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Jul 7, 2013 09:12 AM

New to Chapel Hill, seeking recs for BBQ and more

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.


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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.

        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


              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.