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Mar 14, 2005 11:43 AM

Where to eat near UNC-Chapel Hill?

  • j

Going to a workshop there at end of April - I remember reading something semi-recently in Bon Appetite about a great place by woman chef (??) But any recommendations would be good - just get to go out one or two nights, so want the best places!

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  1. My guess is the woman chef is Andrea from Lantern and that would certainly be a fine place to start.

    That said, someone asked this very question not that long ago and spawned quite a thread. If you scan down a bit, you should find it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: detlefchef

      The woman in Bon Appetit is Ashley Christiansen from Enoteca Vin in Raleigh.

      1. re: JLChave

        There I go, talking out of my ass. I was just going with the combination of somewhat celbrated chef and close to UNC and that's what popped up.

        Ashley is pretty much rocking down there isn't she.

    2. There really aren't any great places around UNC, I'm sorry to say. I'd head slightly down the road and eat at Il Palio (pricey) or Thai Palace. People seem to love Lantern but I can't fathom what the fuss is about: high-priced, frou-frou Chinese food in the dark.

      David A.

      11 Replies
      1. re: David A.

        I suppose it depends on what "near UNC" means. For someone from out of town (as I am, too), isn't it virtually required that they be directed to Allen & Sons? (David A.: Yes, even if it necessitates a warning that the sides aren't all they're cracked up to be.) Carolina barbeque is something that simply can't be found anywhere else, and A&S is, by all accounts, the best exemplar outside Lexington. Lemme put it this way: When I'm visiting the Triangle, the very *first* thing I do is to carve a slot in my schedule for Allen & Sons. If it requires hitching a ride or calling a cab, so be it.

        1. re: Marty L.

          a few other places i haven't seen anyone mention in this thread:

          trilussa - italian, franklin street - most of the experiences i've had there have been good but there was one really terrible experience one night. a nice cozy setting with each dish made to order - can be slow.

          carrburritos - sw/calif style burritos, rosemary street (carrboro) - really good burritos. period. all of their homemade salsas are really nice as well (esp the chipotle). freshly grilled and prepared fillings - not just some hole in the wall but really good stuff.

          acme - carrboro - mostly hits, but i was *really* put off by the service a couple of times and haven't been there in a couple of years as a result. the sunday brunch is still a fond memory, though.

          aurora - italian, on highway 54 as one heads towards durham - more upscale italian than 411 west and trilussa. a tad overpriced, all considered, but i've never been let down with the food.

          pepper's pizza - franklin street - really, really great pizzas with a lot of odd toppings. good stuff and all super fresh.

          los potrillos - mexican, rosemary street - the best authentic mexican in CH, personally. wide menu and affordable.

          i'll also reaffirm the power of allen & sons. it's great bbq and the smoky goodness is something i miss now that i don't live nearby anymore.

          other prior mentioned good choices are - 411 west, il palio, cafe driade, and the like.

          i've never understood why top of the hill has any appeal for anyone - the food is very non-special and all overpriced. you're paying for a (not that interesting) atmosphere, at best. i'd avoid it.

          also, don't get caught in the trap of thinking that any of the following places are good (as they aren't but are over-romanticized with those with shades that are all too carolina blue):
          breadman's (grease pit with excess salt)
          spanky's (take the uninteresting food of something like an applebees or something similar and then making it "quaint" - blah)

          1. re: cory r.

            i like Pepper's Pizza. it's actually my plan B in town, IP3 being the first choice. having said that, i would probably avoid it since you asked for things that were great, given your limited stay. you can find better pizza in alot of other cities. no need to come here and eat average pizza.

            same goes for Los Potrillos. i'll agree it's marginally better than everything else Mexican in Chapel Hill (that i've tried), but that ain't saying much.

            Aurora, IMO, is actually less than mediocre. if you want decent Italian in Chapel Hill, go to Il Palio (and bring wallet as Sant suggested). if you don't want something that spendy, then scrap the Italian idea altogether.

            ACME is too inconsistent for me to suggest it. i wouldn't want you, as a visitor, to take the high risk of it possibly being bad.

            the lady chef that you read about might be Mama Dip, and i would steer clear. overpriced, poorly executed southern fare.

            the more i write, the less i actually want to post this message. it downright frustrates me sometimes that we don't have any (many) "gems" to speak of here in Chapel Hill.

            my best suggestion would be Allen & Son since it's regional food that is great. depending on where you're coming from, it's the kind of food that you may only be able to have on a visit to Eastern NC.

            Cafe Driade is actually a gem. i would not miss this place.

            you'll most likely have a very good meal at Elaine's. it's not mind-blowingly good, but it is good, and i'm confident you'll have a fine experience there.

            Talullah i'll also recommend.

            and just to throw any credibility i might have had, out the window, i'd like to suggest that if you're up late and looking for a late-night snack, go to Time-Out diner and get a chicken & cheese biscuit. i scoffed at the idea until i was forced to have one. it took me about 3 or 4 visits before i appreciated the magic of their "once-rolled" biscuits. flame away folks, but i love those biscuits !

            1. re: Nab

              I'll defend Time Out. After a night of bar hopping and beer binging fried chicken at Tiem Out hits the spot!

              1. re: Sant

                And their cabbage is one of the great southern side dishes around!

                1. re: brentk

                  seriously ? what's it like ?

                  they've got a bunch of tasty-looking things in there. then again, i might eat just about anything at the times that i end up there. but i do stand by the biscuits -- good even when sober as day.

                  1. re: Nab

                    Just guessing, but I suspect that the cabbage is cooked with a bit of bacon grease and red pepper flakes. Not sure whether they boil it and then saute it, but it sure is tasty, even if it's not the healthiest vegetable you will ever eat.

            2. re: cory r.

              Don't go to Top of the Hill for the food. Go for the decent beer and incomparable people watching from the second floor balcony at the heart of Franklin St.

              1. re: Sant

                i'd argue that even the people watching at top of the hill is middle of the road, at best unless you really like watching fraternity/sorority functions and a lot of just-out-of-undergrad sorts trying to relive undergraduate "glory" - that might just be my take on it though.

                1. re: cory r.

                  All that said, the number of attractive UNC co-eds cannot be overstated. If that is the "people watching" that Sant is implying, I can buy that. Typically makes a beer taste better. It was also a fun place to catch the UNC-Duke game for obvious reasons.

                  1. re: detlefchef

                    Although I have no problem ogling coeds on occasion, :-) I was actually referring to people strolling by on Franklin street below. The greek crowd usually doesn't show up until 11 PM or so.

        2. Within walking distance of campus, the best places that I have tried are 411 West, Elaine's (not open for lunch I don't think), Mediterranean Deli, and Panang. For beer and good pub type food, head to the Carolina Brewery or Top of the Hill (both brew their own beer). For tea and coffee, I'm hearing great things about 3 Cups. All of these places are along Franklin St. The Carolina Inn's restaurant is also a good dining experience. The food isn't that great but a nice up upscale dining experience-- if you're into that sort of thing.

          Places you'll need a car but are worth visiting are Il Palio (bring your wallet), Thai Palace (expensive for Thai but good), Allen & Sons (I agree, it's a must do for authentic carolina bbq), and Cafe Driade for coffee (in a wonderful wooded setting).

          If I had to pick an itinerary, I'd go to Allen & Sons for lunch, Il Palio for dinner and head up the street to Cafe Driade for a cappucino afterwards.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Sant

            If you do have a car, I would have you consider Four Square in Durham on your list.


            1. re: Sant

              Friends don't let friends eat at the Carolina Inn.

              1. re: detlefchef

                LOL. Perhaps a little harsh, but I tend to agree. Instead of wasting a meal there, maybe Jackie could (depending on weather) get a late afternoon drink at the Inn's bar and take it out to the porch since the weather should be nice in late April.

                1. re: detlefchef


                  unfortunately for me, it happens to be a highly frequented place for work meals , particularly breakfast/brunch, and it never ceases to amaze me how they botch simple things on a consistent basis.


                  1. re: detlefchef

                    LOL. Hey, thanks for the heads up on the Twin Marquis wrappers. I used them to make gyozas yesterday. Awesome, nice and light and crisy. I used to use Twin Dragon but definitely like the Marquis better.

                  2. re: Sant

                    The Top of the Hill is a great place to see and be seen, but the food really isn't that great. I once had a waiter there tell me to avoid a special because it made people sick-- he said it was only on special because they were trying to get rid of it.

                    I like the Carolina Brewery much better, both for beer and for food.

                    But then, I also like 411 West as a reliable, yummy place to eat.

                  3. w
                    Webley Webster

                    For Italian, I'd got to Vespa before I went to 411. 411 is perfectly OK but never much better; on the other hand, I've had some very happy surprises at Vespa, especially with the homemade pastas. Pazzo (on 15-501 south of campus) also does a nice job, although the dinner menu is a little pricey for what you get, IMHO.

                    I've had some wonderful meals at Elaine's on Franklin. They did a nice job with venison on one visit, and on another prepared a terrific cassoulet. Nice wine list too, and very reasonably priced (the wines, that is; entrees are standard upscale prices).

                    Also on Franklin is Talulah, a casual Turkish place that's a lot of fun if you order lots of their little dishes. Just keep 'em coming; sooner or later something that wows you will make its way to your table. When you're done, head over to the Wine Bar a few doors down for a nightcap, or go listen to some enthusiastically (and usually amateurishly) played music at the Cave while you knock down a PBR.

                    If you like fish simply but expertly prepared, take a trip over to Provence in Carrboro. French bistro fare with an emphasis on seafood. Carrboro sounds like it's another town than Chapel Hill, but anywhere else in the world they'd be one town; nothing but a defunct railroad crossing separates the two. You could spit in Chapel Hill and have it land in Carrboro.

                    1. Has no one on this thread been to Crook's Corner or Weathervane?

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: NCPete72

                        I don't recognize anyone who posted on this 8-1/2 year old thread as a current poster to this board, but I suspect that some of them had in fact eaten at Weathervane or Crook's Corner as they are both long time popular spots in Chapel Hill.

                        There are lots of more recent threads that mention Weathervane or Crook's Corner, just use the search feature at the top of the page search for Weathervane or Crook's Corner on the Southeast board.

                        1. re: boaviagem

                          LOL, I only saw the date of original post after posting. Surprised to get any response at all honestly. Found this thread looking for a new place to take my wife for a romantic evening. Ended up at Vespa and had an amazing dish of gnocchi in a basil cream sauce with crispy panchetta.

                        2. re: NCPete72

                          I've eaten at both. Wouldn't rush back to either.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            I like Crook's Corner and eat there 4-5 times a year, always satisfied. What is it you'd like to know?

                            1. re: Rory

                              You're asking that of NCPete, right?

                          2. re: NCPete72

                            No Idea what the fuss is about Crooks Corner, $14 for some Cream of Wheat / Grits is ridiculous.

                            Skip it and head to Kipos for great Greek or Vimalas Curryblossom Cafe for Indian