Chef Brandon Sharp brought his Michelin-star talent to Chapel Hill in spring of 2019 with an eclectic menu in his neighborhood restaurant Hawthorne & Wood. In July, he opened a new dining concept, Bluebird, a French bistro in the space once occupied by Carolina Café in Meadowmont, off N.C. 54, across from the Friday Center.
Unapologetically French, the menu features main dishes of sauteed flounder encrusted with almonds, chicken with black truffle sauce and grilled ham and cheese with Mornay sauce and a fried egg. An entree that brings an audible gasp when it comes to the table is the bone-in, double-cut porkchop, a good four inches thick, topped with a buttery cream sauce with shallots and mushrooms and served on a bed of pillowy gnocchi.
The bistro is more social than a traditional restaurant that isolates each dining group around a center of light at its own table. Bluebird has an open floor plan where diners can see the chef and sous chefs preparing food on planchas (flat-surface, super-hot griddles) and feel connected by the lively energy. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out on a fountain at the center of a roundabout. Reservations recommended.
601 Meadowmont Village Circle
A meal at Alpaca Peruvian Charcoal Chicken can feel like a South American vacation. The shop, which opened in Elliott Square off Fordham Boulevard this past spring, makes everything in-house, except for the Peruvian soda.
The birds are seasoned and roasted in a charcoal-fired oven every morning before cooks begin prepping sides of coleslaw, garlic green beans, yuca fries and fried plantains. Diners can build their own meal by choosing white or dark meat (or a combination of both) or a whole chicken, then adding from the selection of sides.
Alpaca features a special plate each day, such as jerk chicken, pollo saltado, arroz chaufa (fried rice with chicken, sausage and egg) or, if you’ve had enough chicken, steak saltado or steak salad. Don’t forget the homemade salsas — spicy green or mild yellow. Vegetarians can make a meal of the sides.
Save room for a homemade dessert, such as caramel flan or alfajores (soft sugar cookies filled with dulce de leche). The soft drink Inca Kola is on tap, or try horchata (a drink made from rice, milk and cinnamon) or chi cha morada (a juice from purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon and cloves).
237 S. Elliott Road
Epilogue, a bookstore/café combo, opened at the end of 2019. The business was a success from the start, and it held on during the pandemic lockdown. Once dining rooms were allowed to reopen, customers packed in, wall-to-wall. Epilogue signed a lease for vacant adjacent space in the same building, already connected by a door, and wrote the business plan for Prologue.
In July, Prologue held a soft opening. Owners Jaime and Miranda Sanchez moved their used and rare books to the new space and added to their inventory of new books in the current space. The shift leaves more room for café seating in Epilogue and extends seating into Prologue, which also serves as an event space for music and poetry performances and author readings.
Used books come with their own history, said store “keyholder” Andrew Prevatte ’20. The Sanchezes acquired a portion of the collection of the late Southern writer Randall Kenan ’85.
“When you hold a copy of a book in your hands,” Prevatte said, “you know what it meant to that person.”
109 E. Franklin St.
After nearly three years behind a mask, your skin might need a little help readying for its close-up. OVME (pronounced “of me”) to the rescue. The national medical skincare studio has opened a location in Village Plaza in Chapel Hill, its second in North Carolina. OVME aestheticians treat skin, regardless of gender, in an upscale, contemporary setting.
Trained medical staff administer minimally invasive treatments, such as Botox frown-line removal, Kybella double-chin reducer, dermal fillers, scar removal through radiofrequency microneedling, QWO cellulite treatment, laser resurfacing, vitamin B-12 shots, facials and laser hair removal. The studio also carries a proprietary line of medical grade skincare products.
Services are available through a yearlong membership or as-needed appointments.
97 S. Elliott Road
Breakaway Café in Carrboro spun out of an idea that managing partners Amy Coughlin and Andy Pignatora came up with while on a weeklong 600-mile bike trip. When they returned home to Chatham County, they opened a spot in Briar Chapel for road cyclists to refuel with coffee, beer, a light meal and to maybe pick up a spare inner tube for the next leg of the ride.
The concept proved successful, and in August they opened a new location in Carrboro. All are welcome, whether arriving on two feet, two wheels or four, or whether preferring protein from plants or animals. The café has a full espresso bar, bakes its pastries in-house and already has developed a following for its omelets, scones, benedicts and green bowls.
Breakaway is open for breakfast and lunch but will soon expand to dinner. The café seats customers indoors or outdoors under the shade of patio umbrellas.
“Our motto is Good coffee, good people,” Coughlin said. “We’re creating a community space here.”
410 N. Greensboro St.
A new option for grocery shopping joined the Chapel Hill mix in August. Aldi discount supermarket opened in Eastgate Crossing, across the parking lot from Trader Joe’s, across the highway from Food Lion, next door to the shopping center anchored by Whole Foods and a mile in either direction from Wegmans and Harris Teeter.
Aldi has signed a 10-year lease for the space that once housed Stein Mart. The family-owned, multinational chain started in Germany and has expanded to 10,000 stores in 20 countries. It saves shoppers money through its Aldi-exclusive brands, which shaves costs associated with national brands.
The store follows a tradition of cost-conscious practices, such as requiring a 25-cent deposit to use a shopping cart, which is reimbursed as soon as the cart is returned to its carrel.
Aldi offers food in all categories and has carved out space for a selection of wines and beer.
1800 E. Franklin St.
Over the summer, both the CVS on East Franklin Street and Waffle House, a few doors down, closed.
— Nancy E. Oates