Sometimes collectively referred to as “the Triangle”, these towns are fairly intertwined, but manage to have their elements that set them apart from each other: Chapel Hill is symbiotic with UNC and has the eternal college town feel. Durham has rival school Duke, and strong influence from its past glory days of the tobacco industry, and Raleigh is the capital city of North Carolina. A very strong sense of community was quickly apparent in each town, where we found some incredible farm-to-table regional food, art and architecture.
Food – Our first night, we arrived in Chapel Hill, and although we were still full from our brunch in Asheville that morning, we headed straight to the highly recommended Crook’s Corner for a light meal and a drink. Not just any drink, mind you, but the best drink we had of our whole trip – the Frozen Mint Julep (top, center). I would fly back for this alone – Bulliet Bourbon poured over house-made mint sorbet. Drinking it on a warm summer evening on the back porch of Crook’s was just about heavenly. The green peach salad with mint and black pepper was almost as refreshing, and Shawn’s shrimp and grits was the best we had in our travels. The next morning we headed over to Foster’s Market in Durham for a lingering breakfast on their expansive wisteria-covered front porch (top, right). This market/cafe had incredible baked goods and house made granola, as well as all sorts of artisan products of the area. Although plans to get the “best fried chicken” at Bullocks in Durham were thwarted due to a summer vacation closure, we were told by several folks that it is hands down THE best spot in the area. The Pit (in Raleigh) was a good substitute in it’s absence though. Known more for its whole hog pit roasting BBQ, their fried chicken served Shawn and Brian right in the quest to check that off their “southern must-eats”. For a sweet treat on hot days, we had several stops at the local paleta chain, LocoPops – incredible fresh fruit popsicles with some inventive combinations (bottom, left). And last, but not in any way the least, Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen – a straightforward, low-brow but beautiful southern biscuit drive-thru. I was so enthralled when I received that little bag of warmth, that I forgot to take a picture until I was almost through (bottom, right).
Art and Architecture – The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh has a beautifully executed new building surrounded by a lovely sculpture park, designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. Detailed with an incredible design rigor, light-filled and spacious – and it is free – a wonderful place to see art. The museum has a sizable Rodin collection, along with representatives from a broad spectrum of art periods – all very well curated and placed.
Wanderings – We didn’t get a chance to spend too much time in downtown Durham, but I just love the old building stock – brick tobacco drying warehouses (center)- that have been turned into everything from restaurants to offices to condos, creating a pretty vibrant revitalized downtown. And adjacent to Chapel Hill, is the town/neighborhood Carborro – home to the largest co-op we saw in the area, a very active art center, some great libation experts, the best farmer’s market in the area and host of environmental movies in a vacant lot turned community living room. This part of town is vibrant and full of an earnest idealism that was great to see. Our favorite stop in this part of town was Johnny’s – part cafe, part store, part taco truck stop, part music venue, part community center – a great spot to sit for a spell on a sultry summer evening.
Thanks to Lynn especially for all the recommends in the Triangle! Up next… Charleston, SC!