Best in Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Durham
I'm trying to compile a list of restaurants that I must try at least once while I live in CH for school. I know that there are numerous posts that people randomly list their favorite restaurants but I thought it would be nice to have it all in one place for newbies, visitors, etc.
Agreed. ACME used to have a really great "fancy" burger, but the last time I ate there it was so terrible I haven't been back (PLEASE, someone tell me things have changed).
I'm a big fan of the Sunday/Tuesday night pizza + beer special at Italian Pizzeria 3.
The Lantern serves up a delicious fried flounder (whole)...and their smoked dishes are always great.
Here's a few of my favorites in the area:
Carrburritos - Burritos
Tyler's Taproom - Burger, Fries, Beer
Pepper's Pizza - House Stromboli
Sandwhich / Neal's Deli - Sandwiches
The best BBQ in the Chapel Hill area is Allen and Son, between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough on Highway 86. May be the best in the state.
Whenever I visit my sister-in-law in Chapel Hill, my kids make her take us to Carrburito's!! Awesome for just about anybody!!
i'd like to echo the usual recommendations like crook's corner, lantern, and allen & son.
I only get back to the triangle a few days a year now, but when I want pizza, I go to Alfredo's Pizza Villa. It might not have the atmosphere that Pepper's does (although now that peppers has moved, im sure its not the same), but the pizza and calzones are much better IMO. When I want Mexerican food I hit up carrburritos for the nachos (so good) or El Rodeo (the brightleaf location is much better than the others). And when it comes to chicken, I go to Time Out. Time out has a well-deserved reputation for being greasy and grimey, but I really do think that they have the best chicken.
Also, I ate at Southern Rail last time I was home and it was excellent. I hear they have juggled chefs, though. The space alone makes it worth checking out, however. It's inside an old refinished rail car, and the service was extremely friendly.
I used to be such a big fan of acme, but havent been back in years and I hear it's really fallen off. Oh well. Happy dining!
Also, I feel you on the squid's happy hour. Speaking of seafood, Tom Robinson's in carrboro should be getting softshells fairly soon. I cannot tell you how much I miss Tom Robinsons now that I live in a town with a harrowing and significant seafood deficiency (athens)
Locopops, Locopops, Locopops. No list about the Triangle is complete without a reference to this place. If you think cutting edge & popsicles, don't go together, you will learn differently.
Sandwhich is another great find. Their BLT is excellent as is most other things I've had from there.
Panzanella: really reasonable food. The Weaver St. Market connection is nice. My wife loves their chocolate chile bread pudding.
Favorites in Durham, not in any particular order (for food and atmosphere):
Vit Goal Tofu Restaurant
Papa Mojo's Roadhouse
City Beverage (Lava Lounge)
I agree about cosmic. When I was at UNC, it seemed like everyone I knew was wild about the burritos. I found them to be dry, bland, and about twice as expensive as they should have been. The quesadillas were much better (but really, have you ever had a BAD quesadilla?). I don't see why the place is still in business, frankly.
I like Cosmic Cantina's burritos. The ingredients are simple, simply prepared, and I like rice & black beans and prefer them a bit "dryer" than some places like Carrburitos does them. I like their quesadillas too.
And I like Spanky's. Spanky's has very good quality beef, Montana ranch antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and it has good flavor and texture. Admittedly, mostly I think of it as a burger joint, and I'd probably pass on the Sunday brunch, but there are some things there that are as good as you'll get anywhere else around here. They also serve Carolina Breweries Copperline Ale.
Top of the Hill has good beers they make themselves, and the food is decent. Yeah, the location is excellent, and you're partially paying for that.
gosh. I have to disagree with you about top of the hill's beers. their pale ales and bitters never have any bite and each one I've had tasted metallic. The other ones arent much better. The thing I really can't stand about top of the hill is that they only carry their own beer, and only present you with 3 choices or so. It's either one of the bad pale ale-style beers, some syrupy barleywine kind of thing, or a 4.50 lager style beer that's about as interesting as a miller lite.
the food there is a different story though IMO. I've had some really bad dishes there (the mediterranean platter being the one that comes to mind), but also some really great stuff too, like their flank steak and their sweet potato cheese fries.
I can't remember the last time I ate at spanky's but they get a pass because I don't think I could imagine franklin st. without spanky's, the rat, peppers (boo to moving it), franklin st pizza & pasta, and coffee shoppe. Out of all of those places, none are very good food-wise, but they've become local institutions and nostalgic favorites. After all, no one goes to the rat for the food, they go for the carolina spirit that oozes from every filthy corner.
also, I forgot to mention one of my all-time faves in chapel hill - Charlie's Chinese. Is it still there?
Charlie's closed down quite a while ago. A lot of folks were sad about that one! I tried the restaurant that went into the old Charlie's space, Red Lotus, and it was fine, but I'm not sure if it is there anymore either.
As for CH/Carrboro recs..
BBQ - BBQ Joint, Allen & Sons...Bullock's in Durham is also worth the drive
Mexican - Fiesta Grill...and we're done here...though I like a cookie-cutter Mexican restaurant like Torero's as much as the next guy
Seafood - Squids for the more refined seafood or the much improved Dockside restaurant for fried/broiled platters and such
Breakfast - Ye Olde Waffle Shop, Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
Steak and Cheese/Gyros - Philly Steak Factory (not technically in CH or Carrboro but close enough)
I also enjoy Tallula's, but i have not been there in almost 2 years.
Red Lotus is still there....the claypot dishes are pretty good, but some of the other stuff is a bit too greasy for me.
this was also a bit too greasy for me, but some of my chinese friends really like gourmet kingdom. It's new, and it's got a huge chinese menu. It's mostly szechuanese food. It's not really my thing, but I liked the tea smoked duck there.
Here's the explanation of why the Rat closed:
I don't think there's anything there right now, but have not checked recently. All the equipment, furniture, etc. was sold at auction back in February:
As it says in both links, there are so many problems with the building that it is very unlikely another restaurant will open in that space.
Thai: Twisted Noodles in Durham (get the green curry, chicken larb, and papaya salad).
Indian: Sitar in Durham (mainly for the dosas... otherwise it's good but average indian food)
Middle Eastern: Baba Ghannouj in the Courtyard in CH is great. Best hummus in town by a mile.
Tacos: Los Comales in Durham. The pupusas are great too.
Steak: Bin 54 in Chapel Hill is fantastic, but pricy
Sushi: Waraji in Raleigh is totally worth the trip. There is not another sushi bar around that can compare in quality.
Mexican: Fiesta Grill in Chapel Hill has great whole fried fish, plus good ceviche tostadas
Biscuits: Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill
Pasteries: Gugelhupf in Durham
BBQ Beef Brisket: Q Shack in Durham. Great hushpuppies too.
I know there are places that are missing, but that should get you started.
Add to your list the taco trucks that park in Carrboro. We had supper at the Fitch Lumber taco truck Friday night, it was superb. Fantastic chicken tamales, pork tacos and quesadillas. Find yourself a car to lean against or opt for curbside dining on the wooden pallets next to the sidewalk. Service is fast, the people watching enjoyable, and the food's even better than Fiesta Grill.
I haven't gone to the Cliff's wagon, yet, since we're normally in there to buy chorizo for the grill. Mmmm, fresh chorizo...
Anyway, the Fitch Lumber taco truck advertised their prices Friday, I think the tacos were $2, same for the tamale, and don't remember the quesadilla other than it's porky succulence.
Another vote for Fiesta Grill - get the "Mexican tacos" with carnitas. For sushi, I still really enjoy Akai Hana in Carrboro, although Sushi Yoshi has some nice options too. Acme's pretty popular for Sunday brunch. I rediscovered Margaret's Cantina the other day - had an excellent dinner there. And you can't miss Mediterranean Deli on Franklin - everything they serve is incredibly fresh and tasty! Tupelo's in Hillsborough is a nice change of pace. We go west to Mebane for Mexican food fairly often - La Fiesta (Mebane Oaks Rd) has great Mexican Chicken Soup. La Cocina (Hwy 119) is famous for the camarones chipotle and an excellent salsa verde. Another favorite is Spartacus in Durham (South Square) for traditional Greek recipes.
I agree on the Fiesta Grill. They make a pretty great ceviche, there's plenty of free chips and salsa. Hmm...I really like to go there on the weekends (that's the only time you can get ceviche). The menudo's alright, the Seafood soup is great (the only bummer here is that they use immitation crab) and the portions are big. I've liked most things I've eaten there.
A lot of people say the mole there is pretty good, and I agree.
My second recommendation, for tacos and tamales, is Tres Amigos. I appreciate the fresh tortillas and the fact that there's fresh tomatoes in addition to the normal cilantro and onions that you get on a taco.
I would avoid all the chains, try each pizza place on Franklin at least once (Franklin St, Peppers, IP3), Carrburritos, Cosmic is nothing but cheap thrills but not very good to me, give the newly established Kitchen a try, and right next door hit up Fosters Market, I've only been to Acme once but it was good. Do try Bonn Soiree for a very nice date. Try Weaver Street for baked goods and a hearty weekend breakfast. Do try a BLT from Merrit Mill on Columbia and any Sandwich from SandwHich. While we are on the sandwich post, do get a Pastrami or Corned Beef on Rye from Neal's Deli. Med Deli is great for just about anything Mediterranean, Do try Mint Indian. Check out Southern Season and Weathervane. Give Saffron (in East 54) and One (in Meadowmont) a shot. Give Elaine's a try if you can budget it as well as Lantern. People swear by the biscuits at Sunrise Biscuit Company and apparently the chicken Cheddar Biscuit at Time Out. Do try the chinese menu at Gourmet Kingdom. Fiesta Grill outside of Carrboro and also Saxapahaw General Store, Try Nantucket Grill, Jujube
Durham has equally exciting opportunities.. Revolution, Tylers (you can do the one in Carrboro), Federal, Pop's, Rue Cler, Vin Rouge, Watts, Four Square, Los Comales, La Vaquita, try places like Chosun Ok and Vit Goal Tofu, Mami Nora, Backyard BBQ Pit on hwy 55, Dos Perros, ScratchBake.. pretty much any of the mobile truck offerings..
I guess if it were me now that I'm looking at what I'm writing.. I'd say try to sample as many of the non chain places in the area as you can. I tend to stay away from Spanky's and places like that.. don't know why just do. If you like beer, try all the microbrews too like Top of the Hill and Carolina Brewery.
Rue Cler Restaurant
401 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
2107 Allendown Dr Ste 101, Durham, NC 27713
Four Square Restaurant
2701 Chapel Hill Rd., Durham, NC 27707
2103 N Roxboro St, Durham, NC 27704
737 9th St, Durham, NC 27705
711 Rosemary St, Carrboro, NC
General Store Cafe
39 West St, Pittsboro, NC 27312
131 S Herlong Ave, Rock Hill, SC 29732
722 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292
301 E Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510
5826 Fayetteville Rd, Durham, NC 27713
100 E Main St Ste C, Carrboro, NC 27510
45 Newnan Station Dr Ste C, Newnan, GA 30265
200 N Mangum St. Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701
Try Bonne Soiree for a true culinary experience. Chip is a master chef and Tina is wonderful with her mastery of the front of house and wines! Let her select for you, trust me.
Crossroads at the Carolina inn
Allen and son
Orange leaf for frozen yoghurt
Tylers visit the beer store next door
Ye olde waffle shop
Tres amigos in carrboro
Anything at the carrboro farmers market wed afternoon, sat mornings
Amante for the best pizza
Sunrise biscuit kitchen
Top of the hill
Any of the taco trucks
Provence in carrboro best fish dishes
Baileys for pool and football,
Kitchen in timberline
Bonne Soiree Restaurant
431 W Franklin St Ste 10, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
I wasn't aware that I couldn't place on the list places I like and didn't know about until I moved here. I'll be sure to secure your approval first next time. This is someone who is going to be a freshman so I figured some non-expensive places that have been consistently good would be appreciated. Again I'll try to ask you first before I post my opinions to make sure they're okay.
Sorry that came about the wrong way Bayard. Was definitely not trying to be a dictator. Just figured the OP was looking for things that weren't a chain, but if that were the case I'd have to tell him not to try Krispy Kreme. I'm sorry for coming across as rude.
2706 Watson Blvd Ste A, Warner Robins, GA 31093
Yeah, I really wanted to like Spotted Dog, but just couldn't. And for me Top of the Hill was kind of like dining on a cruise ship or Holiday Inn - low on atmosphere and very middle of the road food.
Bayard - that is why they make chocolate AND vanilla. We all have different likes and dislikes. I don't think BF was trying to disparage you.