Top 10 Restaurants in Chapel Hill – A Fact Check

Chapel Hill is renowned for its college bars, fun atmosphere, and great restaurant scene. Given UNC accepts 80% of its students from in state (many of who have had family members attend the university) practically everyone at Carolina is an ‘expert’ on the food scene. While we all have our favorite places to go in Chapel Hill, it’s highly unlikely any of us have taken the time to research which Chapel Hill staples are as infamous in travel/restaurant ratings as they are through word of mouth.

After looking through Trip Advisor, one trend that was apparent is that the fast-casual scene is the highlight of Chapel Hill eating. The highest rated restaurants based upon number of stars for the entire food scene in Chapel Hill are as follows:

  1. Merritt’s Store and Grill
  2. Al’s Burger Shack
  3. Mediterranean Deli
  4. Top of the Hill
  5. Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen
  6. Elements
  7. Squid’s
  8. Kipos
  9. 411 West
  10. Stoney River

Top of the Hill was the only higher scale sit-down restaurant to break the top five, but Elements did come in at number six to affirm that fine dining in Chapel Hill is still a highly rated experience. Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, infamous for owning Chapel Hill’s best such as 411 West, Squids, and Spankys rounded out the top ten slots with both 411 and Squids being featured. In fact, slots 6-10 display that fine dining is still a highly rated activity in Chapel Hill because casual eateries do not make a reappearance after the top five slots until the high teens.

Interestingly, Yelp had a very different story to tell when it comes to restaurants with the most stars in Chapel Hill. Elements and Stoney River both broke into Yelp’s top 5 after being in Trip Advisors 6-10 slots. Trip Advisor’s top 5 slots are nowhere to be found in Yelp’s top 5, with no duplication happening.

  1. Kitchen
  2. Elements
  3. Lucha Tigre
  4. Imbibe
  5. Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill

Lastly, I looked into a publication to see what their top ten recommendations were. Travel writer Matt Barrett wrote up his 10 favorite restaurants in Chapel Hill for the North Carolina Travel Guide. His top picks were not surprising to the Chapel Hill foodie in me, but different than Yelp and Trip Advisor’s top places.

  1. Acme
  2. Crooks Corner
  3. Kipos
  4. Talullah’s Turkish Restaurant
  5. 411 West
  6. Milltown
  7. Carrburritos
  8. Lantern
  9. Glass Half Full
  10. Margaret’s Cantina

Chapel Hill natives and UNC students alike consider themselves to be Chapel Hill experts when it comes to the restaurant scene. My heart will always be with Top of the Hill and Chapel Hill Restaurant Group when it comes to the best places to go in Chapel Hill, but it’s up to you to decide whether Trip Advisor, Yelp, and the NC Travel Guide’s ratings are on par with Chapel Hill’s best offerings.


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