Category Archives: Soul Food

Where to Eat in the Triangle During Graduation Weekend

It’s that time of the year…college seniors are getting ready to graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives. The most important part of graduation? Where you take your family to eat, obviously. Friday night, your family arrives, hungry and ready to eat – where do you take them? Then there is Saturday lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. So much to eat in so little time!

Your family is from out of town and wants to experience something authentically southern:

Take your out-of-town family to get an authentic dish of chicken and waffles at Dame’s in Durham. Dame’s has a laid-back, casual atmosphere and a delicious selection of chicken and waffle creations, including choices of sweet potato waffles and vegan waffles.

Looking for something more elegant? If you didn’t already make a reservation, it may be hard to get into Elaine’s on Franklin, but if you can get a reservation, enjoy a refined, scratch-made meal in this Chapel Hill establishment. The menu at Elaine’s revolves around the best local ingredients available, so it is constantly changing but consistently exquisite.

The Pit serves North Carolina barbecue in a fun atmosphere, but be sure to book a reservation because this is a popular restaurant and tends to get busy on weekends. Ranging from North Carolina pork barbecue to turkey barbecue and a selection of scrumptious sides (mac and cheese, black eyed peas, sweet potato fries…the list goes on), The Pit has something for everyone.

Another good option is Watt’s Grocery in Durham, a distinctively North Carolina restaurant. With items ranging from Bourbon Brined Pork Loin to Seafood Gumbo, Watt’s serves southern food just right. The menu is limited and I have only been to Watt’s for brunch, which was fantastic. I would love to try their lunch and dinner menus as well.

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp & Grits

Biscuits with Jam and Butter

Biscuits with Jam and Butter

Acme is another North Carolina restaurant that is good for dinner and Sunday brunch. If you go for Sunday brunch, expect a wait. The coffee cake and beignets (if they have them) are delicious ways to start out your brunch. If you are a UNC graduate, and you can’t make a reservation at a Chapel Hill restaurant, try Acme in Carrboro – you will be pleasantly surprised!

Your family is from North Carolina but you want to show them something different:

I had a great dining experience at Venable in Carrboro, serving local food since May 2012. As a relatively new restaurant, Venable is a good place to take your family if they are from North Carolina. Venable serves dinner and brunch as well as a late night menu. The Chèvre Salad and the local fish selection make for quite a tasty dinner.

Another option is Bida Manda, a fairly new Laotian restaurant in downtown Raleigh. You will need a reservation for Bida Manda; since it’s opening, Bida Manda has taken the Triangle food scene by storm. With authentic Laotian tastes and North Carolina decor, this is a perfect place for a nice dinner on Saturday night with your family.

Green Papaya Salad: Tomato, peanuts, spicy lime sauce, sticky rice, and your choice of: Grilled Flatiron Steak Grilled Duck Breast Grilled Ginger and Garlic Pork Neck Grilled Lemongrass Chicken Grilled Vegetables

Green Papaya Salad at Bida Manda

The Lantern is an Asian fusion restaurant: Asian flavors made with North Carolina ingredients. Since its opening in 2002, Lantern and its chef/owner Andrea Reusing have won awards in “America’s Top 50 Restaurants” and “best farm-to-table restaurants” categories.

Family a little crazy? Don’t want to take them out in public?:

Sometimes, it’s easier to order in since restaurants tend to fill up quickly around graduation time. One of my favorite casual lunch restaurants in the Triangle is Neal’s Deli. Neal’s is a family business and uses local ingredients to create simple yet tasty deli sandwiches. Check out their catering menu here.

Turkey Reuben: Turkey with Swiss, kraut and Russian on rye

Turkey Reuben at Neal’s Deli

Nantucket Grill and Bar offers an expansive catering menu. However, if you decide to cater from somewhere else, you must at least order your celebratory cakes from Nantucket. The Strawberry Shortcake and Chocolate Bliss are two of my favorites. Nantucket has locations in Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh.

You’ve taken your family out for lunch and dinner. Time for the best meal. Brunch:

If you can’t get into Watt’s or Acme, don’t worry – there are plenty of brunch options in the Triangle. Big Ed’s City Market is a Raleigh establishment, serving fresh local eggs and house-made hotcakes since the 1980s.

When I was a student at UNC, I loved going to Breadman’s for brunch because I could always expect a delicious pancake that was almost larger than the plate it was served on. Breadman’s is perfect for the group who can’t agree – the restaurant serves breakfast all day along with a variety of lunch options, including sandwiches, burgers and salads.

Another choice for families who can’t agree is Elmo’s Diner, with locations in Carrboro and Durham. Elmo’s makes for a good local brunch or lunch restaurant because of it’s vast options. One person from your party may order an omelette, while another orders a burger and yet another person may order a large salad or a wrap. Elmo’s is also a kid-friendly environment. However, they do not take reservations, but the wait usually goes by quickly.

If you don’t mind driving a little bit out of the way, Guglhupf Bakery and Cafe will satisfy your inner European with German-inspired delicacies. Guglhupf has a large outdoor seating area and an attached bakery, so you can take home some pastries.

Wherever you decide to take your family, enjoy this special time with them. And congratulations!


LINK:’s Fried Okra

Photo Credit:

Fried okra is one of the ultimate Southern sides. I grew up eating it at a placed called The Fox (now defunct) in High Point. My dad had turned me onto them as a decent alternative for french fries beside a burger. I think he got me to order them so he could have both okra and french fries with his burger. Well played, dad.. Fried okra is usually on the menu at a lot of barbecue joints and local burger shacks but not all of them hand-bread their fried okra which can be kind of disappointing because then you know that it came straight from the freezer aisle. I can deal with the frozen variety but they normally have to be doused in ketchup or ranch which can mask about anything

What is the best fried okra that you have ever eaten in North Carolina? posted a great recipe for homemade fried okra and, as you can guess, her recipe includes a little heat with 1 1/2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning.’s Fried Okra recipe

REVIEW: Becky’s & Mary’s – High Point

My buddy, Russ, is always telling me about new places in and around High Point that I need to try and write about on Eat It, North Carolina. I am forever grateful for his introduction to these all of these places because, even growing up in High Point, I had never heard about a few of them before. A couple of weeks ago, I drove over to High Point to meet him for lunch at a place called Becky’s and Mary’s on East Washington Drive near downtown High Point.

Becky’s and Mary’s is off the beaten path in an area of town that has seen better days. You could pass by Becky’s and Mary’s without ever realizing it because there is basically no visible signage except for an illuminated OPEN sign and two small paper signs taped to the windows. There is a dirt parking lot next to the restaurant that has potholes and collects water after it rains but there are always cars in it as long as the restaurant is open.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone at the restaurant about the history of the place but I found a great article in Our State Magazine that goes into great detail about Becky’s and Mary’s with more of a focus on the culture than the the food.

The staff at Becky’s and Mary’s is some of the most friendly that you will come across in the restaurant industry. “Service with a smile” is something that it is widely used across the industry and many times a facade but Becky’s and Mary’s is the real deal. They are legitimately happy to see each and every person walk into the restaurant and sit down to enjoy the food that they put their heart and soul into. Whether it be a regular that they see everyday or a new face that has never been in there, they welcome you with open arms and kind spirits.

Meat and two vegetables is what the Southern cooking at Becky’s and Mary’s is all about. Each day, they have new specials which they write on the board in front of the cash register. They had the staples like country-style steak, fried chicken and pork chops plus sides like yams, potato salad, rice & gravy and mac & cheese. Russ told me that they had the best pork chops that he has ever had in his life so I figured I would give them a try.

He was absolutely right. The pork chops, two generous pieces, were buttermilk fried to a delicious crisp and extremely tender on the inside. I thought the breading was great but I still added a little Texas Pete to add a little kick to them. The potato salad was one of the best that I have ever had (recipe below via Our State Magazine) using a blend of potatoes, eggs and vegetables to give it a great consistency. The rice & gravy were out of this world, too. The meal came with a piece of cornbread which wasn’t very memorable but still delicious.

Here is a recipe for Becky’s and Mary’s Potato Salad from Our State Magazine’s website, one of our favorite resources for finding out about great things happening across the state of North Carolina:

Becky’s and Mary’s Family Reunion Potato Salad

Makes enough for about 25 people.

    • 20 pounds of potatoes
    • 30 eggs
    • 2 green peppers chopped
    • 2 onions grated
    • 3 cups of sweet relish
    • 4 cups of mayonnaise
    • 4 ounces of pimentos
    • Salt and sugar to taste

Place potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and boil until tender or done. It’ll take about 45 minutes. Then, peel and place in a large bowl and use a potato masher to mash. Place the eggs in a large pot, cover with water and boil for about 10-15 minutes. Peel and dice. In a large container, combine the potatoes, eggs, green peppers, onions, sweet relish, mayonnaise, pimentos, salt and sugar. Gently mix together and place in refrigerator to chill. Serve in about two hours. You’ll be able to feed about 25 people.

If you are in High Point, make it a point to stop down by Becky’s and Mary’s for a meal. You should definitely give the fried pork chops a try but all of their food looked delicious so I don’t think you can go wrong ordering anything on their menu. Don’t forget to get a glass of their sweet tea either because it is how good Southern sweet tea should taste.

Becky's & Mary's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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