23 Restaurants To Visit In Chapel Hill Before You Graduate

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1. Al’s Burger Shack

Although it only opened its doors in 2013, Al's has already established itself as the best place to get a burger on Franklin Street. Yes, it really is a shack. Yes, you will probably have to wait in a line out the door and fight for a good seat--but Al's worth it. Each burger, from the classics to the creatives, are named after Al's friends and family. Grab a Maple View milkshake and some crinkle cut fries while you're there for the full experience.

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Although it only opened its doors in 2013, Al’s has already established itself as the best place to get a burger on Franklin Street. Yes, it really is a shack. Yes, you will probably have to wait in a line out the door and fight for a good seat–but Al’s worth it. Each burger, from the classics to the creatives, are named after Al’s friends and family. Grab a Maple View milkshake and some crinkle cut fries while you’re there for the full experience.

2. Lantern

If fancy living is what you're after, look no further than Lantern. Just minutes from the heart of campus, Lantern boasts a James Beard Award-Winning chef and an Asian-fusion menu using North Carolina local ingredients. Everyone should eat here at least once during their time in Chapel Hill. Try the spring rolls and one of the whimsical cocktails, like the 'Skittering Dragonfly' with cardamom-infused gin.

If fancy living is what you’re after, look no further than Lantern. Just minutes from the heart of campus, Lantern boasts a James Beard Award-Winning chef and an Asian-fusion menu using North Carolina local ingredients. Everyone should eat here at least once during their time in Chapel Hill. Try the spring rolls and one of the whimsical cocktails, like the “Skittering Dragonfly” with cardamom-infused gin.

3. Top of the Hill

This is the place to take your parents and prospective students. Top of the Hill, or 'ToPo,' has great modern Southern food with an unparalleled view of Franklin Street. Chances are, you've already been here for a drink (or two) on Saturday nights, but check out the buttermilk fried chicken or sweet potato chips with pepper jelly, and ask for a daggum seat outside.

Shawn Rocco / Staff photo by Shawn Rocco / Via thetopofthehill.com

This is the place to take your parents and prospective students. Top of the Hill, or “ToPo,” has great modern Southern food with an unparalleled view of Franklin Street. Chances are, you’ve already been here for a drink (or two) on Saturday nights, but check out the buttermilk fried chicken or sweet potato chips with pepper jelly, and ask for a daggum seat outside.

5. Italian Pizzeria III

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“The closest thing to New York pizza in the South.” –A New Yorker in the South. Open since 1980, IP3 is a bit farther down Franklin, but worth the trek. Brothers Angelo and Vincenzo Marrone make the dough fresh daily. Grab a pitcher of beer and a slice and watch the Tar Heels beat Duke or win a National Championship (or both).

6. Tru Wine & Deli

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Picky eaters rejoice! Salads, wraps and sandwiches are completely customizable at Tru. You create your meal on an iPad and choose from gourmet meats, cheeses and veggies. On any given day, you’ll find students studying inside or on the patio. The prices are college-budget friendly and the bar is open late.

7. Crook’s Corner

Follow the big pink pig over to Crook's Corner where Chef Bill Smith is known by Southern foodies for his comforting dishes and superb food writing. He's been recognized by The New York Times and James Beard Foundation multiple times--with good reason. Crook's is a funky place full of country charm and the best shrimp & grits, Hoppin' John, hushpuppies and catfish you'll ever have. Smith's Atlantic Beach lemon-lime pie (with saltine crust) is a must-try, as is the honeysuckle sorbet available only when the flowers are in bloom.

Follow the big pink pig over to Crook’s Corner where Chef Bill Smith is known by Southern foodies for his comforting dishes and superb food writing. He’s been recognized by The New York Times and James Beard Foundation multiple times–with good reason. Crook’s is a funky place full of country charm and the best shrimp & grits, Hoppin’ John, hushpuppies and catfish you’ll ever have. Smith’s Atlantic Beach lemon-lime pie (with saltine crust) is a must-try, as is the honeysuckle sorbet available only when the flowers are in bloom.

8. Lucha Tigre

When you think of Asian and Latin fusion, you might be a little turned off, but the two cuisines come together in perfect harmony at Lucha Tigre. Everything is fused from the sake-ginger guacamole (served in a soy sauce bowl) to the General Tso's chicken tacos. Check out the $1 mimosas and brunch specials on the weekend. It's sure to be your new favorite spot.

When you think of Asian and Latin fusion, you might be a little turned off, but the two cuisines come together in perfect harmony at Lucha Tigre. Everything is fused from the sake-ginger guacamole (served in a soy sauce bowl) to the General Tso’s chicken tacos. Check out the $1 mimosas and brunch specials on the weekend. It’s sure to be your new favorite spot.

9. Breadmen’s

Breadmen's is the closest thing to a diner in Chapel Hill. You can get anything you want and everything's good. Yes, everything. Eat breakfast anytime of the day surrounded by Tar Heel memorabilia. If you're lucky, you might even see the 2017 National Champions grabbing a meal--it's one of their favorite spots.

Breadmen’s is the closest thing to a diner in Chapel Hill. You can get anything you want and everything’s good. Yes, everything. Eat breakfast anytime of the day surrounded by Tar Heel memorabilia. If you’re lucky, you might even see the 2017 National Champions grabbing a meal–it’s one of their favorite spots.

10. Monterrey

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Ever since the tragic closing of Los Pos, students have turned to Monterrey’s for all their chips and salsa needs. Yes, they cancelled their free queso Facebook check-in deal (RIP), but they still serve the best Mexican food and margaritas in town. You can’t go wrong with the arroz con pollo (ACP) or any of their quesadillas.

11. Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe

As the wise Leslie Knope once said, “Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?” Since 1972, Ye Olde has given the people of Chapel Hill what they really want: waffles. The line is usually long on the weekends and after church on Sundays, but when you bite into those sugar-dusted waffles, you won't really care. Try the Big Bird omelet with bacon and turkey and a side of Big (or Small) Jim's hash browns. Top your waffle with Reese's or M&M's, too, if you're feeling really crazy.

Rebecca Shoenthal

As the wise Leslie Knope once said, “Why would anybody ever eat anything besides breakfast food?” Since 1972, Ye Olde has given the people of Chapel Hill what they really want: waffles. The line is usually long on the weekends and after church on Sundays, but when you bite into those sugar-dusted waffles, you won’t really care. Try the Big Bird omelet with bacon and turkey and a side of Big (or Small) Jim’s hash browns. Top your waffle with Reese’s or M&M’s, too, if you’re feeling really crazy.

12. Bun’s Burgers & Fries

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Another build-your-own favorite in Chapel Hill is Bun’s. Choose from ample toppings, buns, sauces and patties to create your best burger for your best you. Bun’s is open late on the weekends, too, so you can get your drunchies on. Be sure to grab a side of the Dragon Sauce; it’s a Sriracha-lover’s dream.

13. Talulla’s

For upscale Turkish cuisine and hot & cold mezzes, try cozy, candlelit Talulla's. It's perfect for a special occasions and fosters deep conversation. When you step inside, the hanging tapestries might make you forget you're in Chapel Hill. The plates are great for sharing, but you might want the mucver zucchini fritters or char-grilled lamb şiş kebabs all to yourself.

Talullas / Via talullas.com

For upscale Turkish cuisine and hot & cold mezzes, try cozy, candlelit Talulla’s. It’s perfect for a special occasions and fosters deep conversation. When you step inside, the hanging tapestries might make you forget you’re in Chapel Hill. The plates are great for sharing, but you might want the mucver zucchini fritters or char-grilled lamb şiş kebabs all to yourself.

14. Kipos Greek Taverna

Go Greek in a different way at Kipos. Enjoy modern Greek food, live music and--sometimes--belly dancing. The spanakotiropita and fresh salads are amazing. The ouzo-cured salmon is stunning. It can be a bit pricy, so save this place for parent's weekends or birthdays.

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Go Greek in a different way at Kipos. Enjoy modern Greek food, live music and–sometimes–belly dancing. The spanakotiropita and fresh salads are amazing. The ouzo-cured salmon is stunning. It can be a bit pricy, so save this place for parent’s weekends or birthdays.

15. Sutton’s Drugstore

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Burgers, breakfast and vintage sodas create a beautiful triptych at Sutton’s. Open since 1923, Sutton’s has served as a gathering place for Tar Heels young and old. It’s only a drug store in name now, as the pharmacy was sold to CVS in 2014 and the place switched to serving food full time. You might find famous Carolina alumnus or other people you know in the photographs lining the walls inside. Try the chicken and waffle bites or a patty melt and wash it all down with a vintage O-So grape soda or banana milkshake. Don’t forget the fries.

16. Cholanad

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The delicious smells of curries and spices coming out of this place have probably already caught your attention. Cholanad offers contemporary South-Indian fine-dining on Franklin Street, and it doesn’t disappoint. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Order the sampler entrees to get a taste of all the dhal, curry and masala Cholanad has to offer.

17. Merritt’s Store & Grill

According to ESPN, the late Dean Smith loved the double BLT's from Merritt's. You'll have to carve out your afternoon just to wait in the line, but the sandwiches here are well worth it. Grab an old school bottle of Cheerwine or Orange soda and snap a picture for Instagram. And don't forget the banana pudding, that is if you still have any room for dessert.

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According to ESPN, the late Dean Smith loved the double BLT’s from Merritt’s. You’ll have to carve out your afternoon just to wait in the line, but the sandwiches here are well worth it. Grab an old school bottle of Cheerwine or Orange soda and snap a picture for Instagram. And don’t forget the banana pudding, that is if you still have any room for dessert.

18. Jujube

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For Asian-fusion food with flawless presentation, head over to Jujube. Don’t let the strip mall fool you, this place is fancy AF. Try the Hawaiian ahi poke with an original cocktail like the “Togarashi Sour” with cashew juice, yuzu-ginger sour and togarashi. Jujube is the perfect spot to grab a drink with friends and celebrate your pending status as a real adult.

19. Sandwhich

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For true farm-to-table food, look no further than Sandwhich. It offers seriously fresh sandwiches, salads, burgers, polenta bowls and even tacos, and the menu changes daily. The ingredients speak for themselves and every meal comes with a side of crunchy, quick-brined pickles. The grilled chicken sandwich with mozzarella and pesto on ciabatta might just change your life.

20. Lime & Basil

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Lime & Basil is the place to get pho on Franklin Street. Although it may look small from the outside, it offers flavorful, authentic vietnamese dishes at good prices. Try the fresh summer rolls stuffed with vermicelli noodles, and, obviously, get the pho.

21. The Bagel Bar

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There’s no better hangover cure than a bagel sandwich from The Bagel Bar. Choose from 20 different flavors of bagels and over 10 cream cheeses and load up the toppings to make your bagel dreams come true. The bagels are New York style, as is the lox spread. As close to the Real McCoy as it gets.

22. Mediterranean Deli

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Med Deli is the best place to get Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food–by the platter. You might have been to the mini version in the Lenoir dining hall on campus, but actually going to the Franklin Street restaurant is a must. With large portions and rows (and rows) of sides and salads to choose from, ordering your meal could take a good 20 minutes of deliberation. The food is fresh and flavorful and the pita is as close to perfect as it can be. Don’t forget to take your gluten-free friends; there’s pita for them too.

23. Honorable Mention: Jade Palace

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So, it’s technically in the neighboring town of Carrboro, but Jade Palace has the best Chinese food in the area. Period. Delivery is fast and it’s the perfect accoutrement to a Netflix night-in.

 

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