Ah, the joys of having parents visit us in college… the warm embraces, the abundance of freshly baked goods, the last minute hiding of your party favors… we’ve all been there. As happy as we are to see them, we know the real joy lies in the overwhelming satisfaction of eating our first decent meal in months totally free of charge. Below are some spots to try when the parents are in town and hunger pains are ever present.


Courtesy of Lantern

Lantern‘s outstanding chef Andrea Reusing, awarded Best Chef of the Southeast in 2011, specializes in transforming local ingredients into mouthwatering Asian-inspired fare. The seasonal menu features everything from deviled NC blue crab cakes to Japanese steakhouse-style flat iron steak. If you still have room for dessert (who doesn’t?) the hot chocolate cake made with thai coffee ice cream and coffee bean brittle tastes even better than it sounds. Lantern also offers a ton of specialty cocktails such as the “Dark & Stormy,” made with Blenheim spicy ginger ale and Gosling’s dark rum. The trendy dining room and impressive wine selection provide the perfect setting for a night out with the more sophisticated parents. The only downside – Chinese takeout never tastes quite the same.


Location: 423 West Franklin Street Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Hours of Operation: Mon-Sat 5:30pm-10pm; Bar with late night menu open Mon-Sat until 2:00am

Acme Food and Beverage Co.

Courtesy of Acme Food & Beverage Co.

For those with parents that you find yourself calling more than they call you, Acme is the place. Well-crafted food and good beer pretty much sums it up. Acme has a laid-back, hipster vibe that is very reflective of Carrboro. The menu features southern classics with a unique twist, such as pecan-crusted fried chicken and broccoli and NC hoop cheese soup. If you’re going for brunch, the Orange County special (two eggs, buttermilk biscuit, sausage gravy and cheese) is hard to beat.


Location: 110 E Main Street Carrboro, NC 27510
Hours of Operation: Open everyday at 5:30pm, Sun 10am-2pm

Nordstrom Cafe Bistro

Courtesy of Nordstrom Cafe Bistro

Something about the gourmet sandwiches and perfectly seasoned fries at Nordstrom Cafe leaves moms feeling warm and agreeable. The casual atmosphere and fast service is perfect for a quick lunch hopefully followed by some new clothes. The cafe’s salads, such as the warm asian glazed chicken salad, are fresh and flavorful, and don’t skimp on the good stuff. Other great options include the Crab Bisque or the Prime Rib French Dip sandwich (or why not both?).


Location: The Streets of Southpoint, 6910 Fayetteville Road Durham, NC 27713
Hours of Operation: Mon-Thur 10am-8:30pm, Fri-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm

Weathervane Restaurant at Southern Season

Courtesy of Weathervane

If you haven’t wandered into Southern Season post-chickfila-fix, you’re missing out on another world. Walls of candy, every hot sauce you could imagine, and classic southern food at Southern Season’s Weathervane restaurant will have you feeling right at home. The large dining area means typically no wait and food comes quickly. The pimento cheese fritters will melt in your mouth and you can’t go wrong with the bacon-wrapped chicken. The side options alone — cheesy tots, mac-n-cheese, potato-bacon salad — make Weathervane worth a try.


Location: 201 S Estes Drive Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri 8pm-9pm, Sat 7am-9pm, Sun 9am-9pm

Southern Rail

Courtesy of Southern Rail

The unique character and simple but delicious selections at Southern Rail are hard to pass up. Made partially of restored rail-cars, Southern Rail has a cool vintage vibe, perfect for a rainy afternoon meal with the parents. Their black bean burger is one of the best and the chicken and waffles will leave you happily full for days. They also offer a great selection of beer, wine and specialty drinks with daily drink specials ($5 weekend mimosas!). If you’re going for dinner, stick around for live music or local talent at the Station, the recently renovated historic train depot building next to the rail cars.


Location: 201 E Main Street, Carrboro, NC 27510
Hours of Operation: Mon-Thur 11:30am-10pm, Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 10am-11pm, Sun 10am-9pm

Honestly, you can’t go wrong. Any of these places are a serious step up from the typical college diet. Thanks mom and dad!!