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May 3, 2007 08:48 AM

Durham/CH grad weekend

I remember seeing a post last year about this but can't find it. Have a child graduating from Duke on 5/13 which is also UNC grad. and Mother's Day. Because he's very laid back we have been playing it by ear as to where to eat but now he is freaking out because "everyone has reservations". Any recommendations on where we might be able to get into? I know a lot of places never take reservations but I don't know if I want to wait hours for a table! We are staying at the Sheraton on 15-501 but will go anywhere in the Durham/CH area but probably would like to avoid downtown CH as I know how crowded that can be on big weekends. Only food he's not real big on is Indian. Thank you all!

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  1. I got a reservation last year close to the last minute at Parizade...but it wasn't a great experience. One suggestion, if you're willing to drive, is to look into options in Raleigh. As long as it isn't also NC State's graduation that weekend, you might have luck out there. Plus, you'll have the advantage of avoiding a ridiculously overpriced fixed menu, which a lot of the durham/ch restaurants will be doing.

    You might also check a place like Piedmont, which might not be well known enough in the duke undergrad world to be filled up. Although I'm not sure if they're even open on sunday nights.

    1. It's not fine dining , but try to grab a meal at Mama Dips in CH . Best fried chicken you will ever have !

      1. I would second the rec for Piedmont, they are open Sundays, though they can be pretty crowded on a regular night. The atmosphere is pretty laid back and the food is really good. If you decide to come towards Raleigh I would recommend Porter's or Fraziers, both on Hillsborough street across from NC State. Fraziers is more high-end then Porter's, but both offer excellent food.

        Another option might be to keep it casual and hit a mexican place such as Fiesta Grill or taqueria Lopez, if they are open on a Sunday.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jean9

          Piedmont is a good suggestion. I'd add Rue Cler also. It seems that downtown Durham won't be hit as hard as 9th st. or downtown CH.

          1. re: brokegradstudent

            Carolina, dook, and State all have the same graduation weekend. So, your options for reservations may be a bit limited (I think Carolina and dook graduate on Sunday with State on Saturday). Plus, you do have the Mother's Day problem, too.

            I'd TRY these options in Chapel Hill--Crossroads (within the Carolina Inn), Acme (in Carrboro).

            In Durham, I'd try Pop's (Brightleaf Square) and Piedmont.

            1. re: jsb23nc

              I think the other poster's suggestion of Cary is a good idea. I think both Crossroads & Acme are going to be crammed to the gills, with Crossroads being especially impossible to even navigate to, given its location on UNC campus.
              In Chapel Hill, I suppose the stuff up at Timberlyne (the very mixed-reviewed Dream Catcher Cafe, the pretty good sushi joint Oishii, & of course the Barbeque Joint) might be less overrun, though only the Dream Catcher is really fine-dining (and is probably the only one of the 3 to take reservations). BBQ Joint is closed on Sundays, I believe.

              The downtown Durham places might be marginally less slammed than the ones over near 9th, but only because out-of-town parents might not know about them yet. Folks who live in Durham are all over 'em.

        2. It may serve you well to look outside of Chapel Hill and Durham. There are several fine eating establishments in Cary and given none of the area universities are located there I bet they won't be nearly as busy. I bet it will be well worth the extra 15-20 minute drive there.

          Do a search on "Cary" for threads with suggestions.

          7 Replies
          1. re: bbqme

            Tupelo and Pancuitto in Hillsborough are options as well.

            1. re: steveindurham

              I second the suggestion of Hillsborough. Saratoga Grill is lovely. Having worked in several of them, I would recommend avoiding Durham and Chapel Hill restaurants that weekend. Mobbed, and not on their game. Some very few gouge, and others are just so overrun that the experience is not what they would wish to be judged by.

              1. re: steveindurham

                this is the best option. churton street will appear downright serene compared to the madhouses you'll find in r, d or ch. panciuto is wonderful and the saratoga grill would be another option. there is also a new orleans inspired restaurant (blanking on the name) for a more casual but still quality experience.

                1. re: batdown

                  If you do go the Pancuito's route, I recommend getting a reservation for that weekend or any weekend, as they have seen a bump in business since the N&O article a few weeks back.

                  1. re: runder

                    Went to Panciuto's last weekend and although the place was beautiful the food was so salty I couldn't eat it and they tried to get us through the restaurant in 45 minutes. Not a good experience.

                      1. re: alexig

                        I have been to Panciuto several times and no one has ever rushed me out. I usually stay 1 1/2 hours or so. What did you eat that was salty? I have had their shrimp and pasta, pork, salads, and some other stuff, but it has not tasted salty to me. Maybe it was an off night, I have been to Elaine's and had lousy service and not so great food, but I gave them another try - much better the second time.

              2. don't need no reservations at Mama Dip's : )
                salmon patty, turnip greens, okra, squash casserole, and killer sweet-potato pie

                3 Replies
                1. re: Doodad

                  i would expect dips to be extremely crowded. if they take reservations, i would make them

                  1. re: Doodad

                    Sorry, but I'd eat at Mickey D's before I'd go back to Mama Dip's. I've rarely been to a more overrated (and therefore disappointing) place in my life.

                    Echo the posters who said to try Cary and the Raleigh 'burbs - Lotus Leaf, Bistro 64, Maximillians...there are lots of decent choices.

                    1. re: Suzy Q

                      I agree with you about dips - it certainly isnt what it used to be. when miss council moved into that new space on the other side of rosemary the food prices doubled and the quality went down noticeably. still, it's packed on weekends, mostly of people who remember when and are indulging in a little denial.

                      for an idea of how good dips used to be, everyone should make an effort to check out her daughter julia's restaurant: