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Dinner in Durham/CH, pulling all the stops

A grateful client is taking us out for dinner, price irrelevant. With the demise of Magnolia and Bonne Soiree, where would you go? I've got Nana's and Four Square in my back pocket if nothing else rings my chimes, but I haven't been out for high end cuisine locally for some time, so I'd appreciate some new ideas.

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    1. re: corngrits

      I'd second this but what does your client like to eat?

      1. re: LBD

        Lantern or Fearrington House are both solid choices for a celebratory meal. Try to figure out what the wallet likes to eat and take that into account as well.

        1. re: Tom from Raleigh

          The client, afaict, has very wide ranging tastes. We do want to be able to hear the conversation, so acoustics are actually as much of an issue as cuisine.

      2. If you don't mind the short drive to Cary, I'd go to Herons at the Umstead. Great menu, excellent service, and the decor is spectacular. If you want to stay right in-town, head to Bin 54 in Chapel Hill.

        1. I'll second Bin 54. Haven't been to Heron's, but they just got named one of the 'World's 101 Best Places to Eat' in an article by Newsweek and the Daily Beast:


          4 Replies
          1. re: romansperson

            To note that article was by other chefs... not discounting but I would say Herons, Fearrington or Lantern.

            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

              I googled Heron's as I've never been there and quite frankly haven't heard much buzz about it. I live in Durham.

              $18 for a burger with fries? $14 for a Caesar salad? Rock shrimp salad on the summer menu? What is wrong with our wonderful NC shrimp? I know it is a little different, but it is delicious and fresh.

              And all this is in the bar and lounge. They didn't list the dinner menu.

              No thanks - won't be trying it. There are so many good places in Durham & Chapel Hill - I don't see how this place can even compete. Maybe just for people who live in Cary and Raleigh and don't want to drive to Durham or Chapel Hill.

                1. re: Jeanne

                  Like the above said....Clearly you missed the Forbes 5 star results and Newseeks Top 100 Places in the US to Eat, huh? It's the only Five Star/Five Diamond restaurant in the state. Not sure you need more "buzz" than that.

              1. I'll throw out another option, One in Chapel Hill. For a business meal, I think it's just a better atmosphere, having a more contemporary feel. While I like most of these other options, I just feel that they might not strike the right tone. Heron's feels too fussy, Fearrington too frilly, Lantern a bit too noisy, Il Palio a bit too in a hotel lobby-y, etc. And, I've had a few great meals here. They don't seem to get much attention on these boards, but I think that they should.

                2 Replies
                1. re: dinersaurus

                  I agree about ll Palio. I resisted for a long time after a disastrous brunch there 8 years ago. But once I finally went for dinner I was pretty impressed. I will say that things seem to vary from one trip to the next (one time something comes out really salty, the next time something else comes out cold, the next time everything is perfect) which keeps me from putting it at the top of my list, but I still always enjoy most of what I get there.

                  Also agree with Bin 54, especially if you're meat eaters.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    I feel it only fair to mention that we had a dinner at Il Palio this week that was all out great. Not a single misstep.

                2. All this said, maybe Bin 54 ...

                  1. I would highly recommend Panciuto in Hillsborough if you don't mind driving a little farther. Great, great pastas all made in house. Lovely dining room that makes you feel like you've really gotten out of town.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: pheebs

                      I second the Panciuto rec out of all these suggestions.

                      1. re: anonj

                        i had a friend who was called by panciuto an hour before their reservation, citing that there weren't enough guests so they would be closing early. it doesn't seem like that's par for the course, but i would be wary if you were making a later reservation time in their 5:30-8:30 PM operating period.

                        1. re: cervisiam

                          That isn't at all cool. I'd be very PO'd.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            And if you are lingering @ 8 pm, they will rush you so it will be emptied out by 8:30. Been there and regardless of the food(excellent) I found this practice quite inhospitable

                    2. When are they taking you out as there may be a special case dinner like.. dinner at celebrity dairy or elodie farms or Roses Meat shop and sweets might be doing something.

                      1. Fearrington and Lantern, without a doubt.

                        2 Replies
                          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                            We haven't gone yet. The dinner won't actually happen until October. I think we have decided on One.

                            Interesting to hear from LulusMom about Palio. My experiences there run the gamut, but were all quite some time ago.

                        1. Four Square never disappoints.

                          1. Had a great meal a Nana's last week, start to finish, that I preferred to dinner at Heron's in July. It's not a fair comparison, comfort food vs artistic plates, and on another night it could easily be the other way around.

                            1. Has anyone been to Mandolin in Raleigh yet? I'm still waiting to hear some chatter on that.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                Yes, had a very good meal there this spring, posted very briefly about it here. I'm about due for a return trip while the local summer produce is still so good.

                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                    Reporting back - our second meal last week was better even than the first early this year. We really like this place. First time I remember seeing local pawpaw featured anywhere :-). However and I'm being overly-critical I'd like to have seen more of the abundance of okra, tomatoes, eggplant, field peas, etc. that are still in the markets...it looks like the menu has turned towards the fall. The dishes we had were outstanding with at least 5 or 6 different things going on, although whereas I prefer a pan sauce, vinaigrette, etc. with fish these were clarified or brown butter so more oily than I normally like. Like I say I'm nitpicking; the food is excellent, and it's the only place in Raleigh we like as much as our favorite places in Durham and CH.

                                    1. re: D R C

                                      What is the layout like? Is there a bar? I frequently dine solo and am curious if this place lends itself to that.

                                      1. re: D R C

                                        Like I said something about the menu to me sounded like a place I might see on a trip to Charleston.

                                    2. So to wind up this thread, at least from my perspective, in the end, we ended up at Parizade. I was distinctly underwhelmed. Maybe it was because it was Parent's weekend at Duke (which also explains why every other option seemed to be booked)? The company and conversation were great, but the food? Meh.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Remsleep

                                        Well ugh. I didn't see anyone in the above thread mention Parizade, and everything mentioned in this thread would clearly be a better choice, even the places that aren't on our normal rotation.

                                        Pancuito, Fearrington House, Il Palio, Herons would have all been clearly better choices. Revolution in the Durham would have been acceptable too.

                                        An hour's worth of research here and elsewhere would have given you all kinds of great suggestions, so I'm really at sea about how you settled on Parizade.

                                        1. re: fussycouple

                                          I didn't, in the end, make the pick. There was a strong bias for staying in Durham, rather than heading to points south, west, or east. Combine this with the logistical issues of Duke parents' weekend and there one is. When I was told by the person who made the reservation, my own inner monologue had a distinct "Well ugh" tone to it as well.

                                          1. re: fussycouple

                                            Suffice to say.. on the whole.. Giorgio's restaurants blow. Maybe only 2 of his restaurants are worth stepping foot in for food. That said Revolution, Vin Rouge, Watts, Nana's, or Washington Duke Inn would have worked depending on what was available.. heck even a meat house like Chamas would work compared to Parizade.