Iconic Restaurants of the Triangle

I’m about to start a series of articles on the iconic restaurants of the Triangle.  I’ve visited two of those places in the past week: The Irregardless Cafe and The Fearrington House.  To make my list of “iconic”, the restaurant had to have opened no later than the 80’s, when I was in school at Chapel Hill.  Some of these places are owned by friends, such as Crook’s Corner and Magnolia Grill.  Others are institutions that I haven’t visited in 20 or more years, such as The Angus Barn or La Residence (and, until last night, the fantastic Fearrington House).  I’ll probably not write about the cheap-eats places like Cooper’s or The Roast Grill or the Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen, but then again, I might.

What restaurants would you consider to be iconic in this area, based on my temporal qualifications specified above?  And frankly, any place that has survived for over 20 years is iconic by definition.  Here’s a list that I just started (and again, just because it’s on this list doesn’t mean I’m going to write about it).

  • Magnolia Grill
  • Crook’s Corner
  • La Residence
  • Spanky’s
  • The Angus Barn
  • Irregardless
  • The Fearrington House
  • Casa Carbone
  • Fishmonger’s
  • Mecca
  • Bullock’s
  • Roast Grill
  • Carolina Coffee Shop
  • Ye Olde Waffle Shop
  • Time Out
  • Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
  • Cooper’s
  • Mama Dip’s
  • Breadman’s

I haven’t listed places that are hotel restaurants such as the Carolina Inn or Il Palio (and Fearrington is a bit different).  I know I’m missing lots of places, as I just thought about this idea 10 minutes ago,  so I’d love your help putting together this list.


23 Responses to Iconic Restaurants of the Triangle

  1. PRGuy says:

    I’d add Dip’s Country Kitchen and Breadman’s to your list, although they are on the cheap eats end. Unfortunately, I believe Anotherthyme closed within the last year.

  2. Varmint says:

    I’ve added those two to the list and removed Anotherthyme. I had forgotten they had closed.

  3. Rolo says:

    The Peddler

  4. Debbie Moose says:

    Nana’s? When did it open?

  5. m.durham says:

    These is on the cheaper end also, but maybe consider:

    – Wimpy’s Grill in Durham
    – Sutton’s pharmacy and lunch counter in Chapel Hill

    Also – Saladelia had a sign that this is there 21st year in business.

  6. eric says:

    Hayes Barton???

  7. eric says:

    Mitch’s Tavern across from NCSU

  8. burgeoningfoodie says:

    Now wait a minute. You can still write a piece on iconic restaurants even if they’ve closed. So it has to be older than say Heron’s which may be considered iconic at some point. I’d still do a story on something like Fraziers or 2nd Empire? Cafe Luna? Duck and Dumpling? I’m just tossing out names as I’ve only lived in the Triangle for the past 4 years, but grew up east of here. How long has Gypsy’s Shiny Diner been around? Do you care if they are still good places (some say Mama Dips is iconic but is it still good)? How about Allen and Sons? How long has Sparticus been here? Parizade? Spanky’s? 518 West? Blinco’s? Okay not so much a restaurant…

  9. lynn says:


  10. Varmint says:

    I’ll ultimately write on the restaurants I want to write about, as that’s pretty much the way I’ve done this blog from the beginning. Allen and Son is definitely one to add. As is Spanky’s, as I have some fond memories of getting kicked out of there. Mitch’s has been around for awhile. Anyhow, we’ll get to some of these soon enough.

  11. Funny, I was just thinking about Arthur Gordon this morning…

    Cattleman’s Steakhouse.
    Neo-China in durham
    Hong Kong in durham is pretty iconic, at least for dim-sum.
    Jade Palace, Carrboro
    Tyler’s & the SpeakEasy, Carrboro

    Is that little Vietnamese place on 9th Street still there? If it is, it’s iconic now.

    Shockingly enough, The Melting Pot has been in this area a Looong time.

    In the places that are gone that were definitely iconic list: Hartman’s Steakhouse and the original Darryl’s and Pyewacket and Hectors and the Rathskeller.

    There are a lot of hotel restaurants that I agree that I wouldn’t bother to include, but for me Il Palio and The Carolina Inn are iconic.

    That’s all I can think of this early in the morning.

  12. eric says:

    42nd street oyster bar?

  13. Tamara says:

    How long has Elmo’s been open in Carrboro (we used to eat there in the early 90’s)? Before the Ninth Street one opened? My hubbie seconds the Rathskeller. Great idea for restaurant review. I like how you think. Have fun!

  14. Lotsa memories connected to Hector’s. Miss that place. I second Elmo’s, although I’m not sure it has officially reached iconic status yet. Anybody else’s a fan of Linda’s? And what about Pepper’s?

  15. I have to agree with 42nd Street Oyster Bar and Peppers.

    As for Diners – yeah, Elmo’s and 501, I guess.

  16. Lisa -- says:


  17. Michael says:

    Suttons, 42 Street, Peppers, Players Retreat, are all good ones.

  18. gogoraleigh says:

    Char-Grill. It even inspired the 50’s-styled classic, “Char Girl” from Johnny Quest!

  19. minibytes says:

    Varmint, I think you were lucky to get thrown out of Spanky’s before you ate any of the food there! I think Spanky’s has survived on its bar tab, not its cuisine.
    Go with the Hayes Barton’s lunch counter, for the pimento cheese sandwiches as well as its longevity.

  20. burgeoningfoodie says:

    I said Gypsy’s for diner..

  21. Vincent says:

    Neomonde in Raleigh. Not sure how long it has been around-at least 15 years.

    For me an anchor of Raleigh.

  22. L says:

    Margaux’s in Raleigh? I’ve never eaten there, but I believe they’ve been around for a number of years. Sunflowers Cafe is another place that has been around for years but I’ve never checked out. Nana’s?

    You’re making me hungry for SBK…

  23. Nicolai says:

    Iconic was the ORIGINAL Aurora Restaurant located at 454 West Franklin. Opened 1975. Wow!

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