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Jul 28, 2007 04:35 PM

Chapel Hill...where should I have eaten?

I went bike riding in Duke Forest today and wanted to head over to Chapel Hill to get a cold beer and something eat afterwards. Not being all that familar with CH, I didn't really know where to go. Didn't feel like BBQ or mexican, and wound up at Ham's. I hate going somewhere knowing I could have gone somewhere better, so I'm wondering if someone can suggest where I should have gone. That way I'll know next time...somewhere relaxed and casual with a good beer selection. Thanks!

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  1. dip's country kitchen! i haven't lived there in about ten years, but i'm sure it's still there. crook's corner is delicious too.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ebbatten

      It's obvious you haven't been around in ten years because Dip's sucks now. In a bad way. When you come back, don't bother wasting your money.

      1. re: goodeatsinadive

        Agreed! I have never understood why everyone raves about Mama Dips. I actually haven't eaten there in probably about five years because it was nothing special in terms of the food, way overpriced, and didn't have the friendly Southern atmosphere I expect. I'm a Yankee, but even my husband, a native North Carolinian, does not like Mama Dips at all. Very overrated.

        Mama Dip's Kitchen
        408 W Rosemary St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

    2. Tyler's in Carrboro or Carolina Brewery would be good choices for a bite and a brew.

      Here's a link to the beer mapping project

      11 Replies
      1. re: Tom from Raleigh

        Thanks! Carolina Brewery would have been perfect. Love the beer mapping project info...that will definitely come in handy!

        1. re: carolinadawg

          The guy behind the beer mapping project used to live in Chapel Hill. He now lives in Chicago, but keeps up with us Tar Heels (and even Dukies like myself).

          Milltown is another good bet. It's between Tyler's and Carolina Brewery.

          Mill Town
          307 E Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510

          1. re: peetoteeto

            Mill town is great for beer, terrible for food. the food at ham's is better than there. i actually like ham's fried pork chop.

            as for the much mentioned sausage plate - that's not even real sausage, it's more like a big hot dog, and not a good one.

            1. re: fara

              I'm really surprised by the poor reviews of food at Milltown. I believe y'all...not doubting it. My experiences to date have been good, but who knows, it could be all that high alcohol beer dulling my taste buds.

              Kidding about that.

              I want to try it out for myself to see if I agree with some of your reviews, but heck, I *don't* want to go if the food is lousy!

              1. re: peetoteeto

                go ... go! The last few times, one meal was bad and the other was fine, so I dont' think it's a universal problem. I keep hoping that they'll get it together, although one of the times I couldn't eat more than one bite of my sandwich (a special - fried catfish po boy), and the waiter asked if it was ok, and when I told him no, he kind of shrugged and said "oh, sorry." Not as if they seem to care a lot, is it? But give them a chance.

                1. re: peetoteeto

                  I too feel that their food quality has gone down some since I first started going there. I used to be a huge fan of their mussels, but lately they haven't been up to par. I've had the same experience with their burgers as mentioned by the others on here but the sausage plate has always been satisfactory. I still like the place though, and will be back... just not nearly as frequently.

                  1. re: peetoteeto

                    let me re-phrase so that you understand why people love this place (and it is great on a warm night - they have outdoor seating). the beer is fantastic - great selection of great beers.

                    but don't go expecting good food. i'm happy if it's edible.

                    --->to rossgrady, "sausage plate" indicates multiple sausages.

                  2. re: fara

                    It's *two* sausages, one bratwurst & one kielbasa. Neither is a hot dog. Neither is as good as the sausages from Brinkley Farms, but that's not something I'd expect from a bar.

                    The burger can be really good, but for some reason they have real bread issues at Milltown. The bun on the burger is nearly always somewhat stale. Once it was so stale that it made me sad and I mentioned it to the bartender & he went to the kitchen and found their secret stash of non-stale rolls (perhaps they were in the special "staling bin" where they store the bread until it's stale enough to serve, I don't know) and brought me one & it transformed the burger into one of the best in town.

                    This is also why I never order the overpriced Guglhupf bread basket; it's like they get it at the "Guglhupf day-old bread factory outlet" or something.

                    The pretzel roll that comes with the sausage plate is pretty good, though.

                    I tried the catfish po boy once as well. I won't be trying it again.

                    If they could resolve their bread issues, and leave off abusing fishes, they'd be pretty rock-solid. As I mentioned earlier, the carnitas sandwich was a total messy guilty-pleasure delight, and the burger with the good bun was one of the best around. Meals like those, plus the beer & the proximity to home, are what keep me going back.

                    1. re: rossgrady

                      "staling bin" - OK, i almost spit my decaf at the screen with that one.

                      I actually think the buns are a little too big, but you know, maybe it IS just that they're stale.

                      Sorry to hear that I wasn't alone on the catfish po boy. Unfortunately I think it is on the regular brunch menu, which means other are being subjected to it on a regular basis.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        I'm really surprised to see all the hatred for the catfish poboy, for some reason it really hits the spot for me...I guess this speaks to the hit or miss nature of the more adventurous items on the Milltown menu.

                        1. re: inmybackpages

                          I don't really think of catfish po boys as adventurous, but I'm glad to hear that it isn't universally horrible. Mine was so undercooked that it was glutunous (sp?) inside. Catfish can be like that, so people who cook it normally make sure to cook it enough. And the fries ... why-oh-why can't they send them out crispy??? I always ask for them extra crispy, and the wait staff sort of warns me that they might not come out that way, and then bingo, they don't.

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. I'd suggest Milltown in Carrboro, sister restaurant of The Federal in Durham - but unlike The Fed, no smoking allowed.

                1. re: Rory

                  Ditto Milltown; it's where I had dinner + a beer tonight. It's not quite at Federal's level in terms of the food, but if you stick to the core items on the menu (the burger (make sure you ask for a fresh bun), the sausage plate, basically anything involving lots of meat & a starch), it's quite tasty. We had a carnitas sandwich from the special menu tonight; it was coated in cheddar cheese & jalapenos, and thus was better if you didn't think to yourself "carnitas" and instead thought "sinfully tasty pork+cheese+peppers sammich."

                  If you see something on the special menu that strays too far away from that basic meaty gut-shot level, you're taking a chance if you order it, but as I said, if you stick to the basics, you'll be full & happy (happier, IMHO, than if you'd gone to either Tyler's or Carolina Brewery).

                  1. re: rossgrady

                    I do like Milltown as well, though I'd be interested in *recent* Chowhound takes on Carolina Brewery. I believe Chef Andrew Foster has done a nice job with new and seasonal menu items. Been recently? It's pretty darn good.

                    1. re: peetoteeto

                      I think Carolina Brewery's beers are terrific. I'm ahuge fan of their Funky Monk ale. The food can be hot or miss, but ot been far more hits than misses in my experience.

                      1. re: bbqme

                        I like their beers better than most brewpub beers, definitely. It's been a long time since I've been there (their beers are available in several local bars, which is where I've generally had them) . . . so I don't recall . . . do they also have "guest taps" for other beers, or are they 100% Carolina Brewery beers? Their beers are good enough that it's not as much of an issue, but it's worth noting for folks who're coming through town in search of beer.

                        1. re: rossgrady

                          Carolina Brewery does not have guest taps. They do, as you mention, offer a wide range of beer styles -- though the aforementioned Funky Monk (a Belgian) is a seasonal offering. People wanting Belgian and Belgian-style ales will have better luck at Milltown or Tyler's.

                          To possibly further this thread a bit, what's the deal with the Carrboro train track project? I thought some guy from DC / Tar Heel grad was going to open a new venture, but that was a while back. I really like the new platform look.

                          1. re: peetoteeto

                            Mike Benson who graduated from CHHS and who owns Cafe St X in DC is opening that spot. Mike is a very good guy and it should do well. He knows the business and has the image that will do very well in that location.

                            1. re: tommio

                              It's supposed to open within the next month. It *looks* great. I'm excited about it.

                      2. re: peetoteeto

                        I've always been disappointed in Carolina Brewery's food (I think I mentioned the butterflied strip steak in another thread). I'll have to go give them another try... any suggestions?

                        1. re: SenorSuarez

                          I think the seasonal menu comprises their best offerings:
                          (menu is a PDF


                          I recently had the calamari with kimchee, great with their Flagship IPA. Also ordered the Giacomo Cured Meat plate after hearing great things about the artisan offerings of GSO-based Giacomo. The plate didn't really do much more me, however.

                          1. re: SenorSuarez

                            My husband and one of our friends think that Carolina Brewery's nachos are consistently the best they've ever had. And they eat a lot of Nachos.

                            1. re: SenorSuarez

                              If you give them another try... I'd recommend the muffaletta. (I think it may be only on the winter menu.) I really like it, though I'll admit that until then I'd never had muffaletta.

                          2. re: rossgrady

                            LOL at "sinfully tasty pork+cheese+peppers+sammich" . What a great description! I'll definitely have to get some of that.

                            1. re: carolinadawg

                              Milltown should have definately been at the top of my list. It has the best combination of food and beer selection of the three.

                              1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                I was a huge fan of Milltown, but recent trips haven't been up to scratch. We'll still keep going (and hoping they improve) because it is a great, relaxed atmosphere with a fantastic beer selection. But the foor recently ... not worthy.

                                As for Carolina Brewery, I do like their beers very much, but somehow the food isn't really satisfying. I do like the onion rings, but for the most part the other things I've gotten (and we live walking distance, so I've been a LOT) just aren't that great. But keep in mind that I eat almost no red meat, so I may be missing out on the best menu items. I had high hopes when the new chef came, but can't say they've been met.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  Yeah, as I mentioned above, I try not to be seduced by the non-meat-heavy dishes at Milltown . . . even the mussels, which I used to really like, haven't been too great the past couple of times.

                                  My girlfriend has had fairly good luck with the veggie plate on the specials menu lately, though, so much so that she actually suggests Milltown as a dining option fairly frequently. Which suits me fine, as I can eat the burger or the sausage plate pretty much anytime ;-)

                                  1. re: rossgrady

                                    is it just a veggie plate Ross? I don't really eat at Milltown as it is so meaty & I do expect Carrboro/Chapel Hill to do well by us vegetarians. I have a lot of great meals, but do tend to stick to places I already like.

                                    Actually LulusMom you should say something, to Carolina Brewery or at Milltown. Who knows I might go in then.

                                    1. re: Rory

                                      I am *always* happy to ask about having more choice for vegetarians/pescetarians.

                                      As far as Carolina Brewery goes, I don't think its really worth the trouble. Bad vegetarian food isn't what we're looking for, right? I feel kind of bad slagging them, because it is a comfy place to sit and have a beer, but I'm just always disappointed in the food.

                                      1. re: Rory

                                        It's nearly always on the specials menu nowadays, and nearly always $11-12. Four veggies, generally, and I suppose a generous person would suggest that the variation in the selection indicates they're whatever's fresh (and a cynic would suggest whatever the produce man had for cheap). Last time we were there I think there were fried green tomatoes, some sort of potato, some green beans or asparagus, and some mashed sweet potatoes. Or something along those lines; my girlfriend always gets it, but I haven't had it myself yet.

                        2. I am adding my support to those in favor of Milltown. It doesn't rank as the best food I've ever eaten, but it's far above edible particularly when compared to Ham's and the Carolina Brewery. I always been very pleased with what I've gotten and it has an incredibly pleasant atmosphere. I also find they have a good variety of veggie options and I didn't even know about the veggie plate special. Thanks to Mr. Grady for pointing that out.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: ncpearl

                            Ross, thanks for the discussion I applaud getting local veg but for sure they can do better than that. Tomorrow this foodie is cooking Gumbo Z'herbes, recipe courtesy of Chowhounds & using local (& cheap) greens, or how about a gourmet Portabella burger.
                            Milltown is losing custom. Half of us are veg & we want to go;-)

                            1. re: Rory

                              I don't think the veggie plate is the only veg option -- there's some sort of risotto, and some kind of mushroom thing, both on the regular menu, and I haven't tried 'em. Of course, my inclination would be to avoid them, but heck, for all I know Milltown may be a secret vegetarian haven & we just don't know about it.

                              Someone should perform an exhaustive study of this subject, but I only eat at Milltown maybe once every 10 days, so I may not be the best candidate.

                              1. re: rossgrady

                                I have to add that the mushroom gratin at Milltown is really good. It usually has many more veggies than just mushroom, great cheeses, drizzled with balsalmic and you get a salad with it. Give me that and the frites as an app and I'm set for the evening.
                                I personally like Milltown, the food isn't quite to the standard of say The Federal, but it's still quality pub dinner with a great beer and wine selection and a fun patio. What more are you looking for?

                                1. re: Lucydevil

                                  I will have to try the gratin. I personally have been dissapointed with their meat selections, but I mean, they have the best beer selection in all of Chapel Hill (as far as I know), as well as outdoor seating.

                          2. Far and away, Crooks Corner!! Maybe not the same place as back when Bill Neal had it, but still unique with good eats and bevs!!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: battster

                              I absolutely LOVE their Sunday brunch. Dinner is usually a bit expensive for my tastes, but it's my favorite thing to do in CH on a Sunday morning.