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Need Chapel Hill, NC restaurant recommendations

I am trying to find a nice restaurant in Chapel Hill, to which I can buy a gift certificate (as a thank you); however, I am not at all familiar with Chapel Hill and have no idea where to start. Any suggestions on nicer restaurants?

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  1. It really depends on how much money you want to spend.

    You can eat a full dinner plus a wine-tasting at Bonne Soiree consistently for about $105 a person.

    Lantern or il Palio probably for about $50-$70 a person

    411 West or Squids or Panzanella are good restaurants for about $30-$40 a person.

    1. Bonne Soiree and Il Palio are the best restaurants I've been to in Chapel Hill but of course they are priced accordingly - as fussycouple says, it'll cost about $100 per person at Bonne Soiree if they get all three courses + wine, and about $75 for Il Palio.

      My husband was given a gift certificate for $25 to 411 West, which completely paid for his meal and a bit of mine. We really enjoyed it too. It's a nice space with pretty good food.


      Do you know what kind of food your gift recipient likes? Obviously Il Palio and 411 West are going to be Italian and Bonne Soiree is French.

      I've never been to The Lantern (which is Pan-Asian) but lots of people seem to like it. I'm sure someone will come along and let you know what the prices are - they don't list any on their web site:


      There's also Elaine's on Franklin, which tries to be a little more 'hipster' and trendy, while Bonne Soiree and Il Palio are more formal and traditional. Personally I'd go to one of those two places before Elaine's though - I think the food is better and at those prices you want it to be worth it! You'll also notice that a lot of the items on the menu at Elaine's are cooked rare - that includes fish dishes too.


      1. My favorite Chapel Hill restaurant is a nice $$/$$$ restaurant, La Residence. I say $$ also because they have a bar menu in addition to the more expensive entrees. Your friends will be so happy!

        La Residence

        202 W Rosemary St
        Chapel Hill, NC 27516
        (919) 967-2506

        1. Lantern is about $40-50 per person (including wine) and totally worth it. I think anyone would be glad to have a gift certificate there.

          Also second the recs for 411 West and Panzanella.

          Truthfully, I would very much enjoy ANY meal that someone else has paid for! So I am sure your giftees will feel very thanked and very happy.

          1. Penang. It's a Malaysian restaurant right on Franklin Street. As a Malaysian, I think they do very good "Penang Chow Kueh Teow," and their curry mee and shrimp noodles are also well-done.

            431 W Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC

            4 Replies
            1. re: dkst0426

              I would absolutely avoid Penang -- one of the few meals I've sent back & had it come back worse.

              1. re: otto_pivner

                I would have to agree with this, Penang isn't on the same level as the other restaurants that have been mentioned. It also suffers from the same problem that other Asian restaurants seem to have in the South (compared to the Northwest or Northeast), that they try to include all Asian cuisines (Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc...) and not specialize in one, so they are all sub-par it seems.

                1. re: cheinonen

                  Agree on Penang. For the quality of food it is overpriced. Maybe it is just bad luck, but I have had very bad service there the three times I have been...I keep hoping it is better.

                  As I recall the sake is cheap...

                  1. re: inmybackpages

                    Funny........I've never had a problem at Penang. Service has been fine, and the food has been better than expected for a restaurant trying to serve Malaysian food in the middle of North Carolina.

                    cheinonen: I will agree with you on that one, and it's an unfortunate strategy any restaurant attempting to specialize in Asian food in the south has had to adopt.

            2. I second Lantern, it's one of the best meals I had while staying at the Carolina Inn on campus. If you can drive to Durham "Watt's Grocery" is a MUST!

              1. I'm with the others - an absolute no to Panang.

                Lantern, Elaines, Provence would be my choices.

                1. Good list going (except for Panang) and I'll add Glasshalfull in Carrboro to the list. If they like a variety of small plates and wine this place is great.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bbqme

                    Shame about all the Penang-bashing. Oh well. One man's meat, another man's poison.