As we all know, COVID-19 is having a huge impact on small businesses right now. As a native Chapel-Hillian, I always thought that writing a blog of restaurant recommendations would be fun. Now, I feel it is my duty to share some favorites with anyone who doesn’t already know about these restaurants I have known and loved for so many years (in some cases, my entire life).
I know a lot of people are hesitant to get take out right now- I definitely am. If you have the ability to do so, here’s how I believe you can be as safe as possible to take out restaurant food in a time of COVID-19:
- Call ahead and ask what the restaurant’s takeout process is- are they offering pickup or delivery? Do they wear gloves the entire time? Make sure you are comfortable and confident in the way that this particular restaurant is keeping your food clean and COVID free.
- Order your food, and ask to pay (AND TIP!!!) ahead of time, so you don’t have to give them your card. Many restaurants are allowing an easy online or app for ordering and paying.
- If you go to pick up the food, ask the take out person if it’s possible for them to place the bags in the trunk of your car- there should be no physical contact between you and the restaurant worker. Many places will have you just walk up and pick up the food yourself from a designated spot. If that is the case, then place the food in the trunk and use hand sanitizer to clean your hands before you touch your car door, steering wheel, etc. Many places are also offering delivery which can be left at your front door. However you end up getting the food the following steps can help keep you safe:
- Once home, make sure your kitchen countertop is clean. You can put a plastic bag on the countertop if you have one as a designated spot where you will set down the food bag. If you don’t have a plastic bag, then designate an area that is for the food bag and have another area that is a clean area.
- Wear gloves if possible to go get the takeout bags.
- Have a friend or family member take out plates and put on the clean area of the counter.
- With your gloves still on, remove containers from take out bag, open the containers, and empty the food on to the plates- DO NOT TOUCH THE FOOD
- Throw away or recycle the containers and bag as well as the gloves. Also throw away the plastic bag if you used one on the counter. If you set the take out directly on the counter, then disinfect the counter once all food has been moved to plates and you have disposed of containers and bags.
- If you do not have gloves, then follow the same process of setting down the bag and emptying containers onto clean plates without touching the food. Disinfect counter top. Be sure to disinfect any other areas – door knobs, car door, etc that you might have touched after handling takeout bags. Make sure not to touch your face with or without gloves on.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds regardless of whether or not you had gloves to wear..
So, whether you’re a Chapel Hill Native, a college student, someone who just moved here or an incoming first year looking for recs, here is my list of the restaurants around town you should support (you can thank me later)
phone number: (919) 967-2782
Since I was 3 years old, I have always had my birthday dinner at 411 West. Every. Single. Year. I have so many memories at 411- from first dates, to preschool graduations, to prom dinner, to dinners with professors, friends, and family- I’m not sure many places can top 411 to me. An upper-scale Italian restaurant, this place is just the perfect spot for a nice meal. Whether you want homemade pasta, pizza, or a steak, you will never leave without a full stomach. When this is all over, go on a nice warm day and ask to sit on the patio by the koi pond- there’s a beautiful glass roof overhead full of natural sunlight.
My recommendation: whole wheat fettuccine OR chicken masala with spaghetti instead of mashed potatoes.
Phone number: (919) 960-3955
I am not kidding when I say my roommates and I get cosmic at least twice a week, sometimes more. This place is the HIDDEN GEM of Chapel Hill. Cosmic has the best Mexican food for the best price around town. And, when all of this is over, after a night out, go there for some late night drunchies, the place is open till 4:00am.
My recommendation: Chicken Deluxe Burrito with habanero sauce on the side (be warned, it’s hot)
Phone number: (919) 933-8226
If you want fresh salsa made from scratch daily or to try the best chips in the entire state, you’ve got to order from carrburritos. Named after the town it’s in, Carrburritos is one of the first places you see when you go into Carrboro from Franklin Street. My mouth literally is watering just thinking about being in there again. When this is all ever, take an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile there to catch up- sit on the patio if it’s a nice day and drink horchatas and/or margaritas
My recommendation: Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla with a basket of chips. Make sure to get both the fresca and verde salsas to dip. Horchata to drink. The mejor burrito equally slaps.
Phone number: (919) 929-4669
If you went to Chapel Hill High School anywhere from around 2010-2016, this place probably means a great deal to you. Like Cosmic ,this place is cheap, good Mexican food and is known for massive groups scooching tables together to fit 30 or more people to dine. In high school, we would go before football games, after theatre performances, or just when you just wanted to chill with some friends on a budget.
When this is all over, go here with a bigger group of people and sit outside and watch the cars go by.
My recommendation: 3 kids quesadillas. As a kid, I would put down like 8 of these -they are so good. The tortillas are all made fresh and melt in your mouth.
Phone number: (919) 903-9335
Spicy 9 made me like sushi. All rolls come buy one get one, so you end up getting 16 rolls of two different kinds to try. They don’t only have sushi, they have amazing pad thai, spring rolls, and various chicken dishes. Their list of sushi dishes goes on forever, and there is most certainly something for everyone. When this is all over, take your best friends here and do some sake bombs at the dinner table.
My recommendation: Philly Rolls and Spicy Nine rolls. Good god they are good.
Phone number: (919) 933-5277
If you haven’t tried Mongolian food now is the time. You can get a bowl or burrito of your choice of unlimited meats, veggies, rice, and sauce for like $9. When this is all over, go here for a casual weekday dinner.
My recommendation: Large bowl (for leftovers) with beef, chicken, pork, tofu, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onion, green onion, zucchini, mushrooms, brown rice, and original sauce on the side.
SUNRISE BISCUIT KITCHEN
Phone number: (919) 933-1324
I have tons of memories of my dad walking in my house Sunday mornings with Sunrise Biscuits in hand. This place is inexpensive, and has big, delicious biscuits. It’s also a tiny drive through spot anyway, so they have this whole thing down. When this is all over, go grab some biscuits when you’re hungover the next morning. You will instantly feel better.
My recommendation: either a chicken and cheese biscuit or a country ham biscuit with a cinnamon roll and a sweet tea. Honestly just get it all.
Phone number: (919) 929-5524
If you want just a good bagel, do not go anywhere else but Brueggers. I also have tons of memories of family friends getting together for lunch here. They have a huge selection and also make their own cream cheeses. You can just about get any combination of bagel and cream cheese here, and their bagel sandwiches are also amazing. When this is all over, go here if you have a car and a long break between classes. Also when you’re hungover.
My recommendation: Honey grain bagel toasted with honey walnut cream cheese. So. Fire.
Phone number: (919) 942-4897
Merits is an iconic place in Chapel Hill to get a sandwich, so much so that there is a mini Merits now on UNC campus. The restaurant itself doesn’t have that many seats, so it’s perfect to get a to go here. Everything just tastes so fresh- from the bread to the meat to the cheeses.
My recommendation: if you don’t get a BLT on sourdough when you go to Merits something is wrong with you.
Phone number: (919) 903-8511
Since PB opened a few years ago, it has been a non stop hit for students and native Chapel Hillians. I don’t think I’ve been there once without seeing a friendly face. Purple Bowl sells everything healthy, but their specialty is acai bowls. Most, if not all, ingredients are also locally sourced. It’s also worth mentioning that PB has their system DOWN for cleanliness in the time of COVID. When this is all over, go here after a run with your gym buddy.
My recommendation: a regular Appalachian trail bowl, hold the lavender and a side of avocado toast
Phone number: (919) 929-2909
If any of my high school theatre friends are reading this, you already KNOW I had to include Elmos. Elmo’s has literally everything on the menu- you want breakfast? Sure. Lunch? ‘You bet. Dinner? Yeah buddy. Honestly every time I go to Elmo’s I get something different, and it’s always good. I love their pancakes and waffles, their sandwiches are great, and I also love their salads. Regardless, get home fries on the side of any meal. Go here with a big group for breakfast/brunch- extra points if they’re your long time high school theatre friends.
My recommendation: This is for you Anna Zurliene: Vegetarian Greek Grilled Cheese with home fries on the side.
AL’S BURGER SHACK
Phone number: (919) 904-7659
Al’s burgers was nominated and crowned the best burger in the USA in 2019 for a reason. This is the best burger you will ever have. And that’s all I have to say. When this is all over, go on a Friday afternoon to kick off the weekend with your best friends- get the food to go and grab a beer and eat at the beer study next door.
My recommendation: a bacon cheeseburger with onions, lettuce, ketchup and Al’s special sauce. Vegetarian option: cauliflower burger. Get a side of half and half regular fries and sweet potato fries.
Phone Number: (919) 929-2263
A friend of mine from high school’s dad is the head chef at Acme, so I know you’re in good hands. This is more upscale brunch, but the ambiance and the food make it so worth it. They also have really yummy dinners. When this is all over, take your parents here for brunch on parents’ weekend. Make sure to convince them to get the homemade donuts for the table to start.
My recommendation: I’m not sure exactly what they call it, but I love their eggs benedict. As I said before, you also need to try their donuts.
Phone number: (919) 425-0760
Like Merit’s, Med Deli is good enough to be put on campus. Additionally, it happens to be the first place my roommate Gracie and I met each other before starting school. This place is what it sounds like, a Mediterranean Deli full of all the Mediterranean foods you could dream of. When this is all over, take someone here for the first time you meet them.
My recommendation: a veggie fatayer. The best way I describe these is a “Mediterranean pizza” but much, much better.
Phone number: (800) 246-5262
The people who work at Cholanad know my roommate Pablo and I by name because of how often we are there. This place has some of the best Indian food in town. When this is all over, take your parents to Cholonad, if they can take the heat.
My recommendation: Chicken Tikka Masala, garlic naan for the table, and a mango lassi to drink. Also any of their dosas are amazing.
Phone number: (984) 234-3671
Chimney is right down the road from Cholonad, and it is also really dank Indian food. Slightly cheaper than Cholonad, Chimney definitely has the best naan bread around town. When this is all over, go with your friends on a random Tuesday night to treat yo selves. Or go to their all you can eat buffet!
My recommendation: Their Lamb Kashmiri Rogan is to die for. Get lots of garlic naan to share.
OPEN EYE CAFE
Phone number: (919) 968-9410
Open eye is where I used to study during high school and my dad would grab coffee after his Saturday runs. If you don’t know what I mean by a “Carrboro” atmosphere, you will get it here. You will normally find people all weekend just chilling and sipping their strong but delicious coffee. When this is all over, take your homework to Open Eye.
My recommendation: honestly, whatever you normally get. It’s gonna be good
Phone number: (919) 484-2499
Bean Traders is down the road a little bit in Durham, but has the best coffee I have ever tasted in the entirety of my life. Hands down. No debating and/or disputing. That’s all I need to say.
My recommendation: iced vanilla latte with oat milk instead of regular milk. Also get a banana nut muffin.
The reality is, Chapel Hill is just the loveliest place. Anywhere you stop to eat, or in this time, get takeout- will be just as lovely.