First Visit for a Future Move...Young Chowhound Needs Help![Chapel Hill]
Hi! I'm young college student who is planning to move down to North Carolina after graduation, and as such, am going to be visiting the Chapel Hill area in March! This is my first visit to North Carolina and I am looking to eat quintessential "Southern" foods. I love good ribs, but I want to eat the real thing. I am looking for places that smoke with wood...suggestions? What else should I be eating? I really want to get a good feel for the area food-wise, as as long as the area is what I hope it is, I will be moving down there! Thanks for all your help!
Edit: Haha, thanks for letting me know that NC isn't known for its ribs. But, I am definitely all for any recommendations on good BBQ.
You should begin by doing a search for "Chapel Hill", "Carrboro", "Triangle", "Durham" and you'll find lots and lots of suggestions. If you're looking for authentic NC bbq, you should definitely go to Allen and Son, on Highway 86 between Chapel Hill and Hillsborough (not the one in Pittsboro, different owner). Its the real deal, and is excellent. By the way, NC bbq generally doesn't mean ribs. A&S has ribs, but I've never ordered them, and other posters have said they aren't very good.
Ribs are not an NC specialty. North Carolina barbecue is all about chopped whole hog with minimal vinegar and pepper sauce in the east, chopped/sliced shoulders with vinegar and ketchup sauce in the Piedmont west of Raleigh.
Allen and Son gets good marks in the Chapel Hill area and is sort of a hybrid- shoulders done in a Lexington style sauce. Otherwise, the big names are Lexington Barbecue in Lexington for Lexington style and the Skylight Inn in Ayden for eastern style. The NCBS has a near-definitive list of good places here:
If you really want ribs all hope is not lost, you just have to head east about 10-12 miles on I40 to Morrisville. There is a place called Smokey's BBQ Shack. This place does not do NC style 'que; he does his own thing, which borrows from Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City styles. Ribs are awesome here.
There are several fine upscale restaurants in Chapel Hill but for good meals at more reasonable cost you should head to Carrboro or Durham which flank Chapel Hill on each side. One expeception is Med Deli in Chapel Hill. Really good ME/Greek food at reasonable prices right on Franklin St. The $9 lunch buffet at Mint (Indian food) is also quite good.
It's nothing at all fancy, but K&W Cafeteria in CH and Raleigh have some authentic southern food, at college student prices. I like the seven layer salad, turnip greens and chicken and pastry. As for living in Durham, be selective. Violent crime rate per 100,000 is 818.4 in Durham vs. 85.4 in Cary. (Wiki: FBI report from 9/2009).
If you want good ribs, The Pit in Raleigh has good ribs and as I've mentioned elsewhere they probably stand out against their bbq. Smokey's I think is the same. They offer bbq but their ribs are (or were last time I was there) much better. When you say Southern foods are you thinking like collards and places where Mac n' Cheese is listed as a vegetable?
As bbqme stated, Med Deli is probably one of the few places in Chapel Hill where it is hard to go wrong. It's not necessarily that they have a stand out item to me (though I've not ordered everything there), but they are consistent and have a good variety for the price and it's not the typical pizza/burrito place you'll find in that area.
Carrboro has Weaver Street Market which has a hot/cold bar, but I enjoy their baked goods and some hard to find items like Half Sour Pickles. Carrboro itself is a unique little place and almost everything is within walking distance to one another. You have Neal's Deli, GlassHalfFull (though my first impression left much to be desired), Elmo's, Acme, Panzanella and Milltown to name a few. Carrboro also has taco trucks at night for a good snack.
It seems to me and this may not be true that the Chapel Hill/Durham area is a bit more eclectic than Raleigh. With the RTP area being in the middle of it all.
As you know, Chapel Hill is part of the the Triangle and if you can't find it in the city you can definitely find it no more than a 30 min drive away.
If I may ask, where are you moving from? Sometimes that also influences what we think you may or may not enjoy based on what you've had from your current area.