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Durham, Raleigh, W-S, Greensboro, Charlotte

Some colleagues and I will be in NC for 10 days. Most of it will be spent at Duke, where we will be enjoying cafeteria food for most meals. A small group of us will be traveling through NC afterwards. So, I'm looking for two recs per cities listed above -- one pricy and one less so, but both wonderful. Of course we're interested in having some excellent BBQ, but we're also interested in trying other things too. As we're all coming from So Cal, we're not interested in Mexican/Latino or Asian food. Otherwise, we're completely open-minded. Thanks so much for your recs!

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  1. Charlotte: I suggest for your pricey meal you go for Ratcliffe on the Green. It's uptown and w/ a local southern focus. Very good. www.ratcliffeonthegreen.com

    For a more casual resto, I would recommend Mert's Heart & Soul uptown. Soul/lowcountry food and they are celebrating their 10 anniversary. www.mertsuptown.com

    Another fave in an interesting part of town is Lulu's on Central Ave. French flaired local food in a casual bistro setting. The mussels and frites are fabulous as is the pimento cheese topped burger w/ fried green tomatoes and jalapeno relish. Yum!


    1 Reply
    1. re: lynnlato

      Charlotte Restaurant : Nolen Kitchen & CRESCENT BAR AND LOUNGE

      I've been here twice and I plan to return. This place is REALLY good. Fresh prepared / fresh ingrediants and perfect service with a heck of a wine list. Ok - The Guiness is served in bottles, but other than that, you can't beat the upscale swank of this place in little old Charlotte! Prices are really reasonable considering in a more urban sophisticated city they would probably be about 33% more! Ambience is fetching too!

      Favorite Dish: Fried calamari rocks. Sandwiches are good (I had the curry chicken sandwich). I had a risotto that was pretty decent. Their Sweet Potato Bisque was heaven unequaled. Consider this if you are looking for fine upscale food in a small quaint southern city. Good enough to be in Chicago or Boston. Good... and attentive service to match!

      Theme: Eclectic/International
      Comparison: about average
      Prices: US$21-30 per person
      Phone: 704-372-1424
      Address: 2839 Selwyn Avenue Charlotte, NC 28209
      About a 12 minute drive from Tryon and 3rd. Worth finding!
      Website: www.nolenkitchen.com

    2. Winston Salem seems a little behind on the restaurant front but Meridian on Brookstown or Ryan's (not the chain) are good choices for pricey. West End Cafe is a good bet for a more casual experience. Their food is consistently good and prices are reasonable. I wish I could say that there was somewhere you absolutely HAD to try while here, but unfortunately, this town isn't quite there yet.

      3 Replies
      1. re: starvingtoo

        Certainly it's "not there yet" if the only places you can mention are boring ones like Westend and Meridian. What about The Cotton Mill, Christopher's New Global Cuisine, and Milner's?

        1. re: renaissancegrrl

          West End is a wonderful spot for lunch, very casual, but tasty. Good sandwiches and salads. Nothing special, but then W-S is not really a food destination.

          Ryan's is to be avoided, IMO. Not good food.

          If I were from CA, visiting W-S, I would think a trip to Lexington #1 BBQ to be a must. It's not far to drive, and gosh darn it, Carolina BBQ is just real good food.

        2. In Raleigh for the pricey try Enoteca Vin or Poole's Diner, both owned by the same woman. The food is well thought out and made with quality ingredients, with a nice selection of by the glass wines. Also, The Pit has very good BBQ served in an upscale setting, even though one might miss eating it in a cinder block building.

          In Durham if you only have time for one upscale meal try Magnolia Grill, one of the best gourmet Southern restaurants in the area. It has not only provided the area with excellent food but alumni of Magnolia own and run some of the other top restaurants in the area.

          1. in winston I would rec cue - mr. bbq, try the meat and three on third street for friend fish o fried pork chops(help with the name winston chowhounds)go somewhere to get a carolina dog - probably skippy's downtown maybe milners cotton mill or sweet potatoes on the upper end. I would assume you want meals that hint of the south so I would recommend against ryans and meridian.

            In greensboro try giacomos - not southern but great subs featuring housemade salumi. If you want a southern meat and three type meal try stephanies though I can't vouch for the quality myself. Not sure of higher caliber southern in gso but upscale choices are bistro sofia and undercurrent

            3 Replies
            1. re: quazi

              The "meat and three" on Third Street in downtown Winston-Salem is called Meta's. Address is 102 W. Third Street, 336-750-0811.

              1. re: carolinadawg

                thanks or the help. had a mental lapse. actually I was thinking of murphy's lunch but you have proponents of both

                1. re: quazi

                  Thats a good point...I didn't think of Murphy's...it would be a good call for that type of food, also.

            2. why limit yourself to the cafeteria while you're at Duke?! There's fabulous eats in durham, alot are within 5 minutes of campus--either campus!

              1 Reply
              1. re: TSQ75

                I'm attending a conference where we're staying at Duke's campus. We do a lot of work during meal times, and it would be bad form to leave campus for more than one or two meals. But I def. hope to snag a few lunches off campus, so any recs are welcome.

              2. Raleigh: Angus Barn steakhouse off US 70/Glenwood Ave. High-end steakhouse. You won't regret it if you like your beef.

                Greensboro: Stamey's BBQ, on High Point Road across from the Greensboro Coliseum. Self-explanatory, really.

                Yum Yum's on Spring Garden, across from the UNCG main entrance. It's one of those old-time hot dog joints, where you can still get a nickel back for returning your soda bottle. Good ice-cream too! Seating's very limited, but it's not unusual to see people eating in the parking lot.

                Halfway between Raleigh and Greensboro is a town called Burlington, right off I-40/85. There's another hot dog place I highly recommend called Zack's in downtown Burlington. It's been around for 70+ years and it's still very reasonably-priced. My wife and I get 2 dogs each and a plate of fries and drinks every time, and all that for less than $10 total.

                Also in Burlington (or Mebane, also off I-40/85) is a place called Blue Ribbon Diner. As the name implies, it's based on the old-time diner motif. Be sure to try the Apple Jack sauce, either on your grilled chicken sandwich, or as a salad dressing. Bottomless fries come with all sandwich plates, too. It's not on the menu, but you can also ask for the "Atomic Waste Burger," an open-faced burger with fries on top and covered in chili. I always ask for a side of jalapenos whenever I order that. Best sweet tea in town.

                On the high end in Burlington, there's the Village Grill. It's got an assorted menu, and I daresay they have the best seafood in town (which is hard to find, since this is fairly inland). Steaks are good, and the specials change daily. My personal favorite is the grilled salmon with a ginger glaze and wasabi.

                5 Replies
                1. re: dkst0426

                  The Angus Barn rarely gets any love on this board, but it's been an enjoyable destination for us for years and you can't beat the service. For extra ambiance in a less formal setting, eat in the bar (the Wild Turkey Lounge) - great people watching there to boot.

                  1. re: Suzy Q

                    I'm with you Suzy. I always am pro-Angus Barn. You go there expecting excellent service and an excellent steak --- it is not the Ritz Carlton for pete's sake and it isn't trying to be. It is a Raleigh(area) institution.

                    Plus, their wine service is phenomenal! http://angusbarn.com/

                  2. re: dkst0426

                    I agree, you must try in Greensboro:

                    1) Stamey's BBQ on High Point Road (not the Battleground Ave location). It's the best NC BBQ place ever because of the consistently good food and the fastest service this side of heaven. Stamey's is a family business of 50+ yrs, fun like a well-oiled machine. The bbq and hushpuppies are always good. Place is always crowded; often there's a fast-moving line. True local flavor and color. Must order: the chopped sandwich and hot peach cobbler. Don't forget to order the hot peach cobbler.

                    1. re: lifespan

                      I grew up in G'boro, and it saddens me to say it, but I have to strongly disagree. Stamey's is certainly not "the best NC BBQ place ever"; its not even good. It has seemingly gone through a steep decline in recently, and all my visits in the past couple of years have been very disappointing.

                      1. re: carolinadawg

                        I am so sad to hear of this. I lived in Gboro for over 20 years of my adult life (but moved 5 years ago). Stamey's was always a wonderful place. I would love to hear of what you attribute its decline?

                  3. For excellent NC BBQ, try Allen and Son, located on Highway 86 between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill. Also, Lexington, NC is a small town between Greensboro and Charlotte famous for its NC BBQ. There are literally 15 different BBQ restaurants in the town, which has a total population of about 10,000. The most famous is called Lexington #1 (aka "Honey Monk's"), located right on Business Loop 85.

                    In Winston-Salem, your top choice should be Sweet Potatoes, located downtown on Trade Street. Excellent "New Southern" food.

                    1. If you're on Duke's West Campus, the Divinity School has great "cafeteria" food:

                      If it's open. Not sure about summer hours.

                      Durham recs:
                      $$$ -- Magnolia Grill, Watts Grocery
                      $$ -- Piedmont
                      $ -- scour through Carpe Durham and pick what looks good: http://carpedurham.wordpress.com/

                      Raleigh recs:
                      $$$ -- Poole's Diner
                      $$ -- Raleigh Times Bar

                      Have fun!

                      1. Durham: the Federal on Main St.: less pricey but uses local ingredients for excellent bar food
                        Raleigh: J. Betski's - not super upscale, but unusual enough to drive to Raleigh for (German/Polish - several posts available)
                        I think ultimately, Durham has the best dining scene around. Okay, so I'm biased - I think Raleigh has been on the upswing in recent years. Are you not considering Chapel Hill?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: suse

                          We'll be in Chapel Hill for only a few hours. But if there's an outstanding place for dinner there that you'd suggest, perhaps we could stay in CH a little longer....

                        2. Very near Raleigh-Durham(Duke) is a great place called- MAMA DIP'S KITCHEN. Owned by a women named Mildred Edna Cotton Council (aka Mama Dip). She was dubbed "Dip" by her siblings because she was so tall and had such long arms that she could reach way down in the rain barrel to scoop up a big dipper full of water when the level was low. Great soul food and some history will both be found here. She is the real deal, not some Paula Dean media creation.
                          Chapel Hill, NC 27514 (919) 942-5837
                          MONDAY - SATURDAY 8:00 am - 9:30 pm ,SUNDAY 8:00 am - 9:00 pm

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                            Have not been to dips in years, lost some of the charm and flavor when the moved across the street from the run down pace to the new fancy digs. ten fifteen years ago it was a must do not so much today.

                            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                              Mama Dip's is probably the worst food and most indifferent service I've ever experienced in my life. I have eaten there three times in the hope it will be better, but no luck. Cold food, no flavor, having to hunt down wait staff for tea or napkins - ridiculous.

                              1. re: Suzy Q

                                agreed. Its more of a place to take out of town family who need "safe" and "quaint" cuisine.

                                "oh look honey, we're eating soul food! hee!"

                              2. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                Wow...did you cut and paste that bio directly from the website?

                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                  I did - so what? I ate there about 10 years ago and really enjoyed the food. I have seem Mama Dip on the food network and she is a very interesting and knowledgeable lady. If the restaurant has slide down hill that is sad.

                                  1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                    We at at Mama Dip's in June of this year. I have to agree with the replies that mention the lackluster food and unfriendly service, both of which are very inconsistent with the notion of a soul food restaurant. My recommendation is to find some place else in the area.

                              3. GREEENSBORO:
                                House of Prayer - Its on the corner of market and dudley on the east side of Greensboro. Great soul food - the real deal.
                                Sticks and Stones - great coal oven pizza made with all local produce. http://www.sticksandstonesclayoven.co...
                                Liberty Oak - Downtown with Southern Feel. http://www.libertyoakrestaurant.com/

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: CMizellT2

                                  sticks and stones looks great. how long have they been open? hows the crowd? Is this the old cajun place(wild magnolia?)?

                                  1. re: quazi

                                    Yes, it is in the same building where Wild Magnolia was. Its been open for a little over a month. The same owner as Fishbones across the street. So, the crowd is pretty much the same.

                                  2. re: CMizellT2

                                    i LOVE the food a the House of prayer! I used to eat there when i was in college...

                                  3. Raleigh: You will be SO happy with any of these

                                    $$$$ The Mint or $$$ Mo's Diner www.themintrestaurant.com http://www.mosdiner.net/

                                    $$ Oakwood Cafe (lunch M-F, and dinner only on Fri and Sat) Argentinian and Cuban
                                    300 E Edenton St; Raleigh, NC 27601; (919) 828-5994

                                    $ Roast Grill (hot dogs to die for) http://www.roastgrill.com/

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Tehama

                                      HOT WEINERS!!!!! Okay, I know it's actually called The Roast Grill, but the sign says Hot Weiners. FYI, I don't think they "do" ketchup.

                                    2. Thanks so much to everyone for your thoughtful replies....exactly the info I was looking for! I'll be sure to report back at the end of our journey.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mtbwustl

                                        Just so you know, there are a TON of options for food on Duke's campus - campus food has come a long way from, ah, 'stuff on a shingle,' so if you have to eat on campus it's not such a bad thing!

                                        Adding on to peetoteeto's post that mentions the Divinity School's resto, which has lots of vegan and veg options - here's a list of all your available on-campus options:


                                        The Washington-Duke Inn has a lovely, highly-rated dining room, and the Nasher Art Museum has very good food in a beautiful setting. There's even a kosher place over at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life. If you know which campus you'll be on, there are links at the top of the page which show you which ones will be nearby for you.

                                      2. Charlotte: Having moved from So Cal. this town is a dreadful place for a foodie. However, you should try the local dives like The Penguin which has good fried pickles. Yes, that's right fried pickles. Lots of fried stuff around here. Also Customshop is not bad. I do like Nolan Kitchen that someone else recommended. It's OK but nothing like food in L.A.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: MMC in NC

                                          "Dreadful', wow that's a strong word. Perhaps you haven't visited the likes of Ratcliffe on the Green, Carpe Diem, Barrington's, Lulu's, etc.

                                          Oh, and it's Nolen Kitchen. Great place as is it's sister resto Ilios Noche.

                                          1. re: lynnlato

                                            You are so right Lynn. In fact Nolen Kitchen is named forJohn Nolen, a Harvard-trained landscape architect and planner. He spent several weeks in Charlotte in late 1911 designing the Myers Park Neighborhood. It must be dreadful to be forced to live some where that the only thing you enjoy eating is a fried pickle. The only way to escape the dread by remembering meal of the past. Yet somehow still calling yourself a foodie.-:)

                                            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                              Little doubt in my mind that MMC didn't mean "dreadful"... maybe MMC meant: "While as a whole, Charlotte may not have as wide a variety of restaurants found in, say, So Cal, if you keep your mind open and enjoy what the locals do best, you'll be surprised. Fried Pickles for starters."

                                              ; )

                                              FYI, I'm new to N Carolina and I'm not even in Charlotte... I'm in Hickory. Hick-o-ry! Having lived in a few major US cities and traveled fairly extensively internationally, I'm still getting challenged to live in a small town with one authentic Japanese restaurant and NO Indian restaurants at all. BUT! Do I have the glorious exposure to Western Carolina BBQ, both Sliced & chopped versions? HELL YEAH! And what about the sublime "All the Way Burger" experience. Browned, slightly crisp Livermush served eggs and grits. YUM!

                                              MMC - I hope you are exploring and challenging yourself to find what's new for your tastebuds in your new home in Queens City.

                                              I've traded in decent fresh pita and "real bagels" for amazing homemade biscuits. It's a trade off I can live with considering I still travel and get my fix of the foods I miss!

                                          2. re: MMC in NC

                                            I really really love fried pickles, so this is a wonderful rec! I'm never against anything fried. I'm a midwesterner by birth, and I spent most of my summers in the south. I really miss good fried food in So Cal.

                                            1. re: MMC in NC

                                              Interesting of the semi-upscale restaurants in town, Customshop is one of the ones I least prefer, as do many of the foodies I know. Maybe it's gotten better since the last time I was there, though.

                                              1. re: ickymettle

                                                I hit customshop for the first time during our last restaurant week. Arguably, restaurant week is not the best time to go searching for good food but I was very underwhelmed.

                                            2. Was in Greensboro last week, and used this thread as a guide.

                                              Sticks and Stones. Cute place, totally empty at 6:30 pm, I thought they were closed. Had a seat at the bar, ordered a glass of wine from the chalkboard behind my back. All wines by the glass $5, and they come in those annoying stemless glasses. The wine had turned, but rather than make a fuss, I just ordered a Gaelic Brown ale. I was never asked why I didn't drink the wine, and I was changed for it... Oh Well, if I wanted a credit I should have spoken up, I just wanted to see how they would handle it. Apparently by not noticing. As the room filled, the staff still spent most of the time talking to each other at the bar/kitchen junction than working the room.

                                              Having come to the conclusion that I'm sick of spending a lot of money for mediocre food, I do an appetizer test. I ordered the "Friendly Fire"- Described as:
                                              Cane Creek Farm All Natural Sweet Italian Sausage, Roasted Chilies,
                                              & Fresh Ricotta Bruschetta 4.95

                                              The bartender brought me a hard gray plastic cafeteria plate with a roll-up.

                                              But when the app arrived, it was on a cute ceramic square plate, and it was just me. The hard plastic plate was superfluous. And ugly.

                                              The bruscetta was likewise incongruous. The bread was bias sliced grocery-store quality baguette- no real texture, and untoasted. Just bread. With a name like "Friendly Fire Bruschetta" I would have thought there would have been some, well, fire. Toppings were the ricotta, sausage and roasted red peppers, which qualifies as chilies, so okay. Nice touch was sauteed leeks. Not mentioned on the menu, but welcome. But as a whole, fairly bland, and the lack of toasting was a disappointment, especially since they talk about the "clay oven" in the description of the restaurant. I guess it's only for pizza. :(

                                              The bread also came with a surprise small salad, which was a nice baby lettuce melange, with more of the roasted red pepper strips. Another nice addition. But, all in all, fairly tasteless, so I paid and left.

                                              I went kitty corner to Fishbones- Funky little joint, cool bar seats that are definitely old-school, with a 50's feel. And Smithwick's on tap! Had the spring rolls, that were quite porky (in a good way) with a thai coconut drizzle that was better than the dipping sauce, good flavor. Efficient bartender, lively atmosphere, and flavorful food, at least the one dish I had. This place I will probably return to.