Was in the Chapel Hill / Durham area for a few days last week and had an opportunity to eat at a few well-known places. All have been the subject of prior posts but I tought the updates might be welcome.
Magnolia Grill (Durham)- First-time visit, found it wonderful. Even though my colleague and I arrived just before closing on a Thursday night, we were well-treated and not rushed. We split an appetizer of fried oysters with country ham and diced vegetables all drizzled with some suace akin to a white remmoulade. From there I had a pork chop with a ramkin-sized cheese grits souffle while my friend ordered an outstanding duck breast dish. The waiter talked us into splitting a banana pie cake with fudge sauce and chopped pecans (much lighter than it sounds). Everything was excellent, very flavorful and very tasty; not cheap but still a good value in my opinion. Ben Barker was there which was nice to see since so many well-known chefs seem to spend little time in their own kitchens these days.
Crook's Corner (Chapel Hill)- First-time visit there as well. Only had time for a quick dinner due to a late conference. Ordered the famous shrimp and grits dish which was wonderful despite being very full of garlic (I'm sure I could have enjoyed it just as well with half the garlic). Unfortunately, I was alone so I didn't get to sample anything else. Once again, not cheap but a good value in my opinion.
Mama Dip's Country Kitchen (Chapel Hill)- Visited at lunch. Had the fried chicken, collard greens, mac 'n cheese with cornbread and a biscuit; all were quite tasty and the crust on the chicken was nice and crisp. Finished off with a piece of pecan pie that was as good as any I've ever had. The cashier, one of the family, mentioned that Mama Dip will be on The Food Network with Sara Moulton several times before the end of this month (dates and times to be posted on www.mamadips.com).
Allen & Sons (Chapel Hill) - Return trip; happy to report everything seems as good as ever despite last year's fire. Chopped pork, slaw, hush puppies, Brunswick stew, and fresh, homemade blueberry pie for me, excellent as always.
Pan Pan Diner (Durham) - About all that was open before heading to the airport for an early AM flight. Good but not exceptional by any means; still worth trying a local place as opposed to Waffle House (though I do love Waffle House).