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nice birthday dinner - chapel hill, raleigh, durham

It's my boyfriend's birthday next week and want to take him somewhere really nice for his bday - a place with great food and ambience...I don't live in the area, so I have no idea where to take him and searching past posts didn't really help. I've heard that Magnolia Grill is good, but I would love your recommendations. We both love meat, seafood, ethnic...anything really, as long as it's good! Thanks for your help!

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  1. I think Elaine's (on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill) is really good for ambience and intimate dinners - it has that kind of candlelit lean-across-the-table feel. The food is delicious, also (there's a menu on the website, http://www.elainesonfranklin.com/). And then you are in walking distance of the Lantern, which has a very sexy bar for cocktails before or after.

    1. Agree with both of those recs in Chapel Hill... would add Mag Grill and Four Square in Durham and Vin and Fraziers in Raleigh. Request Robin or Erin if you go to Elaine's. Mag Grill, though, isn't necessarily the most romantic restaurant in the world...

      1. Totally agreement on Elaine's, and Magnolia Grill. Very good food at both, and I think they're both romantic (although perhaps Elaines a little more so, just because it is smaller and quieter). Also a fan of the Lantern, although I am not sure I'd call it romantic. If he is a steak lover, Bin 54 would probably fit the bill. And I'd add Piedmont and Rue Cler to the list ... they're both hot places right now, and maybe a little more bustling than you'd find romantic, but they're have great food and if that busy-ness doesn't bother you, then I'd even call them romantic.

        1 Reply
        1. re: LulusMom

          bin 54 is a great place to eat for 2. very romantic atmosphere, and the food, although very expensive for what it is, is masterfully prepared

        2. I'd put Four Square into the mix. Maybe a small notch below in the food department but much more intimate ambiance than Mag Grill.

          1. I would Starlu in Durham--great food, quiet atmosphere, and great service. MAgnolia Grill can be really loud and I found the food to be less than what I would want for the money honestly.

            2 Replies
            1. re: maisimai

              has starlu improved? i've only been there for lunch. Both times the food was completely uninspired. For instance, at a work lunch i had a southwestern-style chicken burger (or it could have been turkey) with 'tortilla strip 'fries''. I thought these 'fries' would be thick cut tortilla fritters, instead they were regular, from-the-store tortilla strips. served with ketchup. the service was also terrible. my friend used to cook there and he said that the food and service suffered because of an overly egotistical and overall poor chef/manager. In fact i thought i heard they were out of business?

              1. re: maisimai

                We knocked Starlu off our list 10 months ago due to cruddy service and sub-par food. It's such a shame because we loved it when they first opened.