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New to Chapel Hill, seeking recs for BBQ and more

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We're travel writers spending the summer in Chapel Hill as part of a two year global odyssey. Seeking authentic local places for barbecue, Southern cooking, ice cream and whatever else floats your boat.

Thanks!

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  1. First of all, please read through the many existing threads for Chapel Hill, Durham, Cary and Raleigh. There are dozens of pertinent threads that will help you. The Triangle is a pretty large place, with many, many great food options.

    Allen and Son BBQ, located between CH and Hillsborough is outstanding. (Note that this is not the one located near Pittsboro)

    Other off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions would be Joyce and Family in Fuquay-Varina (not far from CH), Fiesta Grill, Saxapahaw General Store, Merritt's Store and Grill (for a BLT sandwich), Crook's Corner, Sunrise Biscuit to name a few.

    1. Locopops is something unique. Hard to imagine that popsicles could be so interesting.

      1. If you don't mind a little drive west, you should check out Keaton's BBQ. But, you're going for the chicken. The Roadfood folks have a nice review of it and rated it 5 stars. Place is cash only, and hours are divided. Trust me, this place is worth a visit.

        www.keatonsoriginalbbq.com

        1 Reply
        1. re: goodeatsinadive

          I agree Keaton's is great, but as an fyi to the OP, it's about 2 hours from Chapel Hill (which I wouldn't consider a "little drive"). If you're willing to drive 2 hours, there are many, many places to consider.

        2. We lived in Chapel Hill for a while, now that we are back in the Northeast, these are the places that we miss and hold dear:

          1) Merlion restaurant- very good Singaporean/Malaysian style food, extremely high quality ingredients. It may not be the most authentic restaurant according to Singaporeans, but it is very very good. Dh still misses their Tom Yum soup. I miss their pad thai and pad kee mow that both had great texture and very large shrimp pan fried in peanut oil. You rarely have shrimp like that anywhere nowadays (must go at dinner for these). Also they had pretty good roti and they even offer Peking Duck.

          2) Sandwhich- we miss this place too! A simple restaurant focused on sandwiches using fresh mostly local ingredients. Not too heavy for most items, really delicious. Great burgers, a good place to get prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches or vegetarian sandwiches.

          3) Crook's corner- I think the best time is brunch. As far as I could tell fried oysters and shrimp and grits, with fresh squeezed oj on the patio was one of the best experiences in CH. We went once for dinner but it wasn't memorable, not bad but the brunch is something special.
          3a) Speaking of brunch, Ye Olde Waffle Shop in Chapel Hill deserves to be written up. A great diner, cute atmosphere and good quality diner food.

          4) Beer at Milltown, not the food, fries I guess if you're really hungry but they have a great beer selection.

          5) Kurama sushi at the sushi bar (just over the line in Durham). The sushi chef is haughty, in a way you want your sushi chef to be. They have a few Japanese specials on the board and good fish.

          6) Merritt's store and Grill, but I would recommend the fried egg and bacon sandwhich. You can get that with tomato as well and of course mayo as this is the South. The egg balances the bacon better than in a BLT. (it's good quality bacon, diner style which is the attraction).

          7) J. Bestki's in Raleigh- we made the trip for this a couple of times, they make their own sausage and their own pierogis. Hard to come by in most places, let alone in the South.

          8) A great meal can be had at Watt's Grocery in Durham (actually a relatively upscale restaurant that was written up in NYTimes) but you must go on Fri/Sat night. I went once for lunch and Sunday dinner and it was terrible. But those peak hours were pretty fantastic- they use local ingredients to make Southern inspired food and also make great cocktails and know good service (on those nights!).

          Those are the main players for us. If you are bored and want Indian I recommend Sitar Indian across from Kurama's. I did not have any really good Mexican or Southern at a restaurant(apart from the ones listed). However there are taco trucks around construction areas that are quite good! If you want to make the drive to Raleigh and are in need of Middle Eastern sandwiches/dips, Neomonde is quite good- I dont know if something has opened up in CH since we left in that area.
          In terms of grocery shopping, whole foods is where it's at for most staples BUT, the farmer's markets are incredible. I went to the one in front of Southern Season (also a market). Look for EverLaughter Farm, the best greens, turnips that will probably change the way you ever look at them again! Bread from the co-op Weaver St. Market in Carrboro (basically in CH). The outdoor brunch scene on a weekend in the shaded yard at the co-op is worth checking out. There is home-made ice cream across the street from them.

          4 Replies
          1. re: fara

            Totally agree on Merlion. I love that place. I've eaten my way across a pretty large part of the menu and only been disappointed once or twice.

            Also agree that the bread (and pastries) at Weaver Street Market are top notch. I was in France (including Paris) recently and didn't have any pastries as good as what we get at WSM. Sort of shocking.

            1. re: fara

              The homemade ice cream is Maple View. The scoop shop in Carrboro is cute and convenient, but for the full experience you have to drive out to the farm/store in rural Orange County. Fantastic ice cream, and you can sit in a rocking chair and watch the cows that produce the cream.

              1. re: mpjmph

                FYI, the "scoop shop" across from Weaver Street is now a coffee shop/ice cream store that doesn't seem to be owned by Maple View. Last time I stopped in, they had local ice creams available, but no Maple View. But Weaver Street has pints of Maple View ice cream, if you need a fix but don't have time to head out to the farm.

                1. re: pamdemic3

                  the ice cream shop now has local ice creams from Tar Heel and Homeland and vegan ice cream from The Parlour, I think it's frankly better than Maple View.

            2. The Old Place in Bear Creek, Southern Buffet, call first, I am a little confused by their Face Book Page. Not sure if they are only doing catering and events now or a full restaurant

              But a very nice drive out and not far from chapel hill

              https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ol...

              2 Replies
              1. re: chazzer

                The Old Place closed their restaurant in March. It is going to be missed.

                1. re: dfilpus

                  Too bad, it was a nice ride out for a good meal. Too many of the quality buffets have closed in the last few years.

              2. I'd agree with carolinadawg that Allen & Son's (in Hillsborough) is the best for BBQ, but you can find tons of debate on this issue. For Southern cooking, I like Watts Grocery in Durham. For ice cream, I think Parlour (also in Durham) is the best. There are plenty of other threads on what's best in the area (known as the Triangle) to pore over. I will add that The Saxapahaw General Store is definitely worth a drive - it's not too far from Chapel Hill. And the Carrboro Farmer's Market is pretty cool too.

                1. I like Dame's Chicken and Waffles in Durham. I wouldn't say the idea is new as there are older places around the states. I also like Toast which is nearby.

                  Kipos which just arrived on the scene serves up homey Greek food and Cholanad does good Tamil and Southern Indian dishes.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                    Just went to Kipos last night and was once again really impressed with the food. Been about 6 or 7 times now and have not been let down. Also a big fan of Cholanad.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      Just came back from dinner at Vimala's, I had the lightest medhu vadai (lentil doughnut) ever; her food is so fresh and delicious. I'm spoiled for life.

                  2. I can't believe no one mentioned The Pit (Raleigh) for BBQ...his meat can't be beat! :-D

                    Crook's Corner (CH) for Southern eats.

                    Revolution (Durham), chef inspired cuisine.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: gemini0660

                      In Chapel Hill, I'd go to The Pig after having tried Allen & Son. The Pig has a wider menu and a lot more inventiveness. Also, The Pig uses only humanely raised animals (I believe The Pit does as well).

                    2. Welcome! I'll limit my list to Chapel Hill/Carrboro and Durham, places that I've actually tried and not to be missed.

                      Chapel Hill/Carrrboro: Saxapawhaw General Store, Allen & Son, The Pig, Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe and Cholanad for Indian, Gourmet Kingdom for Szechuan Chinese, Neal's Deli, Meil Bon Bon, Crook's Corner, and Fearrington House.

                      Durham: pretty much all of downtown-- Mateo, Pizzeria Toro, Dame's Chicken & Waffles, Loaf, Scratch, Monuts Donuts, Parlour Ice Cream, Daisycakes, Rose's...

                      The Carrboro and Durham Farmers Markets are great scenes on Saturday mornings.

                      1. What a timely thread! We're visiting Chapel Hill this weekend (Saturday thru Monday) and I can't wait to visit the local farmers markets and other recommendations on here.

                        I was hoping to sample Carolina crabs (and compare them to our Maryland crabs). Is there a place near Chapel Hill for this? Hard and soft, we love both. Here in Baltimore we have same day delivery of crabs caught on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Is there something similar in Chapel Hill? I'll have access to a full kitchen, so I can steam/fry my own if there's no good option to eat out.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: bmorecupcake

                          I would go to Tom Robinson' Seafood market in Carrboro for the crabs. Squids in Chapel Hill may have them as well.

                          1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                            Squids no longer sells uncooked seafood. I've also never seen blue crabs on their menu, although I've heard that if you ask during soft shell season they'll sometimes do them for you (I guess they get them for regulars or something).

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              I was thinking about Squids for the restaurant side, but good to know they don't have crabs on the menu. We get softies from Tom Robinson's.

                              Locals Seafood goes to the Saturday Chapel Hill Farmers Mkt. They go to a number of farmers markets and say they'll have hard crabs.

                              http://localsseafood.com/2013/05/harv...

                              1. re: Tom from Raleigh

                                The only crab they have at Squids are the king crab legs and a not very good crabcake. I think your recommendation of Tom Robinson's is a very good one.

                          2. re: bmorecupcake

                            Call Crooks Corner (919) 929-7643 to see if they have soft shell crabs on the menu for the night - their's are delicious. The season has been late because of the lower temperatures this year (and I got this from a good friend of mine who is a crabber on the Pamlico River).

                            I don't know where you can buy the crabs up here - Unfortunately there are not many fresh seafood markets here like there are in the eastern part of the state. Check out Tom from Raleigh's recommendation - (919) 942-1221 for the seafood market. They don't have a web site.

                            1. re: bmorecupcake

                              This Saturday's market in Carrboro is Tomatofest so that will be fun but a bit crowded. You can get live crab at Li Mings last I checked. I don't know if soft shells have stopped for the season. I would check Tom Robinson as others have mentioned. I think there is a place in Durham too. I know someone posted in one of these threads about Seafood purveyors in the area.

                              1. re: bmorecupcake

                                Tom Robinson has good quality seafood but why mess with cooking given the short time that you're here? If you want crabs I would call Fishmongers in downtown Durham (15 minutes from Chapel Hill) and see if they currently have them on the menu. I'd be surprised if they don't.

                                One other note, if you want to try NC barbecue, say at Allen & Son or The Pig, make sure to go on Saturday. Both are closed on Sunday and A&S is closed on Monday as well.

                                It's too bad you won't be here this Friday. You could have had a meal at Sax Gen Store and taken in the Camera Obscura concert at the Haw River Ballroom next door. That's what I'll be doing.

                                I hope you enjoy your visit.

                                1. re: bbqme

                                  If I can't get a table at the Saxy General Store tomorrow evening, I guess that means I'll be dining next door at The Eddy. Both VERY solid dining options before the show at HRB. Also, Fiesta Grill on the way out to Saxapahaw.

                                  1. re: ToothTooth

                                    The Eddy recently (in the past few months) got the chef from Il Palio. I can't wait to go.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      Which chef? Not Adam Rose.

                                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                        No, Isaiah Allen, who was the sous chef and came up with many of their dishes. He's pretty amazing.

                                    2. re: ToothTooth

                                      Tooth, if you see an Indian guy, say hi. I'd love to meet you!

                                      1. re: bbqme

                                        At the risk of embarrassing myself, by approaching "an Indian guy" in Saxapahaw that isn't you, I will most certainly do this!

                                        1. re: ToothTooth

                                          I think one of you needs to have a identifier.. like.. I'll be the one smoking an old school pipe or something

                                    3. re: bbqme

                                      Crooks Corner may have hard crabs as well. I heard Bill Smith on NPR last week talking about his hard crab recipe.

                                  2. If you care about where your food comes from, then I highly recommend The Pig for BBQ. http://thepigrestaurant.com/
                                    They use local, pasture-raised pigs. Their sides are delish also.
                                    I agree the Parlour in Durham is the best ice cream.
                                    There are tons of great places in the Triangle, you won't have any trouble.