Dinners in the dirty

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The last few days have been a pure gastronomical delight here in Carolina. They’ve exposed me to some of the best cooking I’ve had since moving to Chapel Hill — while at the same time, reminded me that Southern cuisine is amazing in part due its utter disregard for health.

On Saturday, we visited an iconic joint, Crooks Corner, which has been in business for over 30 years. It’s famous not just for a long history, having served as a fish market, taxi stand and pool hall, but for having gained a national reputation as “the birthplace of shrimp and grits.” An honor not taken lightly.

We kicked off the meal with an order of jalapeno-cheddar hushpuppies. An overflowing plate of the fried balls of goodness soon arrived at our table, along with a bowl of spicy cocktail dipping sauce. Next up was the legendary dish, the shrimp & grits: sauteed shrimp with hunks of bacon, fresh mushrooms and thinly sliced scallions, served over thick, cheesy grits. We were already past the point of no return, so we splurged on the Crook’s hot fudge brownie, served with pecans, fudge sauce and homemade vanilla ice cream. The wheel barrow to cart us back to my car was not included.

Then, last night, it was back out for dinner at Acme, an eatery right on Main Street in Carrboro. This was another great spot — they have local Triangle Belgian Golden Ale on-tap, although it’s $7.50 a glass, which was okay because someone else was picking up the tab. The fried oyster salad with fresh baby spinach, bacon and a bourbon vinaigrette was a tasty start. Then, the freshly caught Carolina grouper, over a bed of Israeli couscous, was light, flaky and cooked perfectly. And, just because everyone else was ordering, the nightcap was a delicious warm two-crust apple pie, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

But while I’ve been impressed with the culinary offerings of Carrboro (the tapas bar Glass Half Full is another great spot), it was the homemade meal from this weekend — cooked with love and neither fried nor topped with bacon — that took top honors in my book. I’ll spare the recipe (LottieB has that covered), but will provide some magazine worthy shots of the Napa Valley seasoned NY Strip Steaks, potatoes au gratin, simple side salad and Gigi’s carrot cake.

Needless to say, as much as I’m loving dinners in the dirty, I’m equally glad that O2 is just across the street.


  1. Crook’s and Acme both have brunch, we are going. Please make a rez at one for 3/14. Grac.

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