I was first introduced to Buku following a Taste Carolina Food Tour about six years ago. My sister and I met two couples on the tour, and we were eager to socialize more over light bites somewhere in downtown Raleigh. We settled on Buku based on location (it’s super-convenient for those who live downtown, just off of Wilmington Street on the south end of the city) and on the appeal of sitting outside on the front patio.
My sister, Stephanie, reported having the tastiest fresh tuna she had ever tasted. I opted for BBQ pork buns (one per order, and yes they still called it “buns”). For less than $5 each, I had two. I enjoyed the fluffy buns filled with sweet pulled pork soaked in a sauce we Yankees think of when we hear the word barbecue.
I tried Buku again for a quick lunch, this time ordering pho. I was not impressed. The broth didn’t have much flavor, and although the portion was huge, I left unsatisfied.
And that’s where the story ended. Until about a year ago, when we were looking for a place to celebrate a friends’ birthday. It was “just the girls” and someone recommended Buku for dinner. This time, we sat inside. The atmosphere is upscale, but welcoming with its rich colors and minimal and simple décor. We were seated in a large, 3/4 round booth that was perfect for socializing.
I couldn’t tell you what anyone else ordered. I started with the pork arepa, and could have stopped there. The portion was larger than I expected: a corn cake topped with pulled pork and pickled red onions. This is supposedly a “small plate” but would be perfect for lunch or a light dinner (in case you want room for dessert).
Fast forward to St. Patrick’s Day. Again, I found myself downtown, looking for lunch, but several venues near the festivities were crowded with rowdy folks, and that just isn’t my scene. And then it dawned on me…let’s go to Buku.
I again ordered the arepa, and followed up by sharing a dessert. This was described as a coconut custard with assorted exotic fruit and puffed rice, and ice cream made with purple sweet potatoes. Each texture ad flavor blended with the nest, and besides being the most unique dessert I have tried, the presentation was enticing and beautiful.
I recommend Buku for a downtown lunch break, a summer lunch, or drinks and light fair before an evening out on the town. This would make for a lovely and interesting date night experience. Try something new…at Buku.