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New Yorker working in Chapel Hill for a week


I will be going down to Chapel Hill for a week for work.

What restaurants should I be looking to eat at? Price really isnt an issue(thank you expense account). I will have a rental car, but am looking for places within a 30 min radius.

Also, looking to try some great North Carolina BBQ. Just did a stretch in Kansas City, so it will be nice to compare. Whats your favorite?


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  1. BBQ

    Allen and Sons. It has it's fans and haters alike but it's been around for about forever. They still cook with hickory only.

    BBQ Joint

    The Q Shack-Not really a NC style only but it's still really good.

    For when you're feeling a little more spendy Elaine's, Lantern, Nana's, or Magnolia Grill are winners IMO.

    If you're out late and hapen to have had a few too many a chicken biscuit at Time Out
    while maybe not "good" is somewhat of a traditon. I'm a fan of the Bojangles chicken biscuit and yeah I know it's a chain (NC based at least) but they don't have them in New York at least try one while you're here.

    Check out one of the tacquerias in Durham-Lopez, Los Comales, Superior.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LBD

      Seconding Allen & Son. That place has ruined me for any other BBQ.

      1. re: eliah

        Allen & Son is the best BBQ I've had anywhere. Just make sure you do the (closer and original) Allen & Son that's north of Chapel Hill up MLK Drive/Hwy 86, just a mile or so north of I-40 exit 266, NOT the one 15 miles south of town near Pittsboro.

        Make sure to get the pulled pork there, not the ribs. NC BBQ is all about the pulled pork. I like getting the bbq + brunswick stew combo. platter, which also comes with a side of slaw and hushpuppies. The tastes go together soooo well.

    2. Watts Grocery, Rue Cler in Durham or Lantern right on Franklin Street! and Stop into Locopops for dessert.

      1 Reply
      1. re: powershour

        Hmm, as a former New Yorker, I'm thinking you'd like Crooks Corner, definitely, they serve upscale Southern food, shrimp and grits etc...I'd go to the bar at the Carolina Inn, and then sit outside under the great porch with a drink and maybe food and look at the massive Magnolias, that totally wowed me...
        Southern Rail in Carrboro has incredible upscale food and those railroad cars, and the new bar have tons of atmosphere...

      2. Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill for a dressy meal. Perfect dishes, impeccable service. This is one of my favorite restaurants in the country, and I've been "around the bend" so to speak after living some time in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it stacks up nicely. Get the $25/person additional wine pairing and have a high-flying adventure with Tina, the co-owner and sommalier who will guide your selections with vibrancy and abandon.

        1. Did I read today that Allen and Son was voted #1 BBQ in nation by Esquire magazine? I've never been that much of a fan, but all you guys can't be that wrong!

          1 Reply
          1. re: wintersummer


            "Local BBQ named nation's best
            Allen & Son barbecue restaurant in Chapel Hill has been cited by Esquire magazine in its March 2008 issue as offering the best chopped-pork sandwich in the United States.
            The restaurant, which has been open since 1970, was cited in a 14-page special feature called "Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: The Best Sandwiches in America."

            Allen & Son is on N.C. 86, about a mile north of Interstate 40, at Millhouse Road. "

          2. As a local who was transplanted to NYC for a couple of years, I can attest that there is a sore lack of biscuits in the city, so I second the rec for one breakfast or lunch at Bojangles or at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen on east Franklin Street.

            Other lunch recs: Foster's Market (Martin Luther King, couple of miles from campus), Weaver Street Market in Carrboro in nice weather (organic co-op with great lawn for long slow lunch), Cosmic Cantina (Franklin St). Weaver Street would also be great after work on a nice sunny evening, you can sit outside and enjoy a beer or some wine and whatever snacks your heart desires, while reading the paper or just watching the street life in Carrboro.

            Definitely second the rec for Lantern (west Franklin), which has Asian-inspired cuisine with emphasis on fresh local and organic ingredients. I think this would be especially good because Lantern has a great cozy bar in the back where you can get the full menu - if you are dining alone, this would be an excellent place to do it. Panzanella in Carrboro (Carr Mill Mall) would also be a good choice - Italian-influenced menu, very fresh and simple preparation. Panzanella is good in general, but it also has a friendly Carrboro atmosphere and I think would be a good place for dining alone, either at the bar or not.

            I hope you enjoy yourself - a week in Chapel Hill, with several good relaxing meals, could be a great vacation from the city.

            1. Not exactly a restaurant but if you enjoy shopping for gourmet food and kitchen items you need to check out A Southern Season. They also have a deli, bakery, coffee bar, etc.

              1. I agree with the recommendations of Allen and Sons, Lantern, Elaine's, Crooks Corner and Southern Season (for shopping and eating in the Weathervane, their restaurant).

                In addition, Sandwhich is a great lunch choice. Their food is so delicious. Only problem is that they are only open until 4 every day!

                Also if you want some really authentic Mexican food, try some of the late night taco trucks, Tres Amigos, or Don Jose Tienda, all of which are in Carrboro. Fiesta Grill is a great choice as well.

                Lastly for wine, I recommend going to Glass Halfull in Carrboro or West End Wine Bar in Chapel Hill.

                1. Yes, Allen and Sons definitely for BBQ. It's made plain, and you add sauce if you want. That's the way, IMO, pork should be - if it ain't good enough to stand on it's own, it ain't worth eatin'. And that's the way I make it at home, and the way I eat it 90% of the time. Pig made right is proof that God loves us. Also get hush puppies. Forget about the calories - you MUST get hushpuppies (more proof of divine love!).

                  I *won't* recommend Southern Rail. Had an extremely disappointing meal there just a few days ago - DO NOT get the pulled pork sandwich there if you do decide to go. Pick anything else, and go to Allen and Sons for your pork. I think this restaurant is trying, but they haven't pulled it together quite yet.

                  Elaine's is good but a bit pretentious without a real reason to be, IMO. It's also loud, due to wood floors and no soundproofing on the walls.

                  Foster's Market (http://www.fostersmarket.com/) has decent sandwiches for lunch but don't get anything with bean sprouts on it - sprouts that are anything less than 100% fresh are bitter, and I've had that experience there twice. I'm done with that. The catering they do is quite good, though - have had good experiences with that at work.

                  If you are up for it, come to Hillsborough and hit Panciuto for dinner (http://www.panciuto.com/). IMO it's a bit pricey for what you get, but I'm sure it's reasonable by NYC standards and it's a nice place. It's upscale Italian.

                  Another upscale Italian place is Il Palio (http://sienahotel.com/ilpalio/). Love it - really good, and great service, but again pricey by local standards.

                  If you are up early, hit Valour's patisserie in Hillsborough. They serve breakfast - I haven't had full service there, but I have had their croissants and pain au chocolat (AKA Chocolate Bombs - huge and full of bittersweet chocolate) and they are gooood - the place is owned by a Frenchman from Lyons. They'll give you a morning-long buzz though, lol.

                  And having eaten lunch by myself frequently at the Weathervane's bar in Southern Season whilst taking a break from running errands, I can heartily recommend them for a midday meal. The bartends are friendly, attentive and knowledgeable and I've never been disappointed by the food. They also have a salad bar in the store and lots of other takeout stuff, so if you have a fridge/microwave in your hotel room and don't feel like going out, you can get some good stuff there, along with a nice bottle of wine.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: romansperson

                    Pancuito gets my hearty recommendation as well, you can search this board for my review of it.

                    Bonne Soiree, Lantern, Fearrington House, and Magnolia Grill are all local restaurants with international reputations.

                    My views on local bbq have been well documented in these boards, again, I recommend a search for more than you could possibly want to know about people's opinions here on BBQ.

                    I will concur with romansperson as far as Southern Rail, Elaines and Fosters are concerned, none of them are worth the time of a person from out of town.

                    If you are here for Sunday brunches, I strongly recommend the brunch starting at 11:30 at Il Palio at the Sienna Hotel, or the Dim Sum at Hong Kong on Guess Rd in Durham.

                    Don't miss Merritt's Store for a BLT, another local "country store" that has an international reputation.

                    Good bars include Dead Mule Club and Spice Street.

                    If you have a hankering for fresh seafood, the only really good local place is Squids. I will note in passing that they have no corkage fee, and that A Southern Season is about 2 blocks from them...

                  2. Add my vote for Magnolia Grill in Durham. My husband and I go here for our anniversary every year. And you can eat at the bar if you're dining solo. On the downside, It can get a little loud. Have a great stay in Chapel Hill.

                    1. Allen & Sons for BBQ, definitely, but be forewarned: unless you get take-out, don't expect to have a cold one with your sandwich, unless it's cold sweet tea you're after. At least that was the way it was the last time I ate in - and that was some time ago.

                      There are some great recs - the bar at Lantern is definitely worth visiting - their food is good - I know some think it's great, but I actually prefer the Asian fusion at Joojoobe (spelling a bit off) next to Bin 54 on Highway 54 on the outskirts of Chapel Hill. They do a Tuesday night tasting menu at the bar. I hear if you've got $$ to spend - which you seem to - and like steak, Bin 54 is the place to go.

                      Definitely Los Comales on Roxboro for tacos, etc. You can go far on $5 there. It's a bit of a haul from Chapel Hill though.

                      I've always been a big fan of Nana's food, even though the dining experience is a bit too precious imo, so we tend to eat at the bar. The last time we went, it was good, but not great.

                      Do try either Rue Cler or Piedmont for a real Durham dining experience. You get to see a bit of the town as well. Good vibe in both places. You could check out a movie at the Carolina Theater afterwards - mostly art flicks.

                      1. This thread makes me realize how lucky we are to have so many great places of various cuisines and price ranges. For a place with a small to moderate size population it really is quite impressive.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bbqme

                          As I was just walking back from the new Locopops location in Raleigh devouring my popsicle I was just thinking of that very thing. How lucky are we to have such great food at so many price points spread throughout the Traingle.

                          I haven't had the bar-b-que at the Bra-b-que Joint but I really like their bacon.
                          If I am ever in Chapel Hill for lunch and have a little money in my pocket I like Sandwhich followed by a popsicle at Locopops which shares the same courtyard.

                        2. Thanks for all your suggestions.

                          We ended up going to Crooks Corner, Dillards BBQ, Spice Street, Elaines on Franklin, and Papas Grille.

                          Some were better than others but overall some good dining experiences.