Best of RDU
My partner in crime and I will be spending 3 or so days in the RDU area in late May. She is in the food biz and we both are looking forward to the trip. Have read about some cool spots in Durham. Could also include Chapel Hill and Raleigh in the mix. Would like your best advice on great places for breakfast and lunch and stunners for dinner. We are both fairly serious wine drinkers as well. Also, any spots that do not fit those descriptions (know about Locopops, will drive for a perfect cookie, etc.). Looking for not to be missed places. Thanks much
The Farmers Market in Carrboro will be glorious in late May.
Breadmen's in Chapel Hill serves great breakfast all day long.
Do not miss Pho at 9N9 in Durham, maybe with bahn mi.
Henry's Gelato in Cary is seriously good.
For classic southern food done right hit the lunch or dinner buffet at Joyce and Family in Fuquay Varina. Try to stop eating before you hurt yourself.
Since she's in the food biz she'll NEED to visit A Southern Season in Chapel Hill. I've not been since wine mgr Jay departed, but bet the wine shop will meet your need. A wonderful place to get wines, meats, cheeses & more for a picnic or hotel snacking. Their restaurant Weathervane has good by-the-glass selection & prices. Lunch on the patio would be nice that time of year.
Hope Valley Bottle Shop is a great wine & beer shop in Durham.
Jujube in Chapel Hill is the only west Triangle restaurant we frequent, "almost Asian", always delicious, and chef/owner Charlie can pair wine with dishes better than almost anyone - a great choice for lunch or dinner.
While you're in Cary checking out Henry's Gelato (which I agree is NOT to be missed), drive a short jaunt down Cary Parkway and check out La Farm Bakery. This is an awesome French bakery that does amazing breads, pastries, and some lunch items as well (sandwiches, etc.). Lionel is opening a cafe adjacent to the bakery, but I don't believe it's up and running quite yet.
Lots of threads on this board have arguments that will helpfully inform your decisions. When I travel, I like to eat what I can't get at home (molecular gastronomy, italian beef, and good russian on our last trip to Chicago, Chinese on our last trip to NYC, etc.). The best places around here, for me, express the place in unique ways. If I moved away and came back for a visit, this is what I'm eating.
Sunrise biscuit kitchen. Every day that I'm here and that our hosts would take me.
BBQ (see one of the 27 ongoing Allen&Sons threads for hints)
Mexican (probably Fiesta Grill, Vacquita, or Tonali)
Guglehupf or Parker and Otis
Neals Deli or Sandwhich
Obvious options for dinner (all have a strong focus on fresh, local ingredients and take great care with the food they make):
Crooks Corner (I know people on the board disagree but I love their food)
I don't think there is a great breakfast place in Durham or Chapel Hill. Breadmen's is OK, good for what it is. Sorry, I don't know about Raleigh. I'll second Sandwich (still want to try Neal's) and especially Guglhupf. The cafe is great for lunch and you must try some sweet lovin' from the bakery. El Paraiso is my favorite Mexican, mostly for the food and also for its location in the hood. For high end, Four Square is my favorite. Also, Allen and Son is a no-brainer.
Absolutely on Sandwhich and Loco Pops. Everyone from out of town who I've taken to Loco Pops is stunned that popsicles like this exist.
If you feel like a nice brunch, I'd recommend Rue Cler in Durham. The beignets are beautiful and the food is very good. Inexpensive but nicely chosen wines too. They also do dinner, which I love, the but menu is always short, so if you want lots of choice, it isnt' the place to go. If for nothing else, do try to stop by Magnolia Grill for a dessert one night (they also have a nicely chosen wine list). Finally, do try to stop by the farmers market in Carrboro. The first time I went I was underwhelmed because I'm from a place with a bigger market, but I've really come to appreciate it. Get a sample at the cheese stand.
Good recommendations so far. I'd like to add Blu Seafood in Durham for great seafood in a stylish, relaxed setting. Also, for a fine dining stunner try Bonne Soiree in Chapel Hill and ask them to match the courses with wine. Fabulous.