Culinary Bites

CULINARY BITES highlights Orange County’s award winning restaurants and chefs and the delightful culinary experience they bring to this place. Did you know that Bon Appetit magazine dubbed Chapel Hill “America’s Foodiest Small Town”? Check back often for recipes, samplers, chef bios, restaurant history & reviews. 

Featuring the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group

Nearly 40 years ago what started out as an idea that there was a need for a ‘great hamburger’ in Chapel Hill eventually produced five very different dining experiences and a partnership known as the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group.

Spanky'sChapel Hill did get their ‘great hamburger’ in 1977 when Mickey Ewell opened Spanky’s on the corner of Franklin & Columbia Streets in the heart of Chapel Hill. The great location contributed to its immediate success, and it still stands today and still offers a great hamburger.

Greg Overbeck, Pete Dorrance and Kenny Carlson all worked at Spanky’s, moving up in the ranks to become co-managers and Ewell’s most valued employees. Talented in their own right, they had begun plans to open a seafood restaurant in the area. Ewell had been approached about a good location by a local relator, and suggested they join forces and form the partnership that would become Chapel Hill Restaurant Group.

And yes that seafood restaurant concept is still thriving, namely Squids Restaurant and Oyster Bar, which features daily deliveries from the North Carolina coast, live Maine lobsters, and the best hushpuppies you’ve ever tasted.

Copy of Squids Restaurant & Oyster Bar

In 1990, the group added 411 West to their growing collection of eateries, a restaurant that captured the flavors of traditional Italian cuisine with a California twist. The restaurant also offered the first wood burning pizza oven in the area. The venue helped revitalize the west end of Franklin Street and is located just a few doors down from our Visitor Center.

Copy of 411 West

The group then ventured out to the neighboring city of Durham with their most recent restaurants, Mez Contemporary Mexican and Page Road Grill. We would have preferred they be in Chapel Hill, but we understand.

The Chapel Hill Restaurant Group has always been committed to sustainable business practices, generously supports local organizations with donations and fund-raisers, and has come to symbolize all that is Chapel Hill.

"The fact that so many people visit our amazing community and UNC has created a wonderful opportunity for independent restaurants to establish themselves and flourish in Chapel Hill"     ~Greg Overbeck


So if you’re in the mood for All-American cuisine, fresh seafood or California inspired Italian, you’ve got to give these restaurants a try…


101 E. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill
(919) 967-2678
Sunday Brunch 11 am – 3 pm; Lunch everyday 11:30am-4pm; Dinner Sun-Thu 4pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-10pm

~ Featuring famous burgers, delicious salads and sandwiches, homemade soups, and Brown Sugar Baby Back Ribs.

Squids Restaurant & Oyster Bar

1201 Fordham Blvd, Chapel Hill
(919) 942-8757
Dinner Hours Sun-Wed 5:00pm - 9:00pm; Thu 5:00pm - 9:30pm; Fri & Sat 5:00pm - 10:00pm
Oyster Bar opens at 4pm daily
~Serving the freshest seafood served grilled, broiled, and fried.

411 West Italian Café

411 West Franklin St., Chapel Hill
(919) 967-2782
Open for Saturday Lunch 12pm–5pm; Sunday Brunch 10:30am – 2:30pm; Afternoon Menu Sun 2:30pm-5pm; Mon-Fri 4pm-5pm; Dinner Sun-Thu 5pm-9:30pm & Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm

~Serving fresh seasonal pasta and seafood, wood-burning pizza oven, cappuccino bar