US Travel | 5 Chapel Hill Restaurants Where You Can Soak Up Southern Culture Like Biscuits with Gravy

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Yes! You want to meet at a grocery store. (image: Elizabeth Thomsen)

by: Grayson Leverenz

I love southern food. There are restaurants throughout the US that claim to specialize in southern cuisine, but there’s always something missing. Sometimes it’s the sweet tea; other times it’s the okra. I consider it a personal affront if the biscuits are missing. The bottom line is: to enjoy the best of southern cooking, you have to be in the south, or in the home of someone from the south.

Since I don’t cook many traditional southern meals at home, I soak up as much southern food as possible when I travel south of the Mason Dixon line. Here’s a roadmap of my picks from last week’s trip to the NC Triangle region (i.e. Raleigh, Durham & Chapel Hill).

1. Mama Dip’s
Mama Dip’s Traditional Country Cooking prepares exactly that, home cooking crafted with a mom’s love. I don’t even need to look at the menu because Mama makes all my favorites. Order fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and fried okra served with biscuits. Top it off with sweet tea to drink, and banana pudding for dessert. Heaven.

2. Weaver Street Market in Carrboro
Asking people to meet you at Weaver Street Market often triggers skepticism. “You want to meet at a grocery store?!?” Don’t be swayed. Yes, you want to meet at a grocery store! Volunteers and employees at the Weaver Street Market Co-op handcraft some of the best dishes, desserts and bread in the triangle area. Enjoy a deli sandwich and jughandle from local Carolina Brewery outside at the picnic tables (with friends, it’s a lot of beer). Free wifi and amazing people watching complete the Weaver Street experience.

3. Bojangle’s
Bojangle’s tops my list of southern fast food, with all due respect to Chick-fil-A which you can now get almost all over the country. I know Americans are just about the only people in the world that eat and drive. Bojangle’s has no restaurant atmosphere because it’s fast food; so I succumb to my cultural instincts and eat it in the car while I’m heading from Raleigh to Chapel Hill. Go with the Cajun filet biscuit combo with seasoned fries and sweet tea to drink. You won’t be disappointed.

4. Lantern
Technically an Asian restaurant, designing meals with local and seasonal ingredients puts Lantern on my list of Chapel Hill southern favorites. Start out with the Salt & Pepper NC shrimp, and then order a daily special for a unique and satisfying flavor adventure. I wasn’t drinking at dinner during this trip, but Lantern pours interesting cocktails like the Strange Acquaintance and the Hibiscus Petal if you’re in the mood.

5. Allen & Son Pit Cooked Bar Bq
No trip to NC is complete without barbeque. To be clear, I mean barbeque the dish, not the method of cooking otherwise known as grilling. Almost every southern state has a distinct style of barbeque, and in NC there’s even a difference in east versus west. Allen & Son serves classic eastern NC barbeque with the vinegar sauce on the side. This trip was my first time there, and I chose the barbeque pork sandwich topped with cole slaw, served with fried okra and potato salad. Guess what I drank. You’re right! Sweet tea. Sadly, I was too full for dessert, which I now understand is 100% homemade. Next time, I’ll be ordering the peanut butter pie.

Click here for a hysterical video reviewing the differences in southern BBQ.

Author: Grayson Leverenz

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

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