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Driving from RDU to Chapel Hill - Nice place for lunch?

Driving from RDU airport to Chapel Hill. Looking for a nice spot for lunch. Not looking for BBQ, have that covered later in the trip. Nice surroundings, glass of wine, great food. That would do. Thanks.

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  1. You'll basically be in Chapel Hill by the time you get to it, but there is a very nice pan-Asian place on 54 just before 15/501 (1201-L Raleigh Rd in the Glen Lenox shopping center) that is open M-F. Just put the address in google and you'll find the info.

    I think there are some good places in Research Triangle Park (which is between the two) but I never get out there so don't really know.

    1. Lulu's Mom is right (and I like her suggestion), there really isn't a lot of "between" there. 20 minute drive or so. I'd say Sandwhich in Chapel Hill but I'm not sure they have wine as an option since 3cups moved (they do have beer).

      You'll go by downtown Durham (small jog down 147 off of I-40) and on that route between the airport and Chapel Hill Rue Cler, Parker & Otis, Piedmont, Fosters Market, Guglehupf and many others would fit your specs.

      1. If you are heading straight down 40 and then 54, the places that come to mind are Jujube whch LulusMom was hinting at (I believe). Not far off of Fayetteville Rd. (ex 276) in Durham is a place called Bocci. A fair number of people seem to enjoy Nantucket Grille. However, there are several places in Chapel Hill itself that would afford you the things you are looking for. Il Palio in the Sienna hotel being one of them though it is a bit steep compared to the others.

        5 Replies
        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

          Bocci is lovely, but Nantucket is *entirely* overrated.

          1. re: guenievre

            im not sure I would call nantucket overrated - it's a good place to go on your lunch break if you're at the office and want a good sandwich and maybe a slice of cake. It's not destination dining, I agree.

            1. re: batdown

              Maybe overpriced would be better? I've been there once but it has been a while ago. I enjoyed the food (I'm not saying it isn't something you couldn't find else where), but I do remember the prices being a little high for a sandwich.

              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                yeah, the prices are pretty high, probably due to the location. There really isnt a lot of decent food in that area and I'm guessing that nantucket has a slice of the lunchtime market sewn up, so they can charge higher prices. I havent eaten there in years but I remember hating dining in there - I would always grab something to go. something about the atmosphere and regular clientele really turned me off

                1. re: batdown

                  I find a dramatic difference in quality between the three locations. The original (Ram's Plaza in Chapel Hill) is much, much better than either of the other two. We had a particularly bad meal at the one on Fayetteville by Southpoint

                  I could be wrong but I'm under the impression that the original owners only operate the CH location and the other two are franchises. Again, I'm nowhere near certain of this but I always explained the differences that way.

        2. Mez on Page Rd. near the airport is upscale Mexican with decent wine. The Capital City Chop House is very close to the airport that I think of as a business lunch place. Still, good service, decent food, wine, etc. Once you get into Chapel Hill Jujube (I believe that's what LulusMom was referring to) is very good, pan-Asian with excellent food, wine and service. Bon apetit!

          1 Reply
          1. re: PeterB

            Il Palio, having been mentioned, is definitely a place to go for intelligent Italian food with a focus on local ingredients. This is the essence of Italian cuisine. Regional products highlighted with talented and passionate cooking. The current chef has been flying under the radar because of the dated image of the hotel and dining room. Some updates have been made with decor and makes it a much more comfortable lunch spot.

            I also have to mention Superwok in Cary. If you want a taste of authentic Chinese food, go to Chatham Square and find this treasure. Make sure you get the Chinese menu, not the american menu. Highlights include pea shoots, whole fish, dan dan noodles, chicken with three peppers and anything involving stomach or intestines. Don't let the last rec turn you off, as you can taste authentic Chinese flavor without having to challenge your constituiton. Beer only, but you can bring wine in.

          2. Give the Sienna Hotel a whirl. Quiet, pretty, good food, service, wine, etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bimmertimmer

              I like the food at il palio, but quiet it is NOT.

            2. May I disagree? I've been to the Siena for lunch recently, and it again was dreadful. The hot food was not, the service was indifferent, and the prices were way out of line with the serious competition. My go-to place for lunch in that part of the triangle is now Glasshalfull -- their lunch service has been a wonderful midday treat, and if it's a nice day, their patio is great. Check it out at http://www.glasshalfullcarrboro.com/

              4 Replies
              1. re: walras

                I like Glasshalful a lot too, and also was disappointed the one time I went to the Sienna (but figure having only gone once it may have been just a bad day for them).

                1. re: LulusMom

                  I was really quite impressed by what glasshalfful served at the Farm to Fork picnic. Tune bulgogi, I believe. It really made me want to try the place.

                  1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                    It's definitely worth a try. I like that they change the menu fairly regularly too, so that regulars don't get sick of things. They do manage to keep a few favorites on there all the time. And the wines are often very good at reasonable prices.

                2. re: walras

                  I agree with walras, having eaten at Siena many times over the last 10 years the last few meals I have had in there in the last 2 years were the worst I have had in the triangle. Overpriced, bland, and poorly executed food. Service was adequate but uninspired.
                  I recommend TOAST IN DURHAM for lunch.


                3. Is any place in Southern Village or Meadowmont worth it? I don't know about Southern Village as I've never been to eat but one of them must serve wine. As far as Meadowmont goes, I've only eaten at Azure Grille and it was huge letdown.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                    totally agree on Azure Grille. If you like malaysian/indonesian food you should try Merlion in Southern Village. Not great atmosphere, but really good food.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      I didn't enjoy the italian place in Southern Village (Pazzo?) or Azure Grille

                      1. re: brokegradstudent

                        Yeah, I've never been tempted to try the Italian place in Southern Village. I've had drinks at Town Hall Grill, and ate there once. It was fine but nothing special. We ate once at the steakhouse that used to be at Meadowmont and it was just ... appalling.

                      2. re: LulusMom

                        Hmm, my visit to Azure Grill a couple of weeks ago was delightful. Food was very good and if you go on Tuesday (I think) wine by the bottle is half price. And they make a very good 10 Cane Mojito!

                    2. My go to place when en route RDU to Chapel Hill is 9N9, a Vietnamese restaurant that is amazing. The pho is impressive. I had an avocado shake there recently--sounds weird, but it was sublime. I doubt they have wine, but they have good beer. On 40 from RDU, take a right on Miami Blvd. Then 5 mins and a right on Alexander. They are in the strip mall on the left close to the sub shop. Nicer than a dive but not really fancy. Stunningly affordable.

                      Sandwhich might be one of our best restaurants in the town. Note that it is misspelled in the link below. Should have an extra H, for the chef who is named Hich.

                      I second the Rue Cler suggestion. Hard to beat it for brunch. Some rose' and a basket of beignets. Sitting outside. Love it.

                      Thanks to all for the word on Sienna!

                      I go to Acme in Carrboro for brunch. Mixed thoughts on the food, but I usually ave a pleasant time.

                      Rue Cler Restaurant
                      401 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701

                      Pho 9N9 Vietnamese House
                      2945 S Miami Blvd, Durham, NC 27703

                      431 W Franklin St # 16, Chapel Hill, NC

                      1. Is it just me or did Southern Rail change it's menu, ownership, quality?

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                          There are some older threads on here saying that Southern Rail had gone way downhill. What was your experience?

                          1. re: romansperson

                            I hadn't been there in about a year and a half. Someone had said that they were only serving sandwiches which didn't seem right. I was never overly impressed with them, but liked their blackbean cake. I thought the designer was a bit nuts for having an outdoor bar with no way of weather proofing in the winter. It seemed like a good use of the space (the restaurant overall), but it seems like the owners started off with a bang and just left it to rot.

                              1. re: romansperson

                                It really is a shame - a nice space wasted.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  Oh it may be fine, but I don't know anyone that has been there for dinner in quite sometime. I see people there and at the Crossing Station (which I believe is just a bar).

                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                    I was in Southern Rail last week with a professor. We went there around 3pm to chat and get drinks. I ordered vodka tonic (nice but there was no cherry) while my friend got red wine. We both liked our drinks. I ordered a huge taco with melted cheese upon the recommendation of the bartender. It was served on a huge plate and just right for two people. It was an alright experience and I don't mind coming back.

                                    I was there for dinner last Fall 2008 with three friends. I forgot what we ordered but remembered that we all had a great time (or maybe it was the ambience that counted more then than the food we ate).

                                    1. re: groucho_nc

                                      Why *should* there be a cherry in a vodka tonic??

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        Why *shouldn't* there be a cherry in a vodka tonic??

                                        I just like to have cherry on any vodka concoction.

                                        1. re: groucho_nc

                                          You should probably ask for it then. The normal garnish is a slice of lime.

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            agreed. I've never heard of a vodka tonic (or most vodka drinks) being served with a cherry as the standard garnish. kind of an odd thing to complain about, no?

                                      2. re: groucho_nc

                                        Unless they changed the menu again, I think the taco is actually the nachos in the app. section, and it is quite large and quite good! I recently went with friends for the first time in many many months, and it looks like they've pared down/streamlined the menu, which is probably a good idea since it seemed like there were some major consistency issues with what was offered, as well as quality and presentation. There were also major service issues as I recall, mostly (I think) because the staff was really young and inexperienced, and seemed pretty unwilling to get it together. Lunch service has always been good when I've gone though.
                                        Anyway, our recent evening out was nice. The food was really good compared to our last visit, and service was alright. We were hoping for more vegetarian selections, but at least there was more than the black bean burger this time (one can only sit down to so many bean burgers after awhile & it gets boring). Overall, a pretty nice experience. (It helped that my friend had a Fox50 coupon she shared with me.)

                                        1. re: delilah

                                          I used to love Southern Rail, then their chef left and it was bad. ...a pity. On an up note I went to Glasshalfull & loved it. They have plenty of small plates for veg and fish as well as meaty things, which I think is ideal

                                          1. re: Rory

                                            Add me as a big fan of Glasshalful. They change their menu often enough to keep things interesting, while keeping on a few favorites. And most of it is really very good.

                                            1. re: Rory

                                              How long ago did the chef leave? Wasn't he former chef at Acme? I've heard very mixed reviews of Glasshalffull (food wise), but these positive reviews are good to know. Maybe it is a matter of what is ordered? What are some standouts?

                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                Things do change there, which I appreciate. Whats nice is that you can order a few different things since they're small and you're not sinking an entree's price to try something. I've had great luck with the pasta dishes, and the mussels they were serving a couple of months ago were completely klller good. The rare tuna with moroccan spices is usually really good too.