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CholaNad - Chapel Hill, NC

A friend recommended trying CholaNad, so today we went there for dinner.

I arrived first and the bartender made me feel very welcome, friendly and low-key. I liked the atmosphere, enough that I would've stayed there alone to eat at the bar. Unbeknownst to me when we made dinner plans, Thursdays the restaurant has a beer special, any kind for $2 - bonus!

Once my pal showed up we shared an app of Kuzhi Paniyaram, little steamed rice balls that come with a mild tomato chutney for dipping. For my main I picked the soft shell crab with a dosa, and she had a dosa roll stuffed with chicken. The sauce/gravy for my crab was fantastic, and the giant dosa worked well in picking it up. The dosa was crisp at the edges and crisper on one side than the other, so you could fold it and roll it up but it still had some body and wouldn't collapse when picking up the gravy.

The chef came out of the kitchen several times to talk to the tables. I was all fired up for the crab, but my friend had quite a discussion with him about which dish to try. Service was very attentive, almost too much at the beginning when there weren't many people (we ate early), but then the restaurant filled up and the attentiveness level went to 'really good but not too much'.

We both finished with coffee (and sweet lassi for me), and I had carrot halva for dessert. The plate had a somewhat artistic presentation with two squiggles of some kind of syrup on one side, which I usually ignore but I tried it. The squiggles were actually delicious! One was flavored with cinnamon, and the other, a white one, I couldn't decipher. The chef told us it's white chocolate with marshmallow, interesting and somehow not overly sweet, kind of vaguely coconutty.
I swear I don't usually get excited about the random decorative squiggles on dessert plates. But that's because they're usually just chocolate or blueberry.

We had a great time and will definitely be back. I'm collecting local restaurants to take my parents to when they visit from Toronto, and this is definitely one of them.

 
 
 
 
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    1. I'm glad to see my friend's report. Because it's rare to find a Tamil restaurant serving meat dishes, this time I abandoned my veg principles and had the chicken curry dosa. As you can see from the pic, it was sfuffed full of chicken and served with this wonderful thick chicken gravy and raita. All I can say is: food of the gods, it was so good. I owe it all to the hound who posted about chicken dosas. Thank you thank you:)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Rory

        I think that was me-- if so, you're welcome. I so love that chicken dosa. It may be the best, most delicious deal in Chapel Hill.

      2. Welcome to Chowhound!

        Your review has my mouth watering...where is CholaNad located? I don't get to CH that frequently, but I plan to keep an eye out for this place if I'm nearby.

        3 Replies
        1. re: meatn3

          on Franklin St., in the old Cypress/Trail Shop location

          1. re: brokegradstudent

            mean3; it's across the street from The Franklin Hotel.

            1. re: Rory

              I had dinner at CholaNad this past Friday night. I thought the atmosphere was very nice. The food was quite good but the portions seemed small for the quality and price. I regret to say that the service certainly wasn't up to par.

              I usually appreciate service that is laid back and casual, but what we had was casual to the point of being sloppy. Although they were very friendly and accommodating, the two servers we had didn't recognize the names of items we ordered from the menu, couldn't answer questions about entree ingredients or preparation methods and, lastly, started clearing our table before asking if we were finished eating. Then, when they finally did clear our table they accidentally swiped a curry laden spoon across my jacket and tried to pretend they didn't notice that this had occurred.

              I'll write this experience off to growing pains of a new restaurant, and I'll certainly go back again, but I hope others are getting better service that what we had.

              I did think it was a nice touch for the chef to walk around the dining room to chat with his dinner guests.

        2. Quick question I can't find an answer to on their website: do they have a full bar? My mother, who likes a scotch with dinner, is coming and I was thinking of this as a nice spot to take her for dinner, but need to make sure beforehand. Thanks in advance.

          27 Replies
          1. re: LulusMom

            This is a question easily answered by a phone call, but I'll answer it here. Yes, they do have a full bar - a better bar than most Indian places

            1. re: Tom from Raleigh

              their wines are really nice and that goes for all places. They make a big effort.

              1. re: Rory

                Yay, mom won't drink wine. Has to be the hard stuff. And Tom, yes, but I just figured someone here would know. I was surprised that the website didn't mention anything about the drink situation. Thanks to you both.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  LM talk to the bartender or chef; they are really proud of their wine list & have many by the glass and love to make suggestions. First class, I wish Panzanella had such good wines. Enjoy!

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Looking forward to the report. I've wanted to try this place.

                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                      Just found out this morning that the day my mother is coming is also Chapel Thrill (or whatever they call it) day. Pondering whether or not it will still be worth trying to go there. We'd have to eat early (Lulu's schedule) while the crowds were still around, which might not make it so much fun. At least we can walk there and back.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Festifall... And if you can walk and avoid the parking chaos, it's probably worth a try. I have been to Festifall in years, but I remember it being more on the east side of Columbia St.

                        1. re: mpjmph

                          That is great news (about Festifall and the east side) because last night I bit the bullet and made the reservation. We'll walk down and back, and I'm really looking forward to it (so is my scotch loving mom). Thanks to everyone for the info and help.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            Here's the event guide with a map: http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Modul...

                            It looks like they have moved the event since I last attended (or I am completely mis-remembering it). Looks like things stretch from Mallette to Graham.

                            1. re: mpjmph

                              We'll still be just a bit off it then, I think CholaNad is just a bit west of Mallette. Truly appreciate your help!

                        2. re: LulusMom

                          good time to try Oakleaf or Yamazushi :-p

                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                            Oakleaf isn't open on Sunday evenings and my mother isn't a fan of Japanese food. But I definitely want to try both!

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              Just got back from NYC where I ate at two really top-rated Indian restaurants & they didn't come close to Cholanad & Vimala. We not only have top chefs we have such fresh local ingrediants; what a difference. Enjoy LM & MLM (mother of lutu's m..lol)

                              1. re: Rory

                                Which two? Was Tabla one of them?

                                1. re: bbqme

                                  I've eaten at Tabla and loved it. But I ate at Cholanad last night and think it might be the best Indian restaurant I've ever been to. Thanks to previous posts for steering us (and yes, it included MLM!!). We started with the chicken dosa and shared that; Lulu also had some lamb kofta from the apps page. For my main I got the chicken biryani and my mother got chicken with curried spinach; Lulu shared those with us and also had the chicken curry puffs (again, from the apps). The two real winners were the biryani and that chicken dosa. Those were just so great. Tons left over - they really feed you there.

                                  Service was just this side of awful. The guy was obviously new and knew nothing about the wines and took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get to us. I had to go up to the bar to discuss my wine choice with the bartender, but she was helpful. They were not at all busy but seriously, this waiter was having a hard time keeping up. Still and all the food was so good that I will eagerly await my next trip there. Burgeoning - you need to try it!

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    So happy you loved it! Damn, now I'm jonesing for one of their chicken dosas!

                                    1. re: bbqme

                                      Had my leftovers last night and still delicious reheated. One of the people who worked there told me he prefers the spring dosa (the vegetable one) so maybe next time I'm try one of those. Then again ... how could I resist the chicken?

                                      I do hope they get their service issues ironed out.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        i've been going occasionally for the past year or so, at both lunch and dinner, and service has always been a bit poky, and it is exacerbated when the restaurant is full. It can be frustrating and detract from enjoying the delicious food.

                                        1. re: cervisiam

                                          Went there for lunch and had the Chettinad-style shrimp curry. This place has the little details that sets it apart. The use good quality basmati rice that's perfectly cooked. I loved the slivers of raw ginger as a garnish that added a fresh bite to the dish-- totally stealing that idea for my own curry making. The curry had the right amount of heat-- enough to liven the tongue. I need to work through more of the menu at this place.

                                          1. re: bbqme

                                            Do I need to put the shrimp on my list of things I have to try there? I loved the biryani and the chicken dosa so much I can't imagine ordering anything else.

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              Tell you what, you try the shrimp curry and I'll try the biryani and we'll compare notes. Biryani is difficult to make properly, especially a la carte, thus I've been reluctant to order it at a restaurant. If they do it well that's another feather in their cap.

                                    2. re: LulusMom

                                      Anytime you wanna do lunch give a me a few days notice via email.

                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                        Absolutely! Right now my schedule is overwhelming, but things should calm down a bit in November.

                                        LulusDad just back from a trip and I was raving about this place to him. Lulu said "well, it isn't the best Indian food I've ever had." So I asked her where she'd had better and she said "here." Ahhhhh.

                                  2. re: Rory

                                    Hey hey! Wish I was still there, we never did go to the tofu soup place.

                                    1. re: Nudibranch

                                      Too bad you missed Vit Goal; Where are you in the frosty North?

                                      bqme the biryani is exceptional, I never eat it anywhere. The shrimp pesarratu was terrific. Andhra eggs definitely. Also try the curry (goat) dosa. Hmm I don' t think the spring dosa is a big deal.
                                      pity Tabla is now closed...

                                      1. re: Rory

                                        Yeah, frozen Atlantic north now. Although they just asked if I'd like to go to...warmer place for a while ;)

                  2. Here is a link:
                    http://cholanad.com/

                    **office alert - music starts automatically!**