I'm a regular poster on the New York region board, and am making my first trip to the area over July 4th weekend.
I know this is broad, but please give me a few "don't-miss" spots for barbecue, good Southern breakfasts, perhaps a nice old-fashioned bar (in a hotel?) or lounge. I'm not looking for Mexican or Thai, but rather good American Southern cooking. Can be cheap or mid-range.
Thank you all in advance!
I must admit to having a love-hate relationship with Allen & Sons. I have been there countless times over the last 30 years and my experience has ranged from sublime to mediocre.
My conclusion is that it all depends on who is around and who is waiting on you.
When it is "on," the BBQ is among the best in NC; when it is "off," you will wish you hadn't gone.
I disagree with the recommendation of Allen & Sons. I find this review to be right on the money: http://hkentcraig.com/BBQ8.html
If you want good NC barbecue, go to Bullock's, in Durham. Better yet, if you have time for the drive, go to Wilber's, in Goldsboro.
Chapel Hill is really not part of North Carolina.
As you can see from the reply's, asking people in the triangle for BBQ preferences can be difficult. I will get disagreements, but if you are looking for a one stop shop for southern food/bbq then I would send you to Bullocks in Durham. It is not the best, but I would consider it authentic for BBQ/Fried Chicken/Collards etc. A similar place like Bullocks on the other side of town would be Knightdale BBQ and Seafood.
If you are looking for straight up BBQ then I agree with the Allen & Sons and Cooper's recommendations. Cooper's in downtown raleigh will give you that vibe you are looking for. Allen and Sons is quite a hike from Raleigh.
Raleigh Times Bar is not old fashioned but it is in an historic building in downtown Raleigh that was once the home of an old Raleigh Newspaper. Great old b/w pictures on the walls, excellent bartenders, and great bar food. Highly recommended, especially if you are a Belgian beer drinker.
I am very partial to the barbecue at Allen and Son in Chapel Hill. Not only is it just about the only area 'cue still smoked properly over wood, but A&S also makes decent onion rings, a killer cobbler with homemade buttermilk vanilla ice cream, and rock-solid pecan pie and chess pie. Their barbecue sauce is quite unique--it arrives at the table heated and I would not be surprised if there was some butter in there along with the vinegar, spices, etc.
If you hit Big Ed's for breakfast, get some grits with redeye gravy. And some biscuits. They're all some good.
Is Big Ed's still open for breakfast/lunch at the City Market? Now that's southern!
As for BBQ - Q-Shack is a chain, there's one at North Hills (Six Forks & 440). It's just ok. The ultra quaint roadhouse one that I like is on Chatham going towards Cary (away from Raleigh). It's opposite the RR tracks. The hush puppies at the farmers market are good and it's good if you like fried seafood.
We have this conversation fairly regularly. The mysterious truth is that there are not many "don't- miss" Southern eateries around here, and not many Southern eateries period. The best-known -- Mama Dips and Crooks Corner -- are pretty roundly disliked. The best NC-style barbecue in the Triangle is at Allen and Sons in Chapel Hill, but even in this case there may be some debate as to whether it's worth your drive. Many people like the Q-Shack in Durham, but there's not much that's North Carolinian about it.
I wish some enterprising restauranteur would correct the Southern food deficiency. I believe there is good deal of money to be made in a restaurant that serves "good American Southern cooking" -- Mama Dips but better. The problem, I think, is that the most talented chefs all want to work in a haute-Southern style, as at Magnolia Grill and so forth.
re: David A.
I am from NC my whole life, and David's statements ring true with my impression of the Triangle Hound consensus. If we want good plain southern, we go to the farmers markets and cook at home.
On the upper end, I would definitely recommend Magnolia Grill, which is a Durham institution.
For breakfast, the country ham biscuits at the State Farmers Market Restaurant in Raleigh are awesome, and Big Ed's is nice for eggs, livermush, biscuits and molasses.
And I really like the sides at the BBQ Joint in Chapel Hill, even though I think Allen and Son's has better Cue.
re: Chapel Will
Only thing I'll add is when it comes to Southern breakfast you're in a little better shape than dinner. This is the biscuit-belt after all. Everybody has their favorites, and the preferences vary pretty widely, interestingly enough.
I'll agree with Will about the Farmer's Market country ham biscuits.
I like Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen (Chapel Hill) alot - pretty good biscuits/gravy. Drive-thru only.
Biscuitville is also very good, and they have several outposts.
Heck, even Bojangles is admittedly quite good.
As for 'cue, if you don't have a specific preference for Eastern NC-style, then I might suggest Rub's Smokehouse in Morrisville. Best brisket I've found here, best ribs, and a very sound pulled pork, although I still give the nod to Allen & Son's in that department.