Best Restaurants in Chapel Hill, NC

The best restaurants in Chapel Hill, NC range from Asian cuisine to coffee shops to the locally grown produce at the farmer's market.

On Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 10:56
Chapel Hill

Up and down The Strip, the dining choices are as rich as Chapel Hill itself. A Turkish teahouse. A Mediterranean deli. A Starbuck's. Northern Italian cuisine. Sushi. California chic. Elegant dining at Elaine's. A microbrewery at Top of the Hill. And there, in dead center of the artery, the blue plate specials of the Carolina Coffee Shop.

Dining is a delight in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, where food fans can find some of the best restaurants in the state. Acme Food & Beverage Company in Carrboro uses fresh, locally-grown produce in their dishes. Kipo's in Chapel Hill offers fine Greek dining on a patio that overlooks historic Franklin Street.

And with a ratio of one restaurant for every 280 residents, there is a pretty good chance for anyone to find a satisfying meal. Even the pickiest eater should dine well in Chapel Hill.

Here are a just a few area favorites: Crook's Corner offers some of the nation's best upscale Southern dining, with its renowned shrimp and grits and a bamboo-shaded patio. Il Palio Ristorante has the distinction of being the only Italian restaurant in North Carolina to win AAA's prestigious Four Diamond Award. And Elaine's offers enough urban elegance to dazzle patrons.

Marrying Asian Flavors and NC Ingredients

An impressive stop on the fine-dining block is Lantern. Directly across from Elaine's on West Franklin Street, Lantern serves up Asian dishes with regional flair, such as tea-and-spice-smoked chicken, pork-and-chive dumplings and Thai-style summer rolls. Lantern is a marriage of Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients sourced mainly from local farms and fisheries.

Diners can choose between the intimate red glow of Lantern's back room and the main dining room, a minimalist's dream with soft green walls and mod George Nelson bubble lamps from the 1960s.

In recent years, Lantern has been named one of "America's Top 50 Restaurants" and "best farm-to-table restaurants" by Gourmet Magazine, as well as one of "America's 50 Most Amazing Wine Experiences" by Food & Wine magazine. In 2013, Lantern was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for "Outstanding Restaurant in the Country."

Fill a Prescription, Sip on a Shake

Ever had a milk shake at a pharmacy? Not very many young'ns in this generation have. That is, except for people who visit Sutton's Drug Store in Chapel Hill. Opened in 1923, this pharmacy has been through two owners but has still managed to keep the pharmaceutical tradition alive; including serving coffee and milkshakes.

No one can budge the café regulars, some of whom have their own coffee cups stored behind the counter. Sutton's serves a full breakfast, including grits and hand-cut home fries, from 7-11 a.m., then switches over to burgers, dogs and other lunch staples. Naturally, shakes are made the old-fashioned way "“ with real milk, ice cream and syrups. Sutton's generations of customers wouldn't have it any other way.

Made by the Seller, Sold by the Maker

"If they did not produce it, they will not sell it." That standard helps explain why The Farmer's Market in Carrboro is one of the best in the region. It also means fine, fresh locally grown produce is guaranteed, along with, prepared foods, flowers, crafts and farm products such as cheese and wool. Held two days a week in the Carrboro Town Commons, next to Town Hall, the Saturday markets are open year round 7 a.m. until noon between April and October and 9 a.m. until noon November through March. The Wednesday Market is open from 3:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. April through October.

Chapel Hill restaurants continue to offer throngs of salivating customers cuisine worthy of a much larger town. Perhaps the fact that Chapel Hill is a university town has led to the proliferation of eateries eager to satisfy collegiate appetites. It also can't hurt that the area's population is a well-traveled crowd that clamors for fare beyond the ordinary. Whatever the reason, locals look for any excuse to eat out and proudly take out-of-town guests on culinary treasure hunts.

Find more great reasons to live in Chapel Hill, NC.