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Sunday night dinner in Chapel Hill

I am driving to Chapel Hill this Sunday for a meeting on Monday. I will be staying at the Franklin Hotel and will have a car. I am looking for a place for dinner Sunday night, preferably relatively informal and moderately priced. Any type of food ok. Any suggestions?

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  1. Ok, new requirement: I'm meeting someone from Durham for dinner, and she doesn't want to drive to/through Franklin Street, so maybe someplace in between? Also, I lived in Durham for 6 years about a decade ago, so am completely comfortable driving around, but not so familiar with the restaurant scene anymore. I guess the other option is that I could drive to Durham.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mountaincachers

      If you want Durham on a Sunday night, I'd recommend cozy and laid back French at Vin Rouge, or for lower key, good bar food The Federal. If you can talk her into coming into CH, maybe Kitchen (which is in a strip mall and has ample parking) or even Acme or Panzanella in Carrboro. All are open Sunday nights.

      1. re: mountaincachers

        You should make her come to the Franklin Hotel so that you can have dinner at the Indian restaurant across the street, Cholanad. That place is a cut above most other Indian restaurants.

      2. Guglhupf in Durham is tasty. http://www.guglhupf.com/
        I live in Greensboro, but I dated a guy in Durham/Raleigh for a while and we went on our 2nd date there. It might be a tad pricey for you, but you can make it slightly cheaper, and it's worth every penny. Bull City Burgers in downtown Durham is also low-key and so good. They use local beef!

        1. I'd second Kitchen in Chapel Hill. Good food and service, interesting small plates. Great atmosphere. We always find lots of things we'd like to order. Plus plenty of parking. Lots of special in addition to regular menu. You can check it out here: http://kitchenchapelhill.com/kitchen/...

          Our current favorite restaurant is L'uva in Durham but unfortunately they close on Sunday.

          1. I was going to recommend the Weathvain in Chapel Hill. It is a modest but good place for good food.

            For some reason it looks like they will be closed for the week.


            3 Replies
            1. re: supernc

              I used to like Weathervane when I lived in Durham, though that was in it's old location. I'm glad to hear it's still good.

              1. re: mountaincachers

                I second Cholanad & they have parking right next to the restaurant for your friend. As bbqme says it's a cut above and oh so reasonable. If you want a funky laid back atmosphere Vimala's has great home cooked Indian food. Kitchen is more expensive but very good. Panaznella in Carrboro is worth it for their home made pastas and breads & you can shop in Weaver St.

                1. re: Rory

                  sorry, meant to add: Vimala's, Panzanella also have ample parking too. So no worries for your friend.

            2. Durham - I'll add G2B and Nanatacos which are both casual with a bit of hipness to them and in Durham. I don't know about Tonali's but lots of people like their take on Tex Mex and speaking of that there are tons of places representing south of the border foods from Salvadore and traditional Mexican street foods like Los Comales and La Salamandra that may be cheap and good. I'd also recommend Saffron in Chapel Hill but not in downtown. Though it is informal it may be pricey relative to the other places. You can also look to see if food trucks are gathering around some place like Fullsteam and make a unique eats out of that.

              The Weathervane is under renovation as the coffee bar moves into the store proper (not a good idea on my thoughts) but then again the Weathervane isn't really anything special other than it's location.

              11 Replies
              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                I thought Tonali had closed, but I wasn't a huge fan of the place so I may well have gotten this info wrong. But yes yes yes on Nanastacos! That is a great idea - perfect location, easy going and inexpensive. Agree with bf on the Weathervane.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  Tonali is most definitely still open. I drive by it frequently since its very close to my house. I had brunch there recently and had a nice dinner there just a few weeks ago. Its really an overlooked gem of a restaurant and gets almost zero love here on the CH board.


                  They serve high quality food using farmer's market ingredients. Fresh juices in their margaritas and sangarias, etc. The ambiance at Tonali isn't going to compete with some of the other high quality restaurants in the area, but its cozy and comfortable there. Nanataco really shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as Tonali. Tonali is on a much higher level.

                  Anywho, Tonali is closed on Sunday so mark it off your list. I'd endorse Vin Rouge or G2B as solid Sunday supper choices.

                  Oh, and speaking of "Sunday Supper", I just remembered that Piedmont in Durham does a sunday supper each evening that allows you to choose a few dishes that are larger portions and then served family style. I haven't tried their Sunday supper since I don't tend to eat substantial dinners on Sunday evenings, but it seems like it would make for a fun evening. The Sunday Supper menus are different each week and usually posted only to their FB page.



                  1. re: ToothTooth

                    Wow, Piedmont! I haven't been there in ages - have you? I'd love to go back, I liked it very much under the old owners, but hadn't heard anything about it since it changed hands. I'd love to go back if I just get the slightest budge.

                    I don't think we were comparing Tonali with Nanatacos - it was just that the OP did ask for someplace informal and moderately priced. Tonali wasn't at all expensive when I was there, and certainly feels informal, but you gotta admit, nanastacos is way more so on both counts.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      I've only been to Piedmont once since the change in ownership and that was just a few months ago. The quality is very high but the portions have gotten considerably smaller and a bit more expensive. As an example, I ordered an appetizer plate I shared with my wife that was described as being "complimented with a small celery leaf salad". That "salad" was literally six small celery leaves on the plate. I just had to laugh, it looked to be more of a garnish and certainly didn't warrant being mentioned in the appetizer description.

                      That quibble aside, the steak I ordered was also quite small but very tasty, cooked perfectly and probably about the correct portion size for a human being. Overall, we enjoyed our meal. I should also mention they have a very interesting drink menu at the bar too.

                      1. re: ToothTooth

                        Thanks for the review, I'm happy to hear that the food is still good. I've noticed that a lot of places are downsizing their plates - probably no wonder given the tough economy. Acme is a place that used to have huge portions (actually too big for me most of the time) that definitely seems to have made them smaller.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          i had always thought that piedmont's dinner was just slightly out of our price range with the old owners, and with what you are saying by portions being 'considerably smaller', i do not feel particularly eager to go back.

                          OT - isn't it a shame? you want to support independent restaurants who use local ingredients, but sometimes there's only so much of a 'premium' you are willing to pay.

                    2. re: ToothTooth

                      has service at tonali gotten any better? we went for a saturday brunch last year at 11:15, which was advertised ON THE DOOR as starting at 11:00 am. we were told that it starts at 11:30. ok, no problem, we'll wait (but maybe the sign needs to be fixed?) at 11:40, owner/chef not in sight and with cranky toddler in tow, we went next door to rick's diner.

                      a few weeks later, when we did show up at 11:45 (to be safe), brunch ended up lasting almost 2 hours. this is with us being the only customers for the first hour. i love their food, but the service was abysmal.

                      1. re: cervisiam

                        The last two times I've been to Tonali I didn't have any problems with service, although I have definitely had some problems in the past.

                        Its funny you mention the issue you had with brunch because I ran into something very similar, but with a different result. Just a few weeks ago, our party of four arrived at Tonali for brunch around 11:00am and we waited outside until the doors were opened. When we went inside, we were informed that brunch didn't begin for another 30 minutes but the owner told us he could accommodate us anyway. We were seated promptly and the owner took our order shortly after. He really went out of his way to take care of us. We had a very pleasant and tasty brunch.

                        At a recent dinner with my wife, we had very friendly and attentive service. Based on my recent experiences, I'd say they've really focused on ironing out the service problems they've had in the past.

                  2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                    Tonali is definitely not Tex Mex! It is about as refined Mexican cuisine as one will find in the Triangle. Think Rick Bayless as an analogy.

                    1. re: bbqme

                      If the weather is nice, another option in Downtown Durham is Geer Street Garden. They do great burgers, brats (local), fish tacos and yummy banana pudding, among other things. It's fun, casual picnic seating outside on a patio.

                      1. re: bbqme

                        Totally agree with bbqme. Tonali is NOT Tex Mex. Very good food. Have been there many times and I've had no problems with their service.

                    2. Have to add Kurama to the list. Great sushi between ch and durham

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: veganhater

                        Veganhater!!! I remember you from discussions of Snowshoe dining options.

                        Thanks to all of you for your recommendations. So many to choose from...luckily I come down to this area several times a year for work, so I appreciate the information!

                      2. OK, so it's 2 years later, and I have the same question. I'll be staying at the Franklin Hotel on a Sunday night and need a place to go to dinner. Anyplace within walking distance that you would recommend? Or I can drive a short distance, but will have just gotten out of the car, so don't want to go far. Kitchen was recommended last time. Still good?

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: mountaincachers

                          You'd have to drive to Kitchen.
                          I like Chola Nad -- it's just across Franklin Street.

                          1. re: mountaincachers

                            Looking for casual or anything in particular? All of Franklin Street is walkable. Lantern and Elaine's are still good, Cholanad as someone mentioned, Vimala's is good, Kipos is good, Mediterranean Deli is still good.. Chopsticks and More gets some favorable reviews for Korean.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              I don't think either the Lantern or Elaine's is open on Sunday, the day mountaincachers wants dinner.

                              1. re: walras

                                That may be true. I would also (if opened) go to Mix or Gourmet Kingdom.

                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                  Cholanad and Kipos (super Greek food) are near you and absolutely delicious.

                                2. re: walras

                                  Right - neither the Lantern or Elaine's is open on Sunday nights.

                                  I'd go with Kipos; if you are a fan of Indian, Cholanad is very good.

                              2. re: mountaincachers

                                Thanks everyone. I was driving into Chapel Hill on 86, so stopped at Kitchen before getting to the hotel. The food and service were both good. I'm anticipating several more trips to town this year, so I'll have to try Chola Nad next time.

                                1. re: mountaincachers

                                  Kipos is a good, somewhat casual Greek option that is a newish addition. Easy walk from Franklin hotel. If you are in the area when lantern is open, I highly recommend hitting the bar area for a meal.

                                  1. re: mountaincachers

                                    Gourmet kingdom is also a great option for authentic Chinese that's a short drive or cab ride away, as previously mentioned. Great food, not great beverage program (bring your own wine and pay a corkage fee).

                                    1. re: veganhater

                                      GK is among our favorites but its recommendation should comes with warnings about its service and decor/ambiance. Service is best described as haphazard, no clue when the wait staff will come by to take your order and it what order the items you order will come out-- you will not get it all at once. The atmosphere is somewhat dreary. It used to be a Chinese buffet and they haven't done anything substantial to improve the look of the place since. If you are looking for a fancy night out this is not the place. But if you are looking for a casual night out with great Szechuan style Chinese look no further.

                                      1. re: veganhater

                                        Holy cow, veganhater, I had NEVER thought of bringing my own wine to GK. What a brilliant idea. Thank you.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          My pleasure. It's the only way to travel. Corkage is cheap as well. If you're really picky, bring your own glasses.

                                          1. re: veganhater

                                            Not picky enough for own glasses, and don't worry about the corkage price. You have done a serious public good (or maybe me good). I owe you one.

                                  2. Just came back from Sun night dinner at Acme, it's been about 2 years for me (bad thanksgiving memories there), and the food was delicious. They've a new menu focussing on local produce and it was haute homey southern: plenty of seafood. I had the pecan fried chicken, the breast was so moist (I usually hate white meat when I eat meat) the mushroom gravy was super and the butter beans were tiny and I just made them the other night so I was impressed...oh so good, my dad had the braised short ribs and was in heaven & ordered a side of my mash and gravy. I really liked the menu no end, plenty of choices, the server was lovely...all in all this was a super meal.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Rory

                                      Thanks for this review. You comment on all the things we had problems with the last couple of times we went (probably just about exactly the same as your two years), so I'm happy to hear that they've fixed some problems. Over the 10 years we've lived here we've gone up and down with this restaurant numerous times. I'd love to rely on it again - hoping our review is not a one off. Thanks so much for letting us know.