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What's New in Chapel Hill?

I'm a Chapel Thrill native but have lived in georgia for the past couple of years. I've heard about a load of new places that have opened up since I've moved - what should I not miss when I go back this summer? Looking for a place for at least one nicer dinner (but not crazy expensive, would like to get out for under 40 dollars a person). Also, any new eateries or mom n pops? I will of course be hitting my old haunts (alfredo's and k&w baybee!) but if there's a new place that is particularly tasty downtown I'ma check it out.

last time i was up, there was a bubble tea place on franklin. I'm guessing this closed since bubble tea is absolutely disgusting.

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  1. There's not much going on on Franklin Street, though there is a new bakery in the place where Julian's used to be. It's called Sugarland:

    http://www.sugarlandchapelhill.com/in...

    There have been mixed reviews on this board about it. I've not been over there yet.

    There's also a new place going in where Jersey Mike's used to be on S. Columbia - it's a 'gourmet' burger joint called Buns. Hopefully they'll open soon - they were supposed to open last week, but no signs of such yet. It always seems to take longer than the original estimates.

    There is still a bubble tea place on Franklin too!

    16 Replies
    1. re: romansperson

      nice! I'm looking forward to checking out Buns. hopefully it will be open this summer.

      1. re: batdown

        Buns is open now. Haven't been yet, but plan to try it soon.

        1. re: romansperson

          I tried it last week. It was decent. Buns is the sort of place I really want to like: local ownership, locally made buns, fresh beef, handmade patties.

          They have a nice selection of toppings and I like that they offer turkey and veggie substitutions. My burger was ok. They have to cook to medium and that always diminishes burger quality for me. It was at least as good as a burger at Suttons (my current CH lunch standby). Range of available toppings is wider than Suttons too.

          Fries (handcut?) were tasty and the side portion was enormous.

          1. re: brokegradstudent

            I was just there today and very much enjoyed my burger. I agree with pretty much everything brokegradstudent said: good topping selection, sadly-medium-cooked burger, at least as good as Sutton's. I will probably be going back, since a good burger can be hard to find (at least for the $4.50 or so it cost me, without fries/drink).

            My one complaint was that the patty tasted overtly black-peppery, which I'm not used to, but it wasn't precisely bad, just a bit odd.

            1. re: eliah

              Tried Buns for the first time tonight and was pleasantly surprised. The toppings were plentiful and varied (even had avacado as a choice) and the meat quality was quite good. The portion sizes seemed huge...I was stuffed with a single and cannot imagine eating a double or triple.

              At this point, I'd say Buns tops Sutton's (though, the Sutton's history and ambience will make me return there, too).

              1. re: jsb23nc

                Went to Buns last night. The burgers were great -- high quality beef cooked perfectly. They had a huge selection of burger toppings and dipping sauces for the wonderful fries. Plus, with drinks (a beer and a glass of wine), dinner for the two of us was under $20. When the students get back I predict there will be a line out front. The service was great, too and they told us they'll be staying open until 3AM beginning end of summer.

      2. re: romansperson

        Sugarland is dreadful. I doubt they will be able to survive selling high-priced cookies, cupcakes, and brownies that are worse than your average supermarket mix.

        1. re: Sinophile

          I agree! I've tried Sugarland 3 times and desperately wanted to love it because I am a huge sweets person but unfortunately their desserts (except for the gelato) are just plain bad!

          1. re: orthoFoodie1978

            Ooo, I totally agree. I wanted soo to like Sugarland too. But cold cupcakes: yuck. And the frosting literally tasted like I was biting into cold butter. When I took the first bite, the entire frosting blob lifted up off the cupcake and slid into my lap--still fully intact. Boo. so disappointed. Coffee was okay though, and it's a pretty shop.

            1. re: kimgirl

              The gelato's good, if one doesn't want to drive all the way to Durham for Francesca's.

              1. re: guenievre

                The gelato is good - but this is something that I've been wondering about for a long time: have you ever had BAD gelato? I mean, there's pretty much only one way to make it. I've had gelato at sugarland, that place next to pop's in chapel hill north, and the place in southern village (blanking on names here). I've also had it in Rome. Guess what? It all tasted pretty much the same. Maybe I havent tried "good" gelato yet (or maybe i havent tried "bad" gelato), but to me it seems like gelato is good because it's gelato.

                1. re: batdown

                  That, I'll grant you, although there is something to be said for flavor selection - yes, gelato is gelato, but there are interesting things one can do with it occasionally. Like the Mexican Chocolate (chocolate with cinnamon) gelato I had @ Francesca's years ago and *hope* happens to be a flavor of the day every time I go there, even now (and it never is).

                  1. re: guenievre

                    Yes, you can mess up gelato. I've had gelato with no flavor or flavors that tasted artificial. I've gritty gelato and icy gelato. I've had it served rock hard cold

                    While most gelato can be all right, there are places that can leave you in a state of drooling idiotic bliss. Try Vivoli or Grom in Florence. Try Dolcezza in DC.

                    It all tastes the same? Blasphemy!

                    1. re: dinersaurus

                      yeah, well like I said, it may be that I just havent had the breadth of gelato experience in order to be discerning. I've had gelato in NC, GA, and Italy, and it was all good. I've never had it be icy or gritty, and truth be told I've only ever had two flavors (classic pistachio and lemon), just because that's how I roll.

                  2. re: batdown

                    The gelato at the Italian restaurant that was in Brightleaf Square (is it still there?) was definitely a few notches below what I've had at other places, so yes it's possible but usually not the case.

          2. re: romansperson

            I didn't like Sugarland much. The cupcakes I tried were just not that tasty. It strikes me as a cutesy place. I much prefer Bull City Bakery in Durham--their spice and Red Velvet cupcakes are delicious.

          3. I know the bubble tea place (Chill) is still open, because I just got one two days ago. Not everyone thinks bubble tea is absolutely disgusting.

            3 Replies
            1. re: tamalesfordinner

              I guess its pretty obvious that I'm in the minority when it comes to bubble tea. but above and beyond the fact that chapel hillians are apparently enjoying this strange food/beverage hybrid choking hazard, I'm actually surprised that its still open because of the location. for years I was convinced that that space on franklin was cursed. I think I remember it being a soft pretzel place, and then about a dozen businesses were in and out in the span of a couple years.

              anyone know what went into the old peppers space?

              1. re: batdown

                The old Pepper's space is now a chicken place - Cluck-U Chicken

                http://www.cluckuchicken.com/location...

              2. re: tamalesfordinner

                I love that place!

              3. In Carrboro, you should try Neal's Deli for lunch, get a pastry at Meil's in Car Mill Mall, and then dinner at Glasshalful (across from Neal's and Open Eye Cafe).

                4 Replies
                1. re: bbqme

                  thanks! I've been meaning to check out neals. what do you like there?

                  1. re: batdown

                    i'll chime in - egg salad and corned beef were great. Corned beef was very fatty, if you don't mind it that way. I trimmed off the fat myself and enjoyed it more.

                    1. re: batdown

                      I've tried their italian sub and manhattan so far and both were really good. They get bread from Guglhupf and their cold cuts from Giacomo's in Greensboro and they make their own pastrami and corned beef.

                      Their sides are pricey though: $3-4 for a small bowl of cole slaw or potato salad is too much.

                    2. re: bbqme

                      Neal's is a very welcome addition. Food's great and Sheila knows what she's doing.

                    3. You must go to Locopops! It is fast becoming a local phenomenon, as they opened the Durham store about 2 years ago and already have added Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Hillsborough locations! We love Locopops! http://www.ilovelocopops.com/

                      For a light lunch before the popsicle-trying binge, we like Sandwhich. It's pretty new, they have unique sandwiches, and they use a lot of local ingredients. Based on their website, it looks like they may also need some more customers. http://www.sandwhich.biz/

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jkw

                        What Sandwhich needs is a new place to do business ... the owner of the building and the owner of the land the building's parking lot is on are having a very silly and protracted fight, which affects all the businesses there ...

                        http://www.newsobserver.com/news/oran...

                      2. What about Lantern on Franklin St? Great food (I think it was featured in Bon Appetit?), local ingredients, asian fusion, hip and sexy bar

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: KnewInTown

                          I've had some of the best meals I've ever eaten at lantern. Every time I go to Chapel Hill I eat there my first night in town.

                          If the coconut braised pork shank is on the menu get it.

                          1. re: amdoyne

                            I love the Lantern too, but they really need to change up the menu a little bit more. I eat mostly fish, and they've had the same darned fish entrees on there for 4 years now.

                        2. batdown, if you can swing it you want to try Bonne Soiree, too - it's in the Courtyard complex where Locopops, SandWhich, etc. are. It'll be above your $40 price point, but my husband and I went last night and it was just excellent. We had a bottle of wine, first and second courses (no dessert - we were stuffed by then) and total with tip was about $150. The food, service and ambience are all wonderful. Absolutely worth it. I had a goat cheese souffle as my first course, which was presented on a bed of mixed greens. To. Die. For.

                          1. Definitely try out Neal's Deli if you have the time... it's new, and it's amazing...

                            1. As somebody who works downtown and has to eat out most every day, I give a B to Buns. The choice of Burger toppings is great, but the burgers themselves are pretty average.
                              The fries are better at PTS. I
                              love the idea of Sandwhich but I've never really enjoyed my meal from Sanwhich. To me it just seems they always go a little to far.
                              The guys who do the BBQ joint up in Weaver Dairy are opening a new place in the same mall as Red Lotus. Not sure of the ETA though.
                              I am a Sugarland fan. Their coffee is great ( pricey, though) The gelato is as good as any I've had in the US, and while I don't love all of the baked goods I've tried at Sugarland, the make a fine croissant and the chocolate cake is incredible.
                              I am a New Yorker by birth, and was not terribly impressed with Neals. In Carrboro, I do like Glass Half full, though they can be inconsistent, and Milltown.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Lauren T

                                i agree with lauren re: sugarland. the gelato is very, very good -- the machine used to make it was not cheap and very italian. all of the gelato i've had there has been jam-packed with flavor.

                                the new barbecue joint will be open sometime in the fall -- hopefully early fall. for those of us who enjoy the current location this is an exciting change. i'm not sure we've had the pleasure of seeing damon "unleashed" since the henry's bistro (memories...) days.

                                i finally got to neal's deli. i found what i had very good, though i will have to work through more of the menu before making a final evaluation.

                              2. wow, the 1000-pound elephant is missing from this thread so far. Namely, the chef de cuisine of Magnolia Grill in Durham for the past 5 years just opened up his own place on Franklin Street. It's called Cypress on the Hill.

                                http://www.cypressonthehill.com/

                                Looks very promising.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: mikeh

                                  I swear I drove past there three times today and didn't notice it (old Trailshop building between Ham's and JimmyJohns/Vespa, right?). We may try to do apps and drinks this week.

                                  The menu looks good but (and this is a pet peeve of mine) with all of the wonderful meat being produced in the area, why use Niman Ranch for meat, particularly after their falling out with Bill Niman over quality and animal treatment.

                                  1. re: mikeh

                                    Looking at their menu, nothing elicited a "wow, gotta try that" response. But I hope they do well...

                                    1. re: bbqme

                                      I think the menu looks great, and the next un-committed paycheck, I'm there! Good for Alex... super-scary time to open a restaurant, but I wish him well.

                                  2. don't go to sugarlands - definitely not worth the time
                                    don't go to Cypress - even more depressing than sugarlands

                                    if you want a nice bar & good hang out - go to crunkleton, west end, maybe even Lantern.

                                    for the nice dinner, definitely recommend Bon Soiree or Lantern - everyone else is pretty much lame on franklin street.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: foodie922

                                      I had a really nice dinner at Elaines a week ago. Hadn't been in a while because the menu hadn't appealled any time I'd walked by, but this time was different. I enjoyed everything, and there was a lot more on the menu that interested me. I'll be going back soon.

                                      1. re: foodie922

                                        What's wrong with Cypress? I had a very good meal there recently. The appetizers and entrees we had were very, very good. I like the clean, bright interior too.

                                        On the other hand, the dessert we tried was disappointing and the espresso was scorched. Still, the quality of the savory part of the meal was terrific, and we plan to return.

                                        1. re: dinersaurus

                                          I thought Cypress was just ok. I'll give it another try though, because every place has an off night. Still, at those prices you need to be careful not to let that happen. It *is* a lovely space.

                                        2. re: foodie922

                                          Can't drop that kind of coin every time I want to eat dinner out. I think 411 West and Med Deli offer good food at moderate prices. Mint is a fine Indian restaurant-- and on Fridays and Saturdays they have live sitar performances! And I agree with Lulu's mom about Elaine's.