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The best of Chapel Hill’s food scene

Sure, Carolina basketball is fun and all, but have you ever had a chicken cheddar biscuit, mac and cheese, and a cheerwine?

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 11 ACC Tournament - North Carolina v Notre Dame Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The University of North Carolina is well-known for athletic excellence, and academically is referred to as a public Ivy League school. What is possibly less known to those who aren’t locals, however, are the excellent restaurant choices near campus. Franklin Street is shown a lot whenever Carolina basketball beats Duke or wins a national championship, but have you ever wondered what the best restaurant spots are on that street so that you are prepared for your next visit? Well, we’re here to help.

With basketball season officially returning in November and football happening right now, we wanted to take a moment and discuss some of the best restaurants in Chapel Hill so that all of you can plan your trips on game day accordingly. Here are three of my personal favorites, but if you are a local, feel free to tell us your favorites in the comments below! Let’s get started.

Time Out

Chicken. Cheddar. Biscuits.

Do I have your attention now? Good, I thought so. Time Out opened in 1978 as a 24/7 restaurant that serves some of the best food near campus. They serve NC-style BBQ, southern comfort food, burgers, chicken, and last but not least: chicken cheddar biscuits.

For those that haven’t gotten to experience a chicken cheddar biscuit from Time Out, allow me to describe it: imagine you are given a million dollars while you are watching your favorite team win the national championship…and also someone is giving you a foot massage. That is how good their chicken cheddar biscuits are, and if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m making myself hungry just talking about it. Also, fun fact: I proposed to my wife near the Old Well, and to celebrate we grabbed a couple of chicken cheddar biscuits. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is. I digress, on to my next favorite restaurant.

Top of the Hill

If you are looking for really good food, good drinks, and an excellent game day experience, then Top of the Hill may be the place for you. Referred to as TOPO for short, this establishment is shown in basically every picture of fans storming Franklin Street. The balcony of the restaurant faces Franklin, which gives a cool view of downtown Chapel Hill.

Views aside, TOPO has a solid food menu, with my two personal favorites being their Low Country Pork Chop and their French Quarter Jambalaya. They also have various sandwiches, bowls, and desserts to choose from, so there is a good amount of variety for everyone. As far as alcohol goes, has their own beer and spirits that they make in-house. In fact, they even made their own whiskey in celebration of UNC’s Final Four win over Duke, which will be available for pickup November 1st. They aren’t able to ship their spirits, but if you have a way to make it to Chapel Hill, don’t forget to take some home with you!

Merritt’s Store & Grill

My final choice for my top three restaurants in Chapel Hill is a place that isn’t on Franklin Street, but it deserves a lot of recognition. Merritt’s is a restaurant that sells burgers and sandwiches, with the most popular menu item being their BLT. While this doesn’t sound very exciting, these aren’t normal BLT’s: if you have ever fantasized about having a sandwich that is piled high with loads of bacon, then Merritt’s has you covered.

Merritt’s single BLT features two layers of bacon, lettuce, and tomato, all on toasted sourdough bread, or a bread of your choice. Not enough bacon for you? Then you may want to check out their double BLT, which features an additional layer of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Still not good enough? How about a triple BLT, which adds a FOURTH layer of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. If all of this sounds intimidating, you can still get a “baby BLT” that has one layer of tasty goodness, but let’s be honest: the more bacon the better, right?

For those who live out of town, fair warning: Merritt’s closes at 5pm on Saturdays, and 4pm during the week, so this is definitely a lunch time endeavor. It’s also worth noting that if you come in town for an afternoon football game there are no TVs, so keep this in mind when making plans.

Wrap Up

Chapel Hill has a solid amount of restaurants and bars, but these three are my favorite go-tos whenever I am on campus. Linda’s, Sutton’s, and Spicy 9 are also great choices if none of the above options sound like something you are interested in. Chapel Hill has something for everybody on Franklin Street alone, but if you venture away from campus, you’ll find even more great options.

I hope this list has helped some of you plan your next trips to see Carolina football and/or basketball in action. If you live here, what are your favorite restaurants in Chapel Hill? Let us know in the comments below.