You’ll find yourself looking for food on Franklin inside of a week. When you do, do it right.
Chapel Hill is home to a number of local restaurants run by families and long term employees who’ve been with the town long enough to see countless students graduate.
Roderick Flannery is a manager at Mediterranean Deli, one of the better known local restaurants on Franklin Street. He’s been with the restaurant for several years and said it was opened by a local couple back in 1992.
“The owner used to work at the Sheraton Hotel, and he and his wife decided they really wanted to start their own gig,” he said.
Flannery said the tradition started with simple Greek dishes, but has grown to include all kinds of Mediterranean food.
“They started off just serving falafel and Greek salad, whereas now we’ve expanded the menu to at least 80 different dishes,” he said.
Even though Med Deli has dishes all the way around the room, Flannery said people still haven’t forgotten the basics.
“Just as far as what people order, definitely falafel is still a standard,” he said. “For the meats, chicken kebab. For our vegetarian stuff we have a salty cauliflower dish that’s really good.”
Flannery said he and his team are aware that most of their business comes from students, and that they are always trying to keep up with the latest on campus.
“We’re really trying to expand our menu with current health trends, so for example we’ve got a lot of new dishes with quinoa,” he said.
Flannery said Med. Deli stands out as one of Chapel Hill’s iconic local restaurants for one reason – it’s really local.
“A lot of our greens are sourced locally,” he said. “Not local in the sense of Carrboro farmers market, but at least regional which is a lot better than most other providers can say. Our humus for example doesn’t keep for more than a day because there are no preservatives in it.”
Med Deli is located on West Franklin Street just past the Mellow Mushroom – and yes, they cater.
“I would just emphasize that when you order something here, you’re really getting like knife and cutting board fresh,” Flannery said.
Angelo Marrone owns has owned and operated IPIII on Franklin Street for the past seventeen years. Before that, it was run by his parents.
“My family used to like in Brooklyn New York, but we came down South in the 70s to find a new home,” he said.
Marrone has been the owner for almost two decades, but if you walk through his doors odds are you’ll still see him tossing dough behind the counter.
The inside of the pizzeria is covered wall-to-wall in everything UNC, from signed jerseys to pictures of the greats.
“IP3 right I think is one of the most important places in Chapel Hill,” he said. “We’re one of the only locations that’s got the same location, same food and same everything. A lot of people come back here and they see the same restaurant still where it was and they freak out.”
Unlike restaurants like Med Deli which offer students a lot of different food options, Marrone and his staff like to keep it simple.
“Most popular dish is pizza man, come on,” he said. “People like cheese and they like pepperoni.”
For Marrone, what makes his pizza stand out is its authenticity and taste.
“Quality is the first thing,” he said. “Personality is the second. Then it’s food. We’re from Naples, we know how to make pizza.”
While Marrone and his family have been in business on Franklin Street for 35 years, new pizza places have been popping up everywhere. You’ll find pizza places up and down East and West Franklin, and Lotsa stone fired pizza just took over for Jasmine Mediterranean on the corner of the historic intersection.
“We’ve been here for many many years and that’s what makes me proud,” he said. “We do a lot for the community and the community does a lot for us.”
“For me, this town, they don’t need any more pizza,” Marrone said. “We got a half-dozen pizza places just in this part of town.”
In case you thought the number of pizza places downtown was exaggerated, Angel Alvarez from Artisan Pizza Kitchen has got you covered.
“I’ve been working here for around nine years,” he said. “About since we opened.”
IP3 is over on West Franklin, and APK holds it down over on East. Both of the restaurants have their own type of pie, and both claim high quality.
“We’ve got the artichoke basil pizza, it’s the signature dish,” Alvarez said. “The place used to be called artichoke and basil.”
Since it’s so close to campus, APK puts out a lot of deals to try and cut prices for its market of mostly students, Alvarez said.
“We do have a lot of promotions,” he said. “We do a lot of discounts on U-connection, and we got the punch card for free slices.”
One of the most frequented pizza joints in town, Alvarez said APK’s success comes down to one thing – the taste.
“I’m not totally sure but I think it’s just good pizza,” he said. “We make everything fresh here every day. We get here early in the morning to make the bread fresh.”
While each of these three restaurants has its own backstory and recipe for success, all of them focus on quality and community.
Marrone said it best – “We’ve been here for many many years and that’s what makes me proud,” he said. “We do a lot for the community and the community does a lot for us.”