What's on Tap

What's on Tap

Buku owners explore Latin cuisine at Soca

Posted April 5
Updated April 6

Soca restaurant in Cameron Village.

— A new Cameron Village restaurant is aiming to highlight cuisine from Latin America. The team behind Buku - Todd Ohle, Sean Degnan and Tony Hopkins - opened Soca about two weeks ago.

While Buku in downtown Raleigh celebrates street food from around the globe, owners wanted to focus on the Latin American and Caribbean region and its specific flavor profiles.

To help get the cuisine as authentic as possible, a team of up around 10 chefs gathered to produce about 100 ideas for the menu. The best 30 recipes were selected and many were tried out at Buku throughout the past six months. Many chefs and line cooks in the kitchen shared family recipes like the Ceviche de Pulpo and Dominican Empanadas.

Soca Chef de Cuisine Andrew Smith, who has run Buku since 2011, said the menu has had some changes since the doors opened. The menu has seen surprise hits with the charred octopus and even grilled beef hearts attracting adventurous eaters.

Smith said the focus was to bring out the culture and food that not many in the United States may be familiar with.

"It's a smart, craft series of good food and flavor profiles. Not all spicy. Not all chilies," Smith said. "It's very fun, very approachable."

Not everything on the menu is adventurous, chicken breast, rib eye steak, red snapper, empanadas and crabbed stuffed avocados are there as well. Similar to Buku, there are small plates available so people are encouraged to get a few items and share.

"You can try stuff without spending $30 on an entree," Smith said.


While the menu will change seasonally, look for some staples to stay around like the empanadas.

The Platos De La Gente section features traditional one pot meals. Another portion of the menu is filled with raw creations like Red Snapper Tiradito, which is a Peruvian dish of raw fish sliced thin and served in a spicy sauce. The menu also turns the traditional jerk chicken dish on its head by serving a duck but also doing the duck two ways, crispy duck breast and preparing the leg confit style

The dessert menu features a mix of selections from Buku pastry chef Brittany Grantham, formerly of An Asian Cuisines in Cary.

The bar menu features a mix of craft beers, purees made in house and Mexican soda. The wine list includes 18 selections by the glass and around 100 wines by the bottle.

The menu also includes local favorites including Larry's Coffee and Videri Chocolate.

Soca will open for brunch starting this weekend. Saturday's brunch service will be a fundraiser for A Place at the Table, a pay-what-you-can nonprofit restaurant.

And if two weren't enough, owners said they plan to open a third concept in Wake Forest later this year. That restaurant will feature a melding of Buku and Soca and will be located off Rogers Road near Wine 101.


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