HOME > Chowhound > Southeast >


Triangle Tops?

I will be in town for a weekend with my young male heirs and would appreciate some insight:

(1) What are the consistent winners for casual breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the Triangle -- Cary, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham? All ethnic iterations considered.

(2) Can anyone vouch for the pies at Scratch in Durham?

Thank you.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Scratch - That's easy. Phoebe Lawless, the owner/baker/founder of Scratch is incredibly gifted. Her pies, tarts, and baked goods are outstanding. Not cheap. An empanada there can cost as much as $7, but it will likely be the best empanada you'll eat all year.

    Casual bfast
    Neal's Deli (Chapel Hill) - they house cure their own pastrami! I recommend a biscuit with pastrami and bacon. Killer!
    Saxapahaw General Store - a bit of a country drive from Chapel Hill (about 20 minutes), but totally worth it. This gas station has several tables inside and out and offers some of the best locally sourced casual dining (bfast, lunch and dinner) in the Triangle. Your "young male heirs" will love it.

    Best dinner -
    Always a three way tie for me between Lantern (Asian in Chapel Hill, dinner only), Panciuto (Italian in Hillsborough, dinner only) and Herons (contemporary American in the Umstead Hotel in Cary). Lunch at Herons is a great value, and their bar menu offers great inexpensive fine dining.

    General Store Cafe
    39 West St, Pittsboro, NC 27312

    Neal's Deli
    100 E Main St Ste C, Carrboro, NC 27510

    110 S Churton St, Hillsborough, NC 27278

    1 Reply
    1. re: Victus Populi

      I totally support Neal's biscuits. Simple and buttery. I want more breakfast options in town with trustworthy ingredients. I haven't checked their shopping lists out personally, but Neal's has my trust.
      Try to get there before 10:30 to avoid biscuitless broken hearts.

    2. I second the opinion on Saxapahaw and Scratch Bakery - both great.

      I don't know a lot of good breakfast places, but you might try Guglhupf (Durham - German bakery)

      For lunch I would recommend Allen & Son's (Chapel Hill - BBQ), Taqueria La Vaquita (Durham - Mexican - very casual), Toast (Durham - panini), Neal's Deli (Carrboro), or Bella Mia Pizza (Cary), or Neo Monde (Raleigh - Mediterranean), or even Bulkogi (Food Truck based in Durham - Korean BBQ tacos)

      For dinner, maybe Poole's Diner (Raleigh - American), Vin Rouge (Durham - French), Watts Grocery (Durham - American), Jujube (Chapel Hill - "Asian")

      Taqueria La Vaquita
      2700 Chapel Hill Rd, Durham, NC 27707

      Watts Grocery
      1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC 27705

      Vin Rouge
      737 9th St, Durham, NC 27705

      Vin Rouge
      2010 Hillsborough Rd., Durham, NC 27705

      Neal's Deli
      100 E Main St Ste C, Carrboro, NC 27510

      Bella Mia
      2025 Renaissance Park Pl, Cary, NC 27513

      1. The Weathervane, Southern Seasons' restaurant in Chapel Hill, does a good breakfast.

        1. Casual lunch? Toast in Durham, Sandwhich in Chapel Hill.

          1. Some great suggestions from peeps! Love Toast and A&S. Some other thoughts below...

            Chubby's Tacos- Durham, Raleigh Great casual Mexican for lunch
            Spize Cafe- Raleigh Thai-VN for lunch, tasty
            Cafe Caturra- Raleigh, Cary Fantastic sandwiches, good for lunch or casual dins
            State Farmers Market- Raleigh For simple NC breakfast
            Backyard BBQ Pit- Morrisville, super casual but good Southern soul food
            Pop's - Durham, strong Italian food and pizza's
            Dains Place- Durham, great burgers and tater tots

            State Farmers Market Restaurant
            1240 Farmers Market Dr, Raleigh, NC 27603

            Chubby's Tacos
            748 9th St, Durham, NC 27705

            Spize Cafe
            121 Fayetteville St, Raleigh, NC 27601

            1. What do you mean by casual? I can't believe someone put Heron's as casual. They clearly are in a different bracket of society than I run in. :-)

              Here are some I like although I don't know that any of them are "award" winners.
              Casual Breakfast:
              I like Brigs - several locations but I have only been to the one in Cary.
              Lunch/ Dinner:
              Mawa - african (Morrisville)
              Super Wok - Chinese (Cary - very good, ask for the chinese menu, don't let the name scare you.)
              Burgers at Abbey Road (in Cary)
              Saffron - Indian (Morrisville)

              Super Wok
              1401-L SE Maynard Road, NC 27511

              1. Quick comment about Scratch. Everyone seems to love them but I've had mixed results with what they sold at the Durham farmers market. Some things I've had like the chocolate sea-salt pie were great, whereas some other things were fatally flawed, like a strawberry with cheese pie that was soggy to the point of being inedible. And they're expensive, so even though the highlights can be darned good, I gave up on them because of the high-priced inconsistency.

                Someone else above mentioned Saffron. I don't get out for lunch much but I do frequent some of the RTP Indian restaurants. Saffron, at least the lunch buffet, has become similarly inconsistent for me. I used to go fairly often but now I'm usually down the road at Cafe Curry Leaves and at Tower, both serving south Indian vegetarian. I expect the dinner menu there is still quite good though.

                Also regarding Saxapahaw which everyone also loves, we had an outstanding meal there a few months ago but two of six in our party ended up with severe diarrhea that was clearly related to the meal - not sure what the deal with that was.

                1 Reply
                1. re: D R C

                  I agree about Scratch. I've tried a few things there and only half I've enjoyed. Lemon pie had a brittle and dry crust, same with the chocolate tart. You can't go wrong with a doughnut muffin there and the sandwiches are generally good. But for the price I would want more consistency.

                2. The "triangle" is very spread out and a weekend is a very short amount of time. How old are said heirs and where will you be staying?

                  24 Replies
                  1. re: work2eat

                    I was just at Sandwhich Friday night & I was shocked at how downhill it has gone. No waitstaff, you order at the register & the menu, tuna, blt, it's a lunch menu.
                    I had the portobello burger & was shocked at how tiny it was. Now I don't care for large American portions, so if I find something tiny...And then there is the attendant feeling that the management want to rip off the vegetarian. Just makes for a bad feeling all round, & they've lost my custom.

                    1. re: Rory

                      wow, that is a shame to hear about Sandwhich. Very disappointing. No waitstaff? What is the point of having such a nice, sit down looking place then?

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        I believe they tweaked the evening concept because not enough people came to eat off their dinner menu. So they responded accordingly and focused on their core competencies.

                        1. re: peetoteeto

                          The tweaked concept is just bad. The staff bring you your order on a tray which is left in front of you.! Ugh, even Vimala's doesnt do that.

                          Now if they were doing Horn & Hardart Automat retro food that would be fine, even great. What they need is a good concept, I ate at Sandwhich when they first opened and I had better & cheaper lamb tagine at Med Deli. People in the Triangle are foodies and knowledgeable....I wish them well, I want to go there; just serve something good that gives value for my money!.

                      2. re: Rory

                        I haven't been in the last couple weeks, but I've always really enjoyed it. I tend to get the same thing each time, meatloaf sandwich with garlic mayo and their roasted jalapenos, & it's always good. The garlic mayo completes it.
                        I'm used to it being counter service, like it always was in the courtyard. While I'm sometimes in the mood for full service, most of the time I'm more into an order at the counter or bar setup.
                        Maybe I'm biased, working at a counter service place, but as long as the food is quality stuff, I'm not concerned with the logistics of how it arrives to me.
                        Of course, that wasn't your only complaint..

                        1. re: rajeevofcarrboro

                          I completely understand your preference, and think it is entirely reasonable. But for me, if I'm paying for a babysitter (or having my four year old with me and am having to watch her and make sure things are moving smoothly) then the last thing I want is to have to bus my own food. I want a drink, I want it brought to me, and I want something besides paper plates. Not saying Sandwhich isn't up to it on all those counts, but for me counter service for dinner out isn't really going to make it feel very special. They have great food. I just want someone else to serve it to me (for a change ... life with a husband and kid to take care of can make you grumpy about that sometimes).

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            I *so* enjoyed your comment! Awesome!

                            1. re: Tehama

                              Thanks Tehama, I was a little worried that I might have come across as *always* grumpy! I do think dining priorities change at different stages of our life.

                              Bug me about lunch in early March - I promised you one ages ago and will be back from 2 months away then. Love to see you.

                              1. re: LulusMom

                                hmm, sometimes going out is all about service; I want someone to bring me my nice wine & wait on me. And I don't have a wee child, I just like the pampering;-)

                                  1. re: Rory

                                    Trying to train Lulu to do my nails and bring me chocolates ... not working so far.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      Whenever I shake a drink in a cocktail shaker, my 3 yr old pretends he's shaking a cocktail too. I consider this a promising sign that he'll be making my drinks (not consuming them) soon.

                                      1. re: durhamois

                                        Now that would certainly be handy!

                                        Two days ago lulu and I stopped for a beer and to write some postcards. I was writing one, and she had a pen and paper. She wrote on hers "Dear Beer, I love you. Love, Mom."

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          I still think I gave birth to Lulu's older sister. Only had mine written that note, she'd have signed her own name, not mine.

                                          1. re: rockycat

                                            I think I'd like to hang out with your kid! Lulu's 5th birthday is coming up. Tops on her list of what she wants? A bottle of pinot noir (pronounced peanut du-voir). I have no idea where this came from (um, genetics?). I'd like to point out that she hasn't actually ever *had* any of said wine.

                                            And, in an attempt to keep this more on topic, one of Lulu's favorite restaurants near home is Glasshalful, which does a fairly nice lunch.

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              My 3.5 yr old recently kissed a girl in his class on valentines day. She was not amused, and her favorite food is popcorn chicken. Now that you're back in the states, we need to get our little one with a classier chick. He thinks anything in a flute is Cava, and loves tasting small amounts of our wine. He loves sushi and eats raw fish at levels most nutritionists would deem unhealthy. Crab legs are also high on his hit list, as are any Italian pasta dishes. If we have a match, lets set up a play date. Although he's my child , he's still surprisingly cute.

                                              1. re: veganhater

                                                He sounds like he could be just the man for Lulu (although she'd be robbing the cradle a bit, she'll be 5 in April). She loves sushi, and her very favorite food is olives. We're not back in the States just yet (another 10 days), we're currently in Sydney, where they often offer a bowl of olives as a starter. Guess what she goes for every single time? Yep.

                                                Maybe we should get all these precocious foodie kids together sometime. sort of an anti-chuckie cheese party. I think it would be good for them to see that there are other kids around who like the good stuff.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  OMG - after a week of exams and papers, I am just seeing these. What a HOOT! Next week is spring break for me. Time for a chowhound meet-up ---- or maybe just a martini meet-up? :-)

                                                  1. re: Tehama

                                                    My regular home email isn't working while on vacation, for some reason, so I can't respond there yet ... We do leave tomorrow so I should be home and reading email (um, after 9 weeks away that may be at the bottom of my to-do list!) by Monday. Woohoo!

                                                    1. re: Tehama

                                                      I'm up for a meet up but per the regulations we will have to bring it to discussion off the boards. Though next weekend is no good for me.

                                                    2. re: LulusMom

                                                      Hope no quakes were felt where you are.

                                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                        We got out of NZ the day before the quake hit Christchurch. My husband felt tremors a week or so before. Pretty heartbreaking - it's a beautiful city, and was still in the midst of cleaning up from the previous quake.
                                                        Thanks for asking.

                                  2. re: LulusMom

                                    yes, i agree. i tell people i have two kids at home :)

                            2. Almost all Chinese places are going to be casual.

                              Brigs is decent located in both Cary and Durham. I mean breakfast in general is not meant to be anything more than casual to begin with unless you go to hotel type place and then I wouldn't go there for anything other than brunch or a dressy dinner. Saffron in Morrisville has a good buffet for a casual lunch and Vimala's in the Chapel Hill Courtyard is a safe bet for the Casual but good Indian. I'm a bit less familiar with Raleigh's scene, but a lot of people like the Raleigh Times for a burger joint. Ya know for Durham if you want Phoebe Lawless without the fuss just hit up the Saturday Farmer's Market. As far as casual in Durham, well pick a Mexican place that is listed in the threads on here, Mami Nori's is definitely casual with peruvian chicken (rotisserie), Sitar is also Indian in Durham but there isn't a consistent consensus on quality... Guglhupf is alright for brunch, lunch or dinner and next door (if that is overly cramped) is Foster's (also in Chapel Hill) which is a bit pricey but still good. Market in Chapel Hill is Casual and lots of folks seem to like it. Queen of Sheba is Ethiopian in Chapel Hill. Dames Chicken and Waffles in Durham is well liked and casual. I also toss my hat in for Neals for Breakfast and Lunch. Almost all Sushi places are well liked in Durham (Momoyama, Shiki, Sushi Love) and are casual. Chamas in Durham for Brazilian Steakhouse (Pricey but casual). Weaver Street Market in Chapel Hill has a good breakfast with a hot bar adn baked goods. Toast is good and there are new places opening or just opened such as Old Havana Sandwich shop. The Q Shack in Durham seems to pack them in. I still like Village Deli in Cameron Village for a good lunch and maybe Flying Biscuit for a breakfast. There are lots of good Indian places in Cary (see Udupi, Cool Breeze, etc). Also good for lunch is La Farm Bakery even if all you get is one of their hard to find white chocolate mini baguettes. Med Deli in Chapel Hill is good any time for lunch or dinner. Same goes for Neomonde in Morrisville and Raleigh.

                              Cool Breeze
                              740 E Chatham St Ste E, Cary, NC 27511

                              Raleigh Times Bar
                              14 E Hargett St, Raleigh, NC 27601

                              Queen of Sheba's
                              1129 Weaver Dairy Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

                              Q Shack
                              2510 University Dr, Durham, NC 27707

                              Sushi Love
                              2812 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC 27705

                              Farmer's Market Cafe
                              63 Chattahoochee St, Helen, GA 30545

                              Flying Biscuit Cafe
                              2016 Clark Ave, Raleigh, NC 27605

                              Weaver Street Market
                              716 Market St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516