Sage is the only all-vegetarian restaurant in Chapel Hill, and even non-vegetarians and the skeptical should easily be won over by the food here. The menu is Persian-influenced, which sets the food apart from the vegetarian options at most area restaurants.
The restaurant is small and intimate; larger groups may have a difficult time finding space, but Sage is perfect for a romantic evening or a small group dinner. It's a bit of a splurge, but portions are a good size for the price and the food's all worth it. The black beans and rice and pomegranate stew with walnuts and tempeh are two of my favorites.
Don't miss the Persian iced tea and the vegan chocolate cake!
I've been buying plants and gardening materials here for a few years, but I had an exceptional experience this spring when I was looking to expand my garden and improve my soil quality. The woman who helped me gave me a lot of information on how I could help my soil and helped me plan out the look of my garden, and all the information came with suggestions for things to purchase but no pressure at all. Southern States is the only place I go when I need plants or garden advice.
I've eaten at Watt's twice now for brunch, and I've been impressed both times. Despite the fact that Sundays are very busy, the waitstaff is polite and service is fairly speedy.
The grits bowl is my favorite item on the brunch menu, but the omelet is very good as well. I appreciate that the sources for all the local ingredients are printed right on the menu - the dedication to supporting local farmers is extremely important to me.
I love the selection of yarns here, and the staff is friendly and always willing to offer advice or suggestions for a project. This is the first place I stop when I want to buy yarn for a project or are looking for input from someone who knows more about crocheting than I do.
When I was interested in trying a set of specialty crochet hooks, the woman I spoke with had someone from the Greensboro location send the hook over so I could give it a try in the store before committing to buy the entire set.
The biggest problem with this store, as any yarn-loving crafter can tell you, is that it's difficult to just come out with the items you need vs. all the things you'd love to have. My lack of self-restraint isn't anyone's fault but my own, however.
I know that the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area has a plethora of burrito joints, but Carrburritos manages to make itself stand out in a crowd. The burritos are big and tasty, and the little touches like an array of amazing homemade salsas and the flour tortilla chips set the food here apart from the other burrito places in town.
Make sure to stop in on Tuesdays to get the tofu burrito, which isn't normally available. Also, don't forget to try all the different salsas; the chipotle is my favorite, but they're all delicious.
Since it's small, Carrburritos can get busy on weekends and around lunch, but the staff is good at making everything quickly so the line moves quickly. On a nice spring or fall evening, eating in the small outdoor courtyard is wonderful if you can snag a table.
This is a wonderful gem of a restaurant on the west end of Franklin Street. Trilussa is very small inside, with only a few servers, and the cozy space combined with the decor (the walls are painted/decorated to look like an Italian street) make this a very welcoming place to eat.
The menu has a lot of what I'd consider traditional Italian foods, as well as some that are more interesting - I've had a curried pasta dish as well as a rice dish that was clearly influenced by Spanish cuisine. Everything I've eaten here has been good and I've always been pleased with the service.
I have gone to Trilussa for a date, for a small group dinner, and for a large family celebration, among other occasions. Every time was wonderful, and even when I accidentally went there for dinner the night before UNC's graduation a few years back and the place was extremely busy, the servers were friendly and our food came out impressively quickly considering the small kitchen.
Trilussa is one of my favorite places for a special night out in Chapel Hill.
Tandoor is what I'd consider good comfort food - it's not as good as some other Indian food I've had, but I know I can go and order anything off of the menu and enjoy it. The owners recognize regulars and are always friendly when I come in.
This is a good place for first-time Indian food diners - the mild food is pretty mild, but those of you who are more adventurous can get dishes blazing hot with the option of amazing homemade hot sauce as well. There are a lot of vegetarian options, which I appreciate.
I'm not crazy about the lunch or dinner buffets (the food is very mild and there aren't as many vegetarian options) but the off-the-menu entrees have never let me down.
Those of you who haven't been fond of their decor can take heart - there's been a significant remodel and the dining room looks much nicer than it did before. Tandoor is still nothing fancy, but it's the sort of place that always makes me glad I went there.
I have been going to Francesca's for years and have always had a great experience. The most trouble I have had was trying to decide between the wide variety of desserts they serve.
Francesca's serves several flavors of gelato as well as a rotating selection of cake, pie, and other baked desserts. They have a good selection of espresso drinks as well. The Cafe Francesca and Cappuccino Francesca are the house specialty drinks that are definitely worth a try.
If you're having trouble deciding, you can usually try little tastes of the different gelato flavors before choosing which one you want. The baked goods and pastries are all delicious, but my favorites have been the cannoli and the pistachio cake.
Francesca's has a lot of seating, and even on weekends when it's busy there are usually plenty of seats available. This is a great destination for a date or a casual get-together with friends.
No, 3 Cups doesn't serve espresso drinks. Let's get that out of the way first. But that's not the niche it's trying to fill, and I get a little irritated when folks complain about it. There are a lot of wonderful espresso places in town, but 3 Cups does something different and I appreciate that.
3 Cups recently moved to a larger location on South Elliott Road in Chapel Hill; the location has a much larger selection of wine than the old space, as well as a small assortment of chocolate and coffee-making supplies.
The most important part in my mind is the french-press coffee, but they do offer a wide selection of loose-leaf teas as well. Anyone working behind the counter can give guidance if you want to know which coffee or tea to try, and everyone working there is genuinely interested in good coffee and beverages of all kinds.
I recently stopped in to buy an iced coffee and had a long conversation with one of the employees about how I could make the best possible iced coffee at home. Most stores don't have employees who care enough about their work to take the time to have a passionate conversation about minute detail like that, and I really appreciated the feedback.
Coffee from 3 Cups can be more expensive that what you'd get other places, but it's wonderful stuff. I'm willing to pay a little extra for the friendly service and the expertise of the staff.
Oh, and note that seating inside is limited and that there are no outlets or wireless for laptop users. I was frustrated when I first learned that, but I understand that they need to prevent folks staying there for hours with the limited seating they have.
Open Eye Cafe bills itself as Carrboro's living room, and the description is accurate. It's full of mismatched armchairs and sofas for lounging, as well as tables and chairs for those looking to read or study, and many patrons are regulars who come several times a week for the casual, friendly atmosphere.
They offer coffee, tea, and the standard line-up of espresso drinks plus a few extras, such as the Cafe Latino with coconut milk, that you can't find in other coffee shops around town. There's also a small selection of wine and beer available in the evenings.
Open Eye has a good selection of breads and pastries from a few local sources, so it's easy to get a simple breakfast of a latte and a scone or bagel, or a more indulgent snack of a berry tart or cream puff to go with an afternoon mocha.
While there are plenty of other great places in town for coffee that I patronize often, Open Eye is my well-loved favorite hangout that I come to again and again.