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Cheap Soul Food in Durham/Chapel Hill area?

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My husband and I are new to the region and love the regional dishes. We've eaten at Crook's Corner, which was delicious, but we're looking for something that's authentic and cheaper. Anyone know of a good southern/soul food restaurant in the area?


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  1. We Triangle Hounds have had several discussions on this subject in the last year, and the general consensus is as follows: If you want good, inexpensive southern/soul food, go to one of our great local farmers markets, get some great local ingredients, and cook at home.

    A possible exception may be a restaurant in Snow Camp - west of Chapel Hill. I also really enjoy the southern sides at the BBQ Joint. You should search the Board for recent posts.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chapel Will

      the BBQ joint is really inconsistent. I've had great mac n'cheese there and other times it's been seasoned with the same herb and bread crumb stuff they fry their vegetables in (which has a pretty strong flavor and does nothing for the mac.)
      also, the ribs were awful and dried out.
      the fried tomatoes and fried zucchini were in these huge thick slices, which I mean, i'm not southern but I don't know of any culture that fries things like that. kind of yuck. plus the seasoning not so good.
      i've also had the baked beans which were good if you like lots of pork.
      the desserts are very good, but everything is so expensive i can't say I'll go back anytime soon.
      there was a post on southern food in the triangle by mikeh a little while ago. complete breakdwon with photos.

    2. I think that Mama Dips in Chapel Hill is good for some things. Their fried chicken is very good but I think that the rest of their menu can be a little hit and miss. I also think that most of their menu is a couple of dollars too expensive.

      In Durham I recently ate at the Libery Cafe and was very impressed. I had Beef Ribs, w/two sides and sweet tea for $6 tax in. For sides I had the field peas which were excellent (although it was my first time ever trying them) and potato salad (which was not bad). The Liberty is located in dowtown durham on Rigsbey (I think) and I believe that it is only open for breakfast and lunch.

      Hope this helps.

      1 Reply
      1. re: durhameater

        I've never had any luck at Mama Dips...anytime I've tried their FC I've been disappointed and all the sides were terribly disappointing.

      2. 2 options would be Current Cafeteria on Roxboro Road (variety of specials every day) with drink for $ 5. I would also recommend Honey's restaurant on Guess Road.

        1. The choices are oddly limited and unsatisfactory. I don't know if Bullock's qualifies as "soul food," but that's probably as close as you're going to get to what you're looking for. The only really good Southern cooking I've experienced in North Carolina was at the Red Rocker Inn, in a town called, I think, Black Rock, somewhere in the mountains. We have nothing comparable in the Triangle.

          I have been invited to join a friend for dinner at Mama Dips this weekend. I haven't been in three or four years. I will of course report back.

          1. Has anyone here tried any of the soul food places located in "black" Durham (for lack of a better descriptor)? For example, I'm finding listings for:

            Roy's Kountry Kitchen - on Fayetteville Street
            The Know Bookstore & Restaurant - also on Fayetteville Street
            Liberty Cafe - downtown Durham
            JC's Kitchen - near downtown Durham
            Home Plate Restaurant - East Durham, Wake Forest Highway
            Golden Spoon - N. Roxboro

            A google search will reveal a sparse smattering of reviews, all of which however purport that these places have good soul food.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mikeh

              Liberty cafe (I always knew as Liberty Diner) was pretty good. I believe it's closed now. It was for a while at least.

              The Know Bookstore is pretty cool.

              1. re: mikeh

                The Know didnt impress me much at all...and way too cramped.

                Golden spoon is great for breakfast, but has all the ambiance of a very whitebread rest home.

                I recommend driving into the less frequented areas of downtown Durham near fatyetteville st or alston ave, or even Driver st. and just stop where YOU feel comfortable. some of the best ones are the little stands.

                saturdays and sundays are good times for this, as there's families out and about.

                also friday afternoons, and saturdays are good days to troll around the churches that are inevitably having fish frys!

                1. re: tommio

                  Avoid Mama Dip's at all costs. I was dragged there again last week by some in-town friends who insisted on it, and it was as terrible as always. Bland food, indifferent preparation, and too expensive. I'd do as Chapel Will suggests and take that cash to the Farmer's Market.

                  1. re: tommio

                    Any idea what their hours are at Walt's? I've driven by dozens of times and thought it looked good but it never looks open.

                    We're also Ye Olde Country Kitchen (Snow Camp) converts. The only problem we've had there is that timing matters a bit. Since we eat the buffet, it has been better at standard meal times.

                    In this cuisine, I really like the pinto beans at Martha's on Hwy. 87 btw Eli Whitney and Saxapahaw.

                    1. re: brokegradstudent

                      I've only eaten there for lunch and I know it's served at least the five week days.

                      1. re: brokegradstudent

                        Glad you like Ye Olde Country Kitchen. In fact I think I started the thread about it here last year. I've become a particular fan of their Sunday lunch buffet - it's classic Southern and they seem to pull all the stops for it. Sometimes I think it may be a good thing that I'm a bit out of reach of ready access to their weekday lunch buffet (it's either $6 or $7 for all-you-can-eat homecooked goodness). If the drive were 5 min. instead of 45, I'd be 100 lbs heavier right now!

                        That said, definitely looking for something a bit closer to home where I can swing around the corner to pick it up on the way home from work - and something that doesn't seem to come out of a can, like most places around here do, Mama Dips included. Seems that Pam's Farmhouse in Raleigh is the closest place that does it right, but they are only open for breakfast and lunch.

                      2. re: tommio

                        Where is Walt's Grill? Is it the place on Merritt Mill?

                      3. Check out Red Onion off Lakewood Avenue in Durham -- it's on Fayetteville St. in a strip shopping mall -- had lunch there Friday -- very good. They've got a meat and two veg special; I got four veg plate with cornbread (OK cornbread, I make better) -- vegetables were very tasty. Something like $6 with drink for lunch....not bad!

                        1. Found a gem of a place last night called Backyard BBQ on Hwy 55, south of I-40 just past the Golden Corral near RTP. Apparently this used to be AW BBQ, before which it was Lewis BBQ. In any case, the same guy is running the kitchen, and I tell you, these people really pride themselves on their food and really care about their customers. It's semi-cafeteria style, although for the fried foods (chicken, fish, okra) they fry 'em up fresh for you. We told them it was our first time, and they generously offered up samples of their BBQ ribs and pulled pork. The pork is cooked the way it should be - over hardwood (oak and hickory) coals for hours. I really liked the meat - it's probably my second favorite in the area below Allen & Son, but the home-cooked veggie sides they have really hit a home run with me. I'm all about southern veggies cooked with fresh ingredients (not canned), and the collard greens are the best I've been able to find in a 15-mile radius of Durham. The mac n cheese used REAL CHEESE, not the fake stuff, and the yams were also a stand-out. This is great - I can get a veggie plate (four) there for $5 and don't have to drive all the way to Joyce's in Fuquay-Varina anytime I want homemade southern veggies. Every other customer who was there at some point during their meal exclaimed how wonderful the food was. We did the same. Even though it was cafeteria style, everyone working there checked with us periodically during our meal, asking how we were liking everything. I really appreciate the genuine attention to quality and wanting to satisfy their customers. "I wouldn't serve food any less good than that which I would make for my own family." That's something that no amount of money can buy.



                          Backyard BBQ of Durham
                          5122 Nc Highway 55, Durham, NC 27713

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mikeh

                            If the barbecue is cooked on wood, it's certainly not cooked on the premises because the location is within the city of Durham.

                            I live near there and will have to try it soon. I did eat at that place when it was doing business as Lewis Barbecue.

                            1. re: Chow Penguin

                              according to an old review, it's cooked out back in a special pit house, 20 feet from the restaurant itself. Perhaps they were grandfathered in?