Waterdog Farm’s Guide to Our Side of the Triangle

We’ve been in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area for many years, watching it grow and evolve (and in many ways become more interesting).  Here are some links to our favorite places to stay, eat, and things to do.

Hurdle Mills, NC (our neighborhood)

Our farm is in the very rural and very scenic township of Hurdle Mills.  We’re about 20 minutes north of Hillsborough (or about 30 minutes north of Durham).  Although there are no places to stay in Hurdle Mills, there are some fun things to see and do.

Places to Stay:


Places to Eat:

Flat River Cafe – In “downtown” Hurdle Mills (Hurdle Mills Road just west of its intersection with Guess Road) you’ll find a really authentic, tasty home cooking restaurant.  Unlike most of this type, this restaurant cooks to order and tends to cook with fresh ingredients.  If you are at all interested in native Southern cuisine, definitely check them out (breakfast and lunch only, Monday – Saturday).  We especially like their whole hog BBQ and any specials they have on the specials board.

Things to Do Nearby:

Iron Gate Vineyards – a short 15 minute drive west, this winery is a lot of fun to visit on a sunny day when you can sit in their well maintained patio area with a glass of wine in your hand.
Rock of Ages Vineyard – only about 5 minutes from our house.  Wine tastings available.
Hurdle Mills Market – right next to the Flat River Cafe, this little grocery store is worth a stop.  It still has a functioning butcher shop and carries an eclectic range of goods from fatback to high end local beer and glass bottle milk from Maple View Dairy.

Hillsborough, NC

Hillsborough is the closest town to our farm (about 20 minutes), so it’s most convenient for folks visiting us from afar.  The town was a hotbed of anti-British sentiment and activity before and during the Revolutionary War, but then it hit a, shall we say, sleepy patch.  Over the past decade, however, it’s been transformed by folks looking for a funky, interesting town where they can live and play.  Some of our favorite things in the Triangle are right here in this town – a strange mix of history, art, literate folks, and regional coolness.

Places to Stay:

Inn at Teardrops – we’ve not stayed here before, but friends tell us it’s a great little B and B and it is in beautiful downtown Hillsborough.
Holiday Inn Express – this is probably the lowest cost option nearby, but isn’t within walking distance to anything.
Fickle Creek Farm – our friends Ben and Noah run this small farmstay.  Their farm is an amazing example of local, sustainable agriculture. Not sure if its available that weekend, but you can always give them a call.

Places to Eat:

Panciuto – James Beard nominated chef that uses almost all local ingredients in his interpretation of Italian continental food.
Hillsborough BBQ – Although the BBQ pork itself is not my favorite in the Triangle, their veggie sides, fried catfish, and their smoked turkey are so very good.
Antonia’s – Home-made pasta, fresh, local ingredients, wonderful wait staff.  What’s not to like?  Say hello to Claudia for us.
The Wooden Nickel – Best pub ever, if you can get in the door and get a seat.  The food is wonderful, too.
Gulf Rim Cafe –  Really amazing food spanning Cajun and Latin American cultures.
Weaver Street Market – our wonderful cooperative grocery store.  The cafeteria hot bar and salad bar is a great, low-cost option for lunch.

Things to Do Nearby:

Eno River State Park – Wonderful trails along the Eno River from Hillsbourough to Durham.  Check out the website to download maps of trails.
Ayr Mount – just outside of downtown Hillsborough, this old federal style plantation estate has been restored and opened to the public for free.  The best part is the free trail around the expansive grounds.
Downtown Art Galleries – our favorite is the Eno Gallery, although there are a number of other galleries in downtown that are great.
Saturday morning farmer’s market- Hillsborough’s downtown farmer’s market is small, but the vendors are high quality and have a great variety of fruits, vegetables, crafts, and baked goods.
Downtown shopping – a great wine shop, an intimate little bookshop, and the cooperative grocery are three must sees in downtown.
Iron Gate Vineyards – a short 20 minute drive from Hillsborough, this winery is a lot of fun to visit on a sunny day when you can sit in their well maintained patio area with a glass of wine in your hand.
Rock of Ages Vineyard – only about 5 minutes from our house, this winery is a fun excursion – wines run on the sweet side, IMHO.

Durham, NC

Durham is about 30 minutes south of the farm and is one of the great mid-sized cities in the U.S.  Full of artists, activists, entrepreneurs, and other creative types, this city continues to get cooler with every passing year.  Writers from the NY Times have praised the food and arts scene and quality of life with such regularity you would think the Chamber of Commerce was paying them.  It’s our kind of town, and luckily it’s right in our backyard.

Places to Stay:

King’s Daughter Inn – we hear great things, and its in a great location.
Marriott – we aren’t big fans of Mariott, but this is really the only show in downtown until the old CCB building gets fully renovated.

Places to Eat:

Toast – a real treat for folks who like something different.  We like to order off their specials menu because they tend to be most creative with these dishes.
Dos Perros – nice upscale Mexican and Central American food.
Fullsteam – their motto is “plow to pint beer from the beautiful South”.  What else need be said?
Scratch – I can’t tell you how much I like this pie/dessert place.  Please go and ask the folks behind the counter what you should order.  They won’t disappoint you.
Watt’s Grocery – Yet another James Beard nominee.  The chef here does an amazing job of creating really high-end food out of our wonderful locally produced veggies, fruits, breads, etc.

Things to Do Nearby:

Eno River State Park
Nasher Museum of Art – a brand spanking new museum in Durham that is currently running a Mark Bradford exhibit.  Their permanent exhibits are pretty great too.
Duke Gardens and Duke Forest – Especially in the fall, both Duke Gardens and Duke Forest will be a riot of fall colors and flowers.  Just get lost on one of the trails and stroll around.
Scrap Exchange – A personal favorite of Rickie’s, but not for everyone.  This giant facility houses a nonprofit that repurposes donated junk into the raw materials for your next art project.  Stroll through and find just about anything, from old mannequins to discontinued spools of thread, for sale at a very low price.
Museum of Life and Science – really great if you have kids, or are a kid at heart.  Highlights include their large butterfly garden and the live red wolves.
Durham Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning – THE place to be and be seen in Durham.  If you have any interest in local food, food trucks, or just love people watching, its a great way to spend all morning (8AM – noon).
Brightleaf Square, Golden Belt, and/or American Tobacco Campus – These three facilities are all near downtown and all converted tobacco factories that now house shops, housing, and art galleries.  The art gallery at Golden Belt is great.  Morgan Imports at Brightleaf is a must see.  And Tyler’s Taproom at American Tobacco is the perfect place for a perfect pint.

Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC

Since it’s Rickie’s alma mater, we’ll always have a special place in our hearts for the towns that surround UNC-Chapel Hill.  The “Southern Part of Heaven” has it all – educated, creative people, lots of good food, plenty of sidewalks and trails, and fun things to do most days of the year.  Unfortunately, our farm is a little far away (about 45 minutes from the center of town), so we don’t hang out there like we did when our house was in downtown Carrboro.

Places to Stay:

Carolina Inn – the old dame of hotels in the area.  Stay here to get a feel for the UNC campus and to stay within stumbling distance of the great bars on West Franklin Street.
The Franklin – Location, location, location.  It’s very pricey, but within a block you can reach two James Beard winners and two nominees as well as some of the greatest bars and live music venues in these parts.

Places to Eat:

Crook’s Corner – Shrimp and grits, James Beard style.
Lantern – our favorite restaurant in Chapel Hill.  Truly an amazing and unique experience, especially if you snag a table in the cozy back bar area and get one of their signature cocktails.
Weaver Street Market – hands down the best grocery cooperative in the country (I’m a little biased, I suppose).  Stop by and enjoy the scene, the food, and the wonderful people while sipping some wine under the giant oak trees out front.
Margaret’s Cantina – a little off the beaten path in north Chapel Hill, but worth the excursion.  Yummy Mexican food with a local twist.
Carrburritos – the best and freshest fish tacos you’ll ever have.
Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe – if you’ve never been to Chapel Hill or haven’t been back in a few years, this is the place to go.  Vimala and her restaurant are the soul of modern day Chapel Hill.  Perched back off the main street, you’ll eventually find it if you try hard enough.
Caffe Driade – if you like coffee, you must stop here before heading out of town.

Things to Do Nearby:

North Carolina Botanical Garden – This place has “Rickie” written all over it.  A botanical “conservation garden” dedicated to preserving native Southeastern plants.  The new visitor’s center and the carnivorous plant collection are two must-sees.
The Ackland – UNC’s art museum is wonderfully eclectic.  Check out modern Art, ancient Mesopotamian art, and everything in between.
UNC Campus in the Fall –  Strolling through Coker Arboretum on UNC’s campus and then heading towards the old part of campus and walking under the large old trees and buildings is such a great way to spend an afternoon here.
Carrboro and Chapel Hill Farmer’s Markets – If Carrboro’s market is the grand dame of the new local food’s movement, Chapel Hill’s is the young upstart.  Both are amazing and worth a visit. Of course, we are guest vendors at the Chapel Hill market, so we’d prefer you wait to spend your dollars at our stall there.
A Southern Season – warning to foodies – you may pass out from joy when you enter this store.  Everything you can imagine in terms of gourmet foods can be found in this cavernous space.  Plus there is the largest wine selection I’ve ever seen.
Shopping on West Franklin Street and downtown Carrboro – I’d suggest starting in downtown Carrboro and walking along Main Street as it turns into West Franklin and passes into Chapel Hill.  Just hit whatever stores seem to look interesting to you.
Saxapahaw – This town (20 minutes west of Carrboro) competes with Hillsborough for coolest new small town destination.  Check out the “Eddy”, an amazing gastropub, or duck into the art gallery near the old post office.

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