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best authentic Southern buffets/restaurants in Durham, Chapel Hill area (seeking collard greens, okra, fried chicken, casserole, butter beans, etc.)?

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Mike H. May 11, 2006 02:39 PM

I'm moving to the Triangle area come June, and I'm wondering where the best places are to find really down-home authentic southern food. A while back, I lived in South Georgia, and every small town had at least a few family-run buffets stocked full of the fried and baked chicken, casseroles, turnip and collard greens, black eyed peas, butter beans, lima beans, squash, sweet potato, banana pudding sort of food.

Where can one find that up in the Triangle, especially Durham and Chapel Hill (Cary and Raleigh recs. too if anything springs to mind)? Either buffet style or order-off-the-menu.

  1. s
    Sant May 11, 2006 03:56 PM

    In Durham the popular joint for Southern food is Bullock's. Their bbq is bad but most everything else is quite good. Be prepared to wait in line and they don't take credit cards. You order off the menu but they have family style option where they bring you food to share and then charge per person.

    Another place in Durham is Ole NC Barbeque, which is a buffet. The food is mediocre at best so I would avoid.

    In Chapel Hill, Mama Dip's Kitchen has been made famous by the Food Network. The food can be quite good but the prices are quite high and the portions are quite small in comparison. If you go into that place thinking you'll get what you did at those south GA places you went to (and I know since I grew up in Tallahassee) you will be sorely disappointed.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Sant
      c
      Candy May 11, 2006 05:18 PM

      I was never more disappointed in a Southern restaurant than Mama Dip's. I would avoid it like the plague. I come from a family of good southern cooks and what I had there was not even close.

      1. re: Candy
        d
        David A. May 12, 2006 08:45 AM

        I endorse all of the above comments. As Nab says, it's very odd that the local Southern cooking is so truly bad. Bullocks is kind of fun, and it's plenty cheap, but, objectively assessed, it's not really very good. My wife and I once made a bet: she said Kentucky Fried makes better fried chicken, I said Bullocks. After back-to-back testing, I had to concede my point. The only Southern eatery that's at all worthwhile is Allen and Sons, and even that leaves something to be desired. The cue is good but everything else -- from sodden hushpuppies to limp fries -- is pretty ordinary.

        I once mentioned the culinary horror of the K&W Buffet, and, if memory serves, I was accused of being racist and Northern elitist. Whatever.

        The best Southern chow I've had in NC was at the Red Rocker Inn in Black Rock out in the mountains somewhere. This was the kind of Southern food I had always heard about and dreamed about. Large portions of simple food richly prepared and mountains of feather-light biscuits, all served family style. A great, great meal.

        The best Triangle eats are ethnic in my opinion. Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Indian. Go figure.

        David A.

        1. re: David A.
          d
          David A. May 12, 2006 08:55 AM

          The Red Rocker Inn is in Black Mountain. Here's a link. It's worth a road trip to have the brunch.

          Link: http://www.redrockerinn.com/

          1. re: David A.
            m
            MTT May 13, 2006 04:18 PM

            I've only been once but the Fried Chicken at Shrimp Boats on Chapel Hill Blvd. in Durham was quite good. The sides were ok.

            Matt

          2. re: Candy
            s
            steveindurham May 14, 2006 02:58 PM

            I would second Current Cafeteria and Shrimp Boats. Current is especially good for breakfast. Honey's is another option.

            1. re: Candy
              b
              batdown Feb 6, 2007 03:17 PM

              mama dips used to be INCREDIBLE. Then they moved to the new location, got a lot of publicity from the liked of food network, prices doubled (or tripled for some dishes), and the quality went WAAAAYYYY down. For great NC soul food in chapel hill, the place to go is Bon's Home Cookin' near Granville Towers. Truly divine. If the strawberry shortcake is available that day, order it, i promise you will love it. Also the 1/2 pound hot dog is surprisingly wonderful and I cant say enough good things about the chicken and sides. Bon's is owned by Mama Dip's daughter; she knows exactly what she is doing, is in the kitchen herself almost every single service, and doesnt charge you for a name or reputation.

            2. re: Sant
              m
              Mike H. May 12, 2006 11:53 AM

              I lived in Tallahassee for a while too. Do Market Diner or O'Neals in Thomasville ring a bell? Man, I loved those places.

              1. re: Mike H.
                m
                Mike H. May 12, 2006 11:57 AM

                Further question for Sant, since you seem familiar with the type of southern food I grew up with...

                What about the restaurant at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh? I hear they serve up a popular southern lunch with vegetables straight from the market. If you're familiar with it, is it in the same vein as Market Diner in Thomasville?

                1. re: Mike H.
                  s
                  Sant May 12, 2006 01:34 PM

                  My then girlfriend and now wife and I used to head up to Thomasville on many a weekend to go eat at Market Diner. I have not found any place here that is as good and certainly not as cheap, although Bullock's is pretty good.

                  The only place I have eaten at the Raleigh Farmers market is the seafood place. If you like fried seafood it's not bad but it's nothing special. But I've only gone there a few times and haven't been by there in at least a couple of years. I prefer to hit the local farmers markets in Durham and Carrboro since they have only local growers selling goods there.

                  By the way, welcome to the Triangle. We love it here and I think you will too.

            3. n
              Nab May 11, 2006 06:02 PM

              Chapel Will & I were talking about this phenomenon when we hit Jujube a week or so ago. I always thought it was very strange that all the Southern-style/country-cooking was so bad at the restaurants, and Will almost instinctively didn't even associate that food with the food that he knows & loves as "Southern cookin". Canned products, made into a slop, is not how they made it in the country. They grew their veggies. I guess it's akin to Chinese food, in that the majority of restaurants serve up crap. The caveat with the buffets is that the quantity ends up trumping quality. If a place focused on just a couple of dishes each night, and did them well, that would be better IMO. May not address supply/demand issues.

              Having said all that, I used to like Bon's BBQ in Carborro which has now relocated to the University Plaza in Chapel Hill on Franklin. I haven't been to the new one though.

              Will said he ate at this place in Carborro called Country Crossroads or something, but I can't remember his conclusion.

              The places Sant mentioned are allegedly good, and I can only confirm Bullocks.

              1. r
                rs May 12, 2006 08:41 AM

                In Durham (Roxboro Rd and Murray) there is Current's Cafeteria. It's been a few years since I was there but I recall enjoying the food. I don't believe it was a buffet but the menu certainly covered all that good old home cooking. I need to revisit the place to see if the food is still up to snuff.

                There are quite a few "soul food" diners in central and northeast central Durham but I can't remember names or location off the top of my head. I've had good meals in a few of them, bad meals in others.

                1. m
                  MOOKIECOOKIE Oct 27, 2006 05:30 PM

                  i'm no conoisseur on soul food, but i hated the rubbery, greasy chicken and styrofoam-textured bbq at current cafeteria. it was cheap, but a chinese couple owned it when i was there. i don't know if they still do, but... golden spoon restaurant is right down roxboro from there. it's near the walmart, in the end of the foodlion parking lot. i've seen it forever, but swore i'd never eat there... now i swear i will not judge a restaurant by the picture of eggs, bacon, and grits painted on the window. it was like $6.50 for sweet tea, some delicious fried chicken, two veggie sides and biscuits. how can a place that looks so terrible be so damn delicious????? try it and write about it!!!!!!!

                  1. c
                    chimchim Oct 28, 2006 06:57 PM

                    Mama Dip's is a tourist trap with very expensive, very mediocre food.

                    Bullock's BBQ bad? You surely must be joking! There's good reason why you'll likely stand in line at Bullock's!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chimchim
                      m
                      mclaugh Feb 6, 2007 04:16 PM

                      On my list of top 5 BBQ restos, Bullocks is #12 or 13, which is not to say it it's bad, just mediocre.

                      Hell, I took a few clients there for lunch a couple of weeks ago, and everyone ordered the chicken potpie!

                    2. c
                      chimchim Oct 28, 2006 07:03 PM

                      I can't understand for the life of me how Allen & Sons gets good reviews from some people. I've eaten there a few times, and it's been consistently horrible!

                      If you want good Q from a genuine log burner, I'd highly recommend taking a ride down Highway 70, to Goldsboro, to visit Wilber's.

                      1. c
                        chimchim Oct 28, 2006 07:07 PM

                        Stephenson's BBQ, on Highway 50 in Johnston County, has KILLER!!! homemade Brunswick Stew. Sadly, their Q is mediocre. Their excellent fried chicken is made to order with a 30 minute lead time.

                        1. d
                          dubedo Oct 29, 2006 04:19 PM

                          I once interned in a Chapel Hill office full of southern food devotees, and we made many lunchtime trips to the Village Diner in Hillsborough for the lunchtime buffet. A Google search tells me it is the "oldest continuously operating restaurant in Hillsborough." The lunch buffet was full of things like fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, greens, black-eyed peas, and banana pudding. I will be honest, I am a tofu kind of girl and while I liked the food I could not tell you how it compares to the mental ideal you all seem to have. But it might be a place to try.

                          1. carolinadawg Oct 29, 2006 10:16 PM

                            I wouldn't eat Bullocks Q if you gave it to me. I realy don't understand whay its popular. Their Brunswick Stew isn't too bad. Allen and Son's is excellent. For home style food like you are looking for, go to Dillard's, 3921 Fayetteville Street in Durham. Their Q is so-so, but the side dishes (mac n cheese, collards, etc) are excellent.

                            1. p
                              pcwd Oct 30, 2006 05:01 PM

                              I don't understand those who bad mouth Bullocks. It is the best BBQ around, and their family style meal is an incredible deal and a local institution. Particularly for someone who is new to the area, it is a great introduction to the local cuisine as you can try a bit of everything. I guess the more negative reviews it gets, the shorter the lines are for me...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pcwd
                                p
                                pgym Feb 18, 2007 08:05 AM

                                Best BBQ around? Surely you jest. Hell, Smithfield's makes better BBQ, and they're a chain!

                              2. w
                                waid61 Nov 4, 2006 12:36 AM

                                Now you have my attention if you make it to Birmingham, AL NICKIS or SMOKEHOUSE NEAR FARMERS MARKET. Outstanding country selection usually have 8 meat selections plus the best okra, fried green tomatoes, pinto beans,fried corn and collard or turnip greens. Dont forget the cabbage.

                                1. f
                                  foodies Feb 6, 2007 03:09 PM

                                  After 6 years of visiting the Triangle Allen & Sons is as good a cue experience as I have had. Don't get me wrong, I don't pass up a visit to Bullocks but the combination of environment (Allen & Son's is basically on the train tracks) and food has me picking them every time I can only get in one good meal. Their Chess pie alone is enough to bring me there. Bob Melton's in Rocky Mount frequently has me making a giant detour on my way back to NY so I can bring a cooler of real food back to the starving masses. Heck, this is Eastern Carolina Q, it's all Manna from Heaven!!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: foodies
                                    b
                                    brentk Feb 6, 2007 06:53 PM

                                    I thought Melton's closed several years ago.

                                    Have they re-opened?

                                  2. f
                                    FattyDumplin Feb 6, 2007 07:03 PM

                                    What about PanPan? last time i was there was 98 when i was still in college. but that had real soul food, even if the place was sort of a dump.

                                    and at the time, bullocks was awesome, although i'm not sure my taste buds at that point had developed much beyond the beast and dominos.

                                    1. peetoteeto Feb 7, 2007 03:18 AM

                                      Pan Pan had to close due to the widening of I-85. However, within the past few months it has reopened in nearby Northgate Mall. I haven't been, but my understanding is that it focuses more on seafood (Pan Pan Seafood is its new name).

                                      http://www.thedurhamnews.com/110/stor...

                                      1. k
                                        kurtzu2 Feb 8, 2007 05:39 AM

                                        No one has yet mentioned Cooper's BBQ in downtown Raleigh. Excellent BBQ, killer hush puppies, the other sides are ok. and a bottomless cup of very Southern-style sweet tea!

                                        I also think Allen and SOns in CH and Bullocks in Durham have very good BBQ. Pan Pan's BBQ used to be pretty awful; that place was always more about quantity of food and not quality.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kurtzu2
                                          s
                                          steveindurham Feb 8, 2007 11:29 AM

                                          Dillard's Bar-B-Q fits your request as well as the new cafeteria at Northgate. Another option is Current Cafeteria on Roxboro Road in Durham although breakfast is my favorite there.

                                        2. s
                                          supernc Feb 8, 2007 12:15 PM

                                          Pam's Farmhouse on Western Blvd. in Raleigh. They have meals very much like the Farmer's Market. Lottsa greens and okra, mashed potatoes and green beens.

                                          From Cary going into Raleigh, Powell Drive and Western Blvd.

                                          1. s
                                            sus Feb 18, 2007 07:42 AM

                                            hey, i doubt anyone is checking this post anymore...but the best southern buffet is a place called the Toot-n-Tell in South Garner N.C. you guys gota be kiding with this mama dips buisness

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: sus
                                              b
                                              brentk Feb 18, 2007 08:46 AM

                                              Toot-n-Tell is t-riffic! I haven't been there in a few years but it is one of the few buffets where you can get chitlins.

                                            2. t
                                              toolprincess Feb 21, 2007 09:39 AM

                                              DixieBelles BBQ in Apex has a nice selection of sides including collards. Their fried chicken is pretty tasty also.

                                              1. b
                                                Bengaliwife Feb 22, 2007 06:52 AM

                                                If BBQ is what you want, go to Stamey's BBQ in greensboro, nc. They have good sauce and their pork is chopped fine. Their hushpuppies are great too. It is about an hour to an hour and a half drive for you depending on where you live in the triangle. Stamey's is across High Point Road from the Greensboro Colisseum. You will see that they have wood stacked near their restaurant and smoke coming from a chimney. That is a sign of a true BBQ restaurant.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Bengaliwife
                                                  b
                                                  batdown Feb 22, 2007 07:19 AM

                                                  i'd like to second the stamey's recommendation. they catered my graduation party and it was awesome

                                                  1. re: Bengaliwife
                                                    carolinadawg Mar 13, 2007 06:27 PM

                                                    Not too flame, but I recently ate at Stamey's and was very disppointed...it was not good at all. No flavor to the Q, awful hushpuppies, and surly service to boot. I grew up in G'boro, and have eaten there hundreds of times in my life, and I'm afraid its gone downhill.

                                                  2. b
                                                    bbqme Feb 22, 2007 07:10 AM

                                                    Anybody been to Joyce and Family in Fuquay-Varina? They got a nice write-up by Greg Cox. Wish it wasn't sucha haul from Chapel Hill.

                                                    http://www.newsobserver.com/1132/stor...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: bbqme
                                                      b
                                                      blewgo Mar 13, 2007 03:13 PM

                                                      See my post below. It is great.

                                                    2. p
                                                      probono Mar 13, 2007 07:37 AM

                                                      The Barbecue Joint on Weaver Dairy Rd in Chapel Hill has great Southern side dishes. An ecclectic place for sure and they don't cook their barbecue with wood, but it is pretty darn good anyway. Their Gumbo is good, too.
                                                      A&M in Mebane is not far away and still uses wood, as does Allen & Son in Chapel Hill.
                                                      Also, Hursey's in Burlington uses wood, as well.
                                                      You can see that I like the real wood smoked barbecue, not the fake stuff that a lot of the 'joints' use.
                                                      Take a drive to Nashville, NC - about an hour east of Raleigh - for some good barbecue that is worth the drive.
                                                      Now please, somebody tell me where the best Mexican is located - near Raleigh, if possible?

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: probono
                                                        b
                                                        batdown Mar 13, 2007 01:59 PM

                                                        flying burrito in chapel hill is my favorite

                                                        1. re: probono
                                                          Hushpuppy Mar 13, 2007 06:39 PM

                                                          Where's the good barbecue in Nashville? Haven't been that way in years.

                                                          1. re: probono
                                                            LulusMom Jun 30, 2013 01:50 PM

                                                            Worth noting for those who are searching the board looking for places in the area that The BBQ Joint on weaver dairy is long gone. So is flying burrito (named below).

                                                          2. b
                                                            blewgo Mar 13, 2007 08:59 AM

                                                            Joyce and Family in Fuqua is exactly what the OP was asking for. Joyce does the entire southern cooking thing to perfection. Keep an eye on the buffet so that you can get the fried food as soon as it comes out of the kitchen.

                                                            http://www.joyceandfamilyrestaurant.com/

                                                            1. Suzy Q Mar 15, 2007 04:40 PM

                                                              Hear hear on Joyce and Family! And I have to agree with the poster who said that they've never been so disappointed as when they went to Mama Dip's - I wouldn't eat there again if you paid me.

                                                              1. h
                                                                Harvey777 Jun 28, 2013 10:59 AM

                                                                I moved to Durham 4 years ago and have yet to find a good country style buffet.The people around here do not seem to understand the concept of vegtables that are sweet and have a smoked flavor with sidemeat or good fried chiken and fried fish and the Barbeque here is just bad.When I go home to Georgia I eat at Old times Southern Buffet but there aren't any up here. I feel sure that a city the size of Raleigh has some good buffet but the problem is that its so large that if you don't know your way around it can be somewhat intimidating. Mama Dips is a joke and so is that chicken place right off UNC campus (time out),which supposedly has such great chicken biscuits.Don,t trust the food channel they lie big time.

                                                                8 Replies
                                                                1. re: Harvey777
                                                                  b
                                                                  burgeoningfoodie Jun 28, 2013 12:41 PM

                                                                  Buffets in general are joke and if you want southern food you should not look towards the chains.. Someone use to tell me to go to Country Junction in Carrboro, but the outside always scared me. Durham's bbq scene is lack luster but I hear good things about Backyard BBQ pit and well once The Pit and Ed Mitchell's other place open Durham will have decent Que but at higher prices. Southern food is not a durham specialty as far as I'm concerned. If you want a southern buffet go find a Golden Corral... Meat and threes are also hard to come by but you there may be some hidden gems in less than savory locations.

                                                                  As far as raleigh being too big.. I don't understand that. You find what you are looking for.. you put the directions into your GPS or google maps and you go. End of story.

                                                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie
                                                                    r
                                                                    Rory Jun 30, 2013 02:51 PM

                                                                    BF Country Junction is only open until lunch, but it is always packed. If I were a morning person I'd have tried it. It's really cool as the owners are Korean and cook traditional southern food. Love the South.

                                                                  2. re: Harvey777
                                                                    carolinadawg Jun 28, 2013 06:20 PM

                                                                    The BBQ at Allen and Son between CH and Hillsborough is excellent.

                                                                    1. re: Harvey777
                                                                      b
                                                                      bbqme Jun 29, 2013 09:04 PM

                                                                      When I lived in Tallahassee, FL we used to drive up to Thomasville, GA to go eat at the Market Diner next to the farmers market so I know what you're talking about, Harvey. The bad news is, they just don't Southern buffets up here like they do in south GA. The only Southern buffet I found was Ye Old Country Kitchen in Snow Camp, NC. It's not worth the hour long drive it would take you to get there, the food wasn't that good. You're better off eating family style, which is AYCE, at Bullock's.

                                                                      1. re: bbqme
                                                                        m
                                                                        mikeh Jun 30, 2013 07:45 PM

                                                                        bbqme and I share a Tallahassee history and familiarity with Thomasville's Market Diner. Honestly, it seems like farm-fresh buffets of that superior quality are limited to SC and GA these days. You can still find good meat-and-threes around here and there, but not the full spread.

                                                                      2. re: Harvey777
                                                                        m
                                                                        mpjmph Jun 30, 2013 10:37 AM

                                                                        Time Out is a place to go when you need food and time before going home after a night out. They do not claim to sell authentic or high quality Southern food, so I'm not surprised you were disappointed if you were expecting anything more than grease and carbs.

                                                                        1. re: mpjmph
                                                                          h
                                                                          Harvey777 Jun 30, 2013 02:21 PM

                                                                          That's not true according to the food channel.They said that the chicken biscuits were in the top ten in the the nation just like they said that Mama Dips was among the very best fried chicken in the country.What a joke! I've had better fried chicken at convience stores. Face it, when it comes to southern food this area of N.C. just out and out suxs.

                                                                          1. re: Harvey777
                                                                            b
                                                                            burgeoningfoodie Jul 1, 2013 09:36 AM

                                                                            Their Chicken Cheddar biscuits are just overhyped and huge. The issue is that the biscuits are doughy and undercooked or too large for what they need. You should just go to Bojangles or maybe Sunrise Biscuit kitchen if you are looking for something in morning or noon.

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