation, abuse, and prostitution are hardly common fodder for entertainment. But if you go into theater with an open mind and look at this production as a cautionary tale you just may see the beauty in the tragic portrayal of human nature even with all its warts exposed.

“Miss Saigon” has performs through Sunday, January 27th at The Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information and to get tickets visit:

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