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Recommendations for Chapel Hill or Durham

My wife and I will be in Chapel Hill the last weekend in January, and we'd like to have a nice dinner out on Saturday night. Friends have recommended Magnolia Grill and Revolution in Durham. Any thoughts on these two restaurants or others? Also, any brunch recommendations? Thanks.

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  1. Both are good selections. Mangolia has been around longer for sure. I like Watts Grocery and will be heading to Vin Rouge tonight and can report back on that later (these are also in Durham). Bonn Soiree and CrossRoads in Carolina Inn both in Chapel Hill will do as well.

    I don't know much about the brunch places in the area outside of what I've been told. I've had brunch at Watts Grocery and Guglhupf (both in Durham). I thought they were both fine but maybe I'm just not a brunch type of person.

    6 Replies
    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

      Vin Rouge was really great! We got there around 6:30 before the rush of a Friday evening. Everything we had was tasty. They start you with some chewy bread and an Olive Oil with I think was an olive tapenade (or something of the sort). We then had an appetizer of Bacon Confiture. This is a plate with a different type of bread on it, a small batch of mixed greens and a jar full of what I think were lardons that are sitting in essentially an onion/balsamic marmalade. I wasn't quite sure how to eat the thing but any combination works. Next we had individual appetizers. She went with a Bibb lettuce salade and I went with the sweet breads. The sweetbreads were great and the gnocchi were good (they were just a tad mushy but light). Our main courses were both specials they were running that evening. The girl friend went with a flounder over cannelini beans in Beurre Blanc sauce. She stated it was quite possibly the best thing she has eaten in Durham. I had the cassoulet. I have been to other French brasseries or inspired places, but never got this typical dish. The one at Vin Rouge was white beans, sausage, duck confit, pork confit and a pork belly. It was definitely a great comfort food. It was hot, thick and full of protein. We couldn't do dessert and we had a few errands to run before a show later that evening. We both agreed that we'd return again as long as the quality keeps up.

      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

        Thrilled that you liked it so much. Definitely one of our favorites. Nice comfortable atmosphere, great service, good wine list and mostly very good food (they have their off moments, but usually things are very good). I've had that flounder and agree with your GF that it is an incredibly good dish.

        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

          If you like oysters you must try their oyster gratinee appetizer made with leeks, bacon and gruyere cheese. It is one of the best things I've ever eaten - almost decadent in its deliciousness.

          1. re: Jeanne

            i agree, this is EXTREMELY decadent. i thought that the dish would be oysters in the half shell, filled and broiled. however, they have a special oyster gratinee dish - like little divots; they shuck the oysters, place each one in its groove and smother them with the leeks, bacon and gruyere. after stuffing my face on the bread and olive tapenade, it was hard to eat very much of the gratinee.

            i used the leftovers as a topping on a bed of sauteed kale, which was delicious as well. the kale sort of balanced out the richness of the cheese and bacon :)

            1. re: cervisiam

              I've never had oysters unless they were fried. I hesitate to try them on the half shell because I don't think I'd be a fan of the consistency. As far as not having much room, I went hog wild at Vin Rouge. I'm not sure if my gf was impressed or disgusted. I think she was just amused that I packed it away. I did the same when I was at Central in DC and no it's not just French inspired bistro foods ;-)

            2. re: Jeanne

              Oh yeah, that oyster dish is *amazing*. They're happy to do it without the bacon, if you happen to prefer it that way, and it is still wonderfully decadent.

        2. Judging by your moniker, you're from the city. Whenever we go to Revolution we feel like we're in the city, so I would suggest trying something a bit more southern like Magnolia Grill. Definitely save room for dessert and just go for it and try the grits souffle as an app.

          1. Also to note are that Vin Rouge and Carolina Inn do Brunch as well. I think Fearrington does a brunch too it is outside of Chapel Hill heading towards Pittsboro on 15-501. I'm not sure if people would consider Crooks Corner a nice dinner. I've never been but it is somewhat of a landmark around here.

            Oh one other suggestion that could be different is to see if the vegan brunch is going on in Durham at Pinhook and then making your way to Rue Cler for beignets.

            1 Reply
            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

              I can't speak for the dinner at Crooks Corner either, but I have enjoyed brunch their on several occasions. To me, Crooks Corner is a very Chapel Hill-esque sort of place in that it is both southern influenced and a little funky.

            2. Rue Cler in Durham does a nice brunch (try the beignets), but you'll need a reservation (unless you want to wait for a spot at the bar).

              Agree with Suse - Revolution feels like big city; you might want something that seems more like you're someplace different from home. In Chapel Hill I like Elaine's and the Lantern for somewhat upscale (but not stuffy) dining. And nearby Carrboro has Panzanella for Sunday brunch.

              1. In Chapel Hill my choices would be Bonne Soiree for dinner and Carolina Inn for bunch. In Durham, Four Square for dinner and Piedmont for brunch.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bbqme

                  Second for Bonne Soiree if in Chapel Hill. Magnolia Grill if in Durham, although Four Square is also a good choice.

                2. You're mistaking Revolution for CUBAN Revolution. The latter is in the American Tobacco comples, the former on Main St.

                  1. I'll put in a plug for dinner or brunch at Acme on Main St. in Carrboro. Great Southern-influenced bistro that serves up consistently excellent dishes. Had a shepherd's pie with braised goat last weekend that was incredible! And brunch is very popular, especially when beignets are on the menu.

                    Over in Chapel Hill, Tallula's on Franklin St. is an incredible Turkish/Middle Eastern restaurant offering an extensive and authentic menu. Everything is good and it's a nice departure from the every-day. Decor is cool, too.

                    Much more casual is the BBQ Joint on Weaver Dairy Road in north Chapel Hill. Fantastic Eastern-style BBQ served many ways. And don't miss the sides -- like collards, natch and Brussels sprouts with bacon. If the bread pudding's on the menu, order it.

                    Have fun!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: sparky_fuego

                      I'm interested in when you were last at Tallulahs. It used to be one of our favorites and then the quality went zooming downhill when it was sold. We walked by a week or two ago and it was empty and we were talking about how sad that is. I'd love to hear recent, more positive reports. I miss what the place used to be.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        I was at Tallulah's before Thanksgiving last year and thought it was very nonplus. For the amount you are charged, you get very little and it's not like they are using extravagant items or spices. I don't know the whole experience was so so to me.

                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                          As I suspected. It's been well over a year for me, and that time was just ... underwhelming would be the nicest way to put it. Such a shame, because it used to be very good. Thanks for the update.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            I just think for the money I would have done better at Cypress or Elaine's but it was a group decision.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              I love Elaine's, but wouldn't have put Tallulah's in the same price range. But yes yes yes, def. a better meal there. So far I'm not as big a fan of Cypress after 2 tries.

                        2. re: LulusMom

                          We went there for lunch just after X-mas. It was oh-kay, certainly nothing to write home about. It also used to be one of my favorite places, but it feels like a shadow of its former self.

                      2. In Chapel Hill, for dinner, The Lantern or Bonne Soiree
                        In Carrboro, for brunch, Acme or Carolina Crossroads
                        In Durham, for dinner, Magnolia Grill or Four Square
                        In Durham, for brunch, Rue Cler or Vin Rouge

                        1. Hi Larry in Brooklyn,

                          My boyfriend and I just did a trip to NC over the holidays. A really good place we went to for brunch was Mama Dips. Yeah it's a little touristy but the food was great. Their smothered fried chicken is a must have. I had their chicken and dumplings, which as awesome as it was paled in comparison to the smothered fried chicken.

                          Also, if you're ever looking for a quick meal I would recommend Sunrise Biscuit Chicken, which is a drive thru fried chicken and biscuit sandwich. Very yummy!

                          Below are some food pics from my trip of the two places.
                          Have a great time in Chapel Hill!