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Group dinner in Chapel Hill - need ideas!

I'm from the Boston area and looking for some recommendations in Chapel Hill. For the past couple of years, my company has hosted a group dinner for customers in conjunction with an annual program at UNC. We have been to La Residence more times that I care to admit and would like to select a different restaurant this year. The food at La Res was ok, but the service was lacking during our last visit. (Very long delays in between courses.)

It will be about 30 people (business casual, ages 30 - 50) on a Friday night in November. We would prefer to stay in Chapel Hill, but will consider other options nearby if they're worth the visit.

I did a few searches on chowhound, but some of the reviews are a couple years old. Any thoughts on Spice Street or Bin 54?

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Spice Street
201 S. Estes Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Bin 54
1201 M Raleigh Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 21517

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  1. Saffron for upscale Indian fusion, or you could have fun in Carrboro and go to Gourmet Kingdom for great Szechwan food.

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    Gourmet Kingdom
    301 E Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510

    1. Bin 54 is very good, and they have a special room for groups. Was just there last week - didn't have steak, just sat at the bar and had two appetizers (tuna tartar and the scallops over truffled mashed pots) and shared some (thrilling) truffled mac and 3 cheese. Had a couple of glasses of wine. And it was a great meal. They've got an impressive wine list and usually service is very good. Nice atmosphere too.

      I like Spice Street fine, but it doesn't compare. Less expensive though. And the room is fairly nice too. Last time there (which was the first time in probably 2 years) we sat at the bar, and the service there was good, really helpful. The food was pleasant - I got some sort of sushi roll (sort of ersatz sushi - huge and hard to eat but tasty), and husband got a middle eastern flatbread; sort of a lamb/greek pizza. I thought that was very tasty.

      I think they are both good choices. Personally I'd go with Bin 54 - it will impress more, I think, and the food is a notch (or two) above Spice Street.

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      Spice Street
      201 S. Estes Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27514

      Bin 54
      1201 M Raleigh Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 21517

      1. What is the budget? Business Casual on a Friday... Top of The Hill has a new private room that may work nicely. I wouldn't say it is anything super special, but it is a microbrewer and a fixture of Chapel Hill. THe only issue there (like most of chapel hill) is parking. Pricewise I'd pick Spice Street, but like was mentioned above Bin 54 would do well. If Weathervane had better seating I'd say go there. Or if you want to impress check out One in Meadowmont. I'd call them though to see what they can arrange for a party of that size.

        1 Reply
        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

          I'm not a fan of the Weathervane - I find it really boring. But there are definitely a lot of local fans, so the problem might be me. I've eaten there 3 times and never thought it was at all interesting.

        2. Call Bonne Soiree and/or Pancuito (in Hillsborough), right away. Give them the date and ask if you can reserve the whole place for 30 people, and ask them what options can they give you on a chef-planned prix fixe "eat what the chef wants to make" or family-style dinner.

          Both are fabulous, and you might get lucky.

          I have NO IDEA if they do this kind of thing, it's just a crazy whim.

          2 Replies
          1. re: fussycouple

            I've done smaller private parties at Jujube and been very pleased. The restaurant can put together a special menu for the occasion. It may be a bit more difficult on a Friday night, since this is a busy time for a restaurant. I think you'd be well served with a unique offering.

            1. re: fussycouple

              Ummmm I don't know that Bonne Soiree meets the business casual criteria.. I'd think it were a bit more dressy than that. I think renting out the place is going to make the price crazy.

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              Bonne Soiree Restaurant
              431 W Franklin St Ste 10, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

            2. Keep the suggestions coming! Here's a little more information.

              Private room - We would prefer a private room as opposed to renting the entire restaurant.
              Business casual - The men will be wearing sportscoats, but not a suit & tie.
              Pricing - Not exactly sure of our final budget, but would guess somewhere around $45 - $55 per person would be within reason.
              Parking - Most of the attendees are from out-of-town, so we're providing a shuttle from the hotel. Only a few locals will be driving there.

              Basically, we would like something comparable to La Residence. A nice place for special occasions (engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, etc.), but without the late-night drinking crowd that takes over the bar (what is that about?).

              I've been to Top of the Hill a couple of times. Perfectly fine with friends and co-workers. I think it would be too casual for a customer dinner (they're all doctors and UNC faculty members).

              8 Replies
              1. re: robyn76

                My contact at the university just sent me the following recommendations.

                Weathervane
                Crossroads at Carolina Inn
                Il Palio at the Sienna Hotel

                Thoughts?

                1. re: robyn76

                  The La Res bar scene puzzled me too. My students suggested a friendly ID policy was part of the attraction at one point.

                  Those are definitely the places the university uses. Like Lulu's Mom, I've found Weathervane pretty pedestrian. Same for Il Palio's ala carte menu (though the tasting menu was very good).

                  I've only had breakfast and lunch at Crossroads. Can't speak to dinner.

                  Bin 54 is probably at the top of my list from the places mentioned.

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                  Bin 54
                  1201 M Raleigh Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 21517

                  1. re: robyn76

                    I've only ever had brunch at Crossroads, so can't really say much about that. And the one brunch I've had at Il Palio was lamentable. That said, I've heard very good things about it (I think fussycouple is a big fan so he/she can probably give you the high points).

                    I'd still say Bin 54 is the nicest of the bunch, but wonder if you could do it for the price point given. Jujube was a really nice idea, if they have a party room.

                    Maybe Provence in nearby Carrboro?

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                    Bin 54
                    1201 M Raleigh Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 21517

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      While they don't have a party room, Jujube has a long table that's pretty private. I've eaten there for special events as part of a large group. You wouldn't need to rent the entire place.

                      Bin54 is a great place, but I think you'll blow through the budget before pretty quickly, plus, if this is a client meal, how memorable is a steak, even if it's perfectly executed? Present an interesting menu and the clients will talk about it for years to come.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        I went to one brunch after Il Palio got rid of the big buffet, haven't been back. That being said, they have rooms, and are used to business folk. A dinner there might suit your requirements, but they're no longer at the top of my local rotation, not until I hear that they're doing well.

                        Honestly, the best place locally for what you want is probably Fearrington House, though I never go there in less than a suit and tie, and sometimes wear a tux. But that's just me. I see people there in attire that I'm not overwhelmed with.

                        In a different direction, the tasting room at Angus Barn would be a truly memorable dinner, and you fit the dress code, etc.

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                        Angus Barn Restaurant
                        9401 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27617

                        Fearrington House Restaurant
                        2000 Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, NC 27312

                      2. re: robyn76

                        I would have said Crossroads too. I don't know the specs on Lantern but would suggest it too. If you can go to Durham, hit up Revolution I know they have the space either in an Art Gallery next door or in a room downstairs. Again check out One in Meadowmont.

                        1. re: robyn76

                          Of the three you cite, I would only consider Crossroads. They're very used to handling large groups. When my parents and in-laws used to visit, it was our go to place for at least one dinner and we were never disappointed.

                          I have had far more bad experiences than good ones at Il Palio in the last 12 years.

                          Weathervane seems, as already stated by others, a bit pedestrian for your purposes.

                        2. re: robyn76

                          I would certainly suggest Saffron of Chapel Hill for your event. They have a private dining room for 30 people and have outstanding and triangle-renowed food. They have a really reasonably priced 4 course meal for $45 per person.